Light Pollution

Light PollutionCompare the night skies of the desolate mountains and a bustling city and there lies a marked difference. The city skies glow with an artificial light of their own whereas you can see a galaxy of stars embedded in the distant skies away from human settlement and “man-made” light.

 Light, which is meant to give a sense of security to humans, when used inappropriately, destroys our view of the magnificent spectacle of the billion of stars that have been bestowed upon us by nature to see and admire the splendor of their existence which lies far from our reality. ‘Light Pollution’ is basically misdirected or misused light arising from poor lighting in urban cities. It can be observed in various forms, namely sky glow, glare and light trespasses. It might seem extremely strange to come up with light pollution of all, but it actually leads to a waste of billions of dollars in a year! Of all the lights coming from the various street lighting systems at night, 30% of it is wasted. Any country on an average approximately spends $700 million and it results in the wastage of around $200 million of coal and crude oil, the fossil fuels that every country is vying for! The wasted light, therefore, equates to an annual waste of at least six million tons of coal (think of the added acid rain and air pollution!) or 23 million barrels of oil (think of the added oil imports)!!  For decades, we’ve switched on streetlamps, store lights and those motion-sensing security lights to brighten up the night sky and keep us safe in the dark. This leads to light pollution because in the process of lighting the ground, man ends up lighting up the sky! Technology has revealed streetlights, which can be used to minimize light wastage by directing the light downwards and preventing it from escaping elsewhere. And it’s not just the astronomers or the people who enjoy sky viewing as a passion who benefit from this. Conservation and direction of light benefits all life form on earth. It not only helps in saving fossil fuels but also saves a family’s expenditure by $10-15 per month, which when consolidated for a country, comes to around an astronomical 10 billion dollars!  

Even biologists now are wondering whether those lights are making the world more dangerous for animals and insects – particularly nocturnal creatures that thrive in blackness. Though the research is scattered, individual biologists are beginning to shed some light on species that haven’t taken kindly to artificial daylight. While biologists hesitate to say artificial light is killing or even seriously harming night-loving creatures, many agree that it is at least having noticeable effects. Take moths, for example. Anyone who has ever flicked on an outdoor light on a summer’s evening knows it is an invitation to every moth in the neighborhood. They spiral around it, drawn by some force unknown.


Light pollution is not even in the slightest manner absurd. In fact, it is a grave matter often overlooked by the world in preference of climate change and global warming. It is true, that it may not have as catastrophic consequences as the latter; nevertheless it is imperative for the world to wake up to its disastrous consequences. One can imagine if we had a water sprinkler system that wasted much of its water by scattering water everywhere; onto the street, through our neighbour’s windows, and upwards to encourage evaporation, we’d not tolerate it for long. If together we wasted over a billion dollars a year this way, we’d declare it a national disaster and begin conservation measures and efficiency improvements immediately. We must build a greater awareness of the adverse effects of poor lighting and get on with the task of using only quality lighting.


The economics of the situation would tell any layman that the humongous amount of money saved from conserving “light” and monitoring its use and scatterings can actually help feed billions of the hungry across the globe and give aid to the diseased and the victims of other natural calamities!   Surbhi