Shedding some light on a lesser known pollution problem

·2 min read

Editor's note: This story was first published on Aug 24. This version corrects a misspelled name.

The night skies are a valuable resource that many people take for granted in the Southwest.

Shaunavon is located between two Dark Sky Preserves in Grasslands National Park and Cypress Hills Inter-Provincial Park, both of which allow visitors to stare up in the night sky without having the issue of light pollution interfering with their view of the cosmos.

According to the International Dark-Sky Association's website, 80 per cent of the world’s population lives under light pollution.

Light pollution can affect wildlife and ecosystems, obscure our view of the stars, waste energy, and can affect human health.

According to Rod McConnell from the Alberta Dark Skies Association, lighting during nighttime can be harmful to humans more than we think.

“Light affects people in a very serious way, " he stated. "Blue light at night is especially bad, and most of the luminaires that are being installed these days are high in blue, light energy. So, what this can do is it can actually shut off the production of melatonin (which regulates night and day cycles or sleep-wake cycles) within the body.”

McConnell explained that this can be averted by going back to lights with more yellow light.

Light pollution also affects nature around us. According to the IDA, plants and animals are used to a day and night cycle and when artificial light is added to the equation it could have negative effects, especially to amphibians, birds, mammals, and insects.

These negative effects are already being seen in birds, especially in larger cities, where the artificial light on large buildings can lead to birds flying into the buildings and dying.

The lighting of buildings and work sites at night can also be huge energy and light wasters.

Wasting light is when an outdoor light source is pointing directly into the sky, effectively lighting nothing at all. To prevent this, the IDA suggests that we use downward pointing lights and limit outdoor lighting at night.

McConnell suggests that homeowners can prevent light pollution by switching out their bulbs to more energy efficient types and having outdoor lights on timers, sensors or switches.

For more information on light pollution and ways of preventing it check out the IDA’s website darksky.org or McConnell’s website light-efficientcommunities.com.

Jacob Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Shaunavon Standard

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