For billions of years, Earthly life has flourished in a reassuring 24-hour cycle of light and darkness. Over the past century, however, urban skies have grown increasingly clouded with light pollution. The excess light disrupts circadian rhythms, poses safety and health risks, wastes energy, and exacts a sad aesthetic toll as well.
The creeping effects of light pollution are well documented in the 2016 “World Atlas of Artificial Night Sky Brightness.” The satellite images show that 80 percent of the world’s population now lives under sky glow, with 99 percent of Europeans and Americans unable to experience a natural night.
Michael Allen, senior instructor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Washington State University is a dark sky advocate who not only enjoys observing the heavens with large telescopes but also voices concerns about the effects of light pollution on the environment.
“It can impact wildlife and the food chain in unpredictable ways,” he says. Allen points to scientific evidence suggesting that artificial light confuses sea turtle hatchlings, leaving millions stranded on the sand. It also disturbs avian migration patterns, and disrupts the feeding and mating cycles of insects, bats, fish, salamanders, and more.