Pollution comes in all shapes and forms and is caused by almost every type of human activity. Pollution is artificially and human made and is detrimental to the environment if not properly contained and taken care of. One type of pollution that is often overlooked as being environmentally invasive is light pollution.
Light pollution is the creation of artificial light, which can be seen as far away as satellites and across oceans. Even though light itself doesn’t actually emit carbon dioxide or other harmful greenhouse gases, this 2009 study by the Environmental Health Perspective explains how it is still considered pollution because it negatively impacts living species and natural environmental processes. Animals, specifically marine wildlife, become lost and confused. Their hibernation and circadian cycles are often thrown off when they are exposed artificial light instead of the natural patterns of the sun. Human health is impacted too. The constant strain on our eyes and mind has shown serious psychological damage and mental development is affected in people across all ages.
The internet especially, has offered us so many advancements and has helped our economy grow. However, society has become increasingly dependent on it and it is a massive part of the light pollution problem we are facing. Our generation spends hours on end scrolling through the internet. The recent pandemic year turned schools completely on-line for children, and many adults spend almost 8 hours a day in-front of a screen. We are witnessing, in real time, how excesses exposure to light pollution is impacting human health.
Computer screens, billboards, and office lights in the night sky are some of the largest sources of article light and light pollution. Major cities are lit 24 hours a day, and many people are continuously stimulated, and their bodies never have a chance to shut off. Melatonin production is paused when your body is overstimulated with light, leaving people struggling to fall asleep or concentrate on simple tasks.
Energy is also wasted when screens are left on when not in use. Coal and natural gas used to produce the electricity used by computers and when left on, emissions from power plants are unnecessarily created and emitted into the environment.
The internet tends to consume our brains and our environment. Setting limits on screen time is so important, not only for your mental and physical health, but for the health of our planet. Making sure electronics are unplugged and turned off when not in use can save thousands of dollars and thousands of Kilowatts of energy each year. Even though many of our experiences live online, it is so important to take a break from screens and have ‘real life’ experiences too.