Senior editor for Audubon Magazine, Susan Cosier ’02 blogs about the efforts to decrease the negative effects of artificial light. These efforts include specialized lights, new light-control technology, and the International Dark-Sky Association’s designated dark sky reserves.
“Now that the days are getting shorter, our lights burn brightly later into the morning and earlier in the evening. There may be no better visual reminder of where humans live on the planet than a photograph of the earth at night. Cities shine, suburbs twinkle, and the few remaining locales that don’t glow with electricity look both desolate and peaceful. Despite our love of light, so-called light pollution can have detrimental effects to wildlife and humans. That’s why the National Park Service and the International Dark-Sky Association, a nonprofit focused on preserving the night, protecting wildlife, and conserving electricity, have begun to identify dark sky reserves across the world.
“Artificial lights can confuse turtle hatchlings trying to reach the ocean, divert migratory birds, and distract bats (PDF). Salamanders that search for food at night are less active and experience lower reproduction rates when there is more light pollution, and tree frogs stop calling for mates.
“Not only that, but research shows that artificial light can also suppress the release of melatonin, a hormone that both regulates other hormones and helps us maintain our circadian rhythm. In a report published this year from the American Medical Association’s Council of Science and Public Health, researchers stated (PDF) that, ‘limited epidemiological studies support the hypothesis that nighttime lighting and/or repetitive disruption of circadian rhythms increases cancer risk.’ Most research on the topic has been in relation to breast cancer, but more study is needed, they said.”
Image: via Susan Cosier.
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- An interview with environmental writer Susan Cosier ’02
- Susan Cosier’s website
- Susan Cosier’s Audobon blog
- Susan Cosier on The Huffington Post