Already in urban and suburban areas light pollution leaks into the night sky, often hiding the stars, but even in rural areas, this is becoming more of a problem as streetlights and other artificial lights are becoming increasingly common. The Simpsons episode ‘Scuse me while I miss the sky’ sheds light on this problem, with its plot following Lisa, who is unable to stargaze due to the light pollution, and successfully petitions to have the town’s lights turned off. Although not being able to wonder at the stars may seem like a trivial issue, which it is not for many astronomers, there are many other problems which come attached to light pollution.

One problem that we have created for ourselves, is the adverse psychological effects that it has on us. Ever hear about how people go to the countryside to relax, unwind and forget about stress? Well one reason for this is a prolonged exposure to light, which can be the case in big cities, can lead to a skewed sleep schedule, anxiety and a whole host of other mental problems. One very direct problem comes as a consequence of ‘glare’ , a form of light pollution which can make it harder to see (the complete opposite of why we have lights in the first place!), and can lead to traffic accidents.

As with any sort of pollution, light pollution is affecting the earth, in particular, its ecosystems. The day/night cycle is one of the most significant behavioural signals, for all animals including humans. Light pollution can confuse many animals. Examples include insects being attracted to light and dying of exhaustion, there have been situations where bodies of dead birds lay on the floor after lights high up confuse migration and of course nocturnal animals may not even get a chance to show themselves.

It is evident that light pollution is a problem that needs to be tackled, and there are many out there working for change, such as the IDA (International Dark Sky Association), and many others. On a more local level, using compact fluorescents and LEDs, turn off lights whenever possible, don’t use devices before bed, and have warmer dimmer lighting. Even blackout curtains can be helpful. Let’s hope for a brighter future by darkening our skies.