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World Pollution Prevention Day: Don’t Take Light Pollution Lightly!



World Pollution Prevention Day: Don’t Take Light Pollution Lightly!

It affects astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems and is a potential health hazard

“It is a beautiful and delightful sight to behold the body of the moon.”  

Galileo Galilei was famously quoted saying that way back in the 17th century. Take a peek out of your window 400 years later and you won’t need us to tell you that the night sky isn’t quite the starry spectacle Galilei’s words painted it to be. A major reason for that is a phenomenon unknown to many—light pollution.

A collective term used to describe excessive, unaltered and obtrusive use of artificial or manmade light, light pollution is the new kid on the block that’s affecting the planet in its entirety. It not only has a serious impact on humans, animals, our environment and ecosystems, but also affects how we observe space.

A direct byproduct of rapid urbanisation and industrialisation around the planet, it can be broadly categorised into Urban Sky Glow (the brightening of the night sky in urban localities), Light Trespass (light falling into areas where it’s not needed) and Glare (excessive brightness that leads to visual discomfort).

OK, that’s problematic. But how does it affect you and why should you care?

For starters, more than 80% of humans live under light-polluted skies. In fact, one-third of mankind cannot observe the Milky Way anymore. In 1994, an earthquake knocked out power in most of Los Angeles and anxious residents started calling emergency numbers to report a ‘large silvery cloud’ in the sky. No, it wasn’t a portal into another dimension—it was just them looking at the Milky Way for the first time in their life.

Secondly, light pollution disrupts the ecosystem, especially affecting the nocturnal wildlife. In fact, light pollution severely affects migratory patterns and leads to millions of deaths of birds every year. To add to that, think about the fossil fuels that are burnt to light up your homes, the streets and billboards, which only destroys the atmosphere even more.

And if you don’t care about any of that, then it might be wise to think about your own health, because light pollution directly affects you too. Just this past fortnight, residents living near Wilson Gymkhana in the upscale Marine Drive area of Mumbai registered complaints against it, saying that the glare from their floodlight is blinding and the intensity is so strong that residents cannot look out of the house post dusk. Neither can they keep their curtains parted to enjoy the perks of living by the sea.

In fact, in this report by Hindustan Times, Dr Arjun Ahuja, head of ophthalmology department, KEM hospital, Parel, can be quoted saying, “The amount of light the human eye can adjust to and find useful is between 400 and 500 microns. LED lights installed above advertising hoardings, stadiums (sic) and open grounds are all more than 500 microns, which can lead to hallucinations, false orientation and sleep disorders.”

Light pollution is a global phenomenon, but closer to home, NGO Awaaz Foundation is doing its bit to raise awareness about the issue, so you can join hands with them or, at the least, lend your voice to the work they do.

At a more personal level, you could switch to low-glare versions of bulbs. And of course, it’s always easy to switch off the lights when you don’t need them on. Lastly, encourage others to replicate the same, including billboard owners and local municipality leaders.

What’re your views on light pollution? Let us know in the comments section below.

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