Step Into the Darkness

November 15, 2010

Torah Kachur

Ask the average Los Angelos about seeing stars and they'll probably tell you about Skybar or the pool at the Beverly Hills Hotel.  A star is a massive and luminous ball of plasma held together by gravity, not someone who has sex with someone who has had sex with Britney Spears (that hardly narrows it down, I know).  But where have all the stars gone?


Two-thirds of Toronto children have never seen the Milky Way.  In Manhattan you can barely see the moon around the buildings, fog, and lights of the Big Apple.  But light pollution is no big deal right?  I mean, if there is a meteor shower, it's just an excuse to offroad into someone else's field and have a tail-gate party.


          torah Kachur Science in Seconds Light pollution Night sky stars


Light pollution is more than just a collective addiction to electricity that can be broken with a flip of the switch.  Like the proverbial moth-to-the-flame, our entire society now migrates to the light - whether it be the cinemax or new club.  And we aren't the only ones: birds were mesmerized by the Tribute of Light this past September 11th and some pet owners swear that their dogs are afraid of the dark.  But it's time to turn off the nightlight and embrace the darkness.


The darkness provides protection from predation for the night creatures like possums, owls and turtles and these animals can be severely affected if artifical light screws up their rhythm.  Every year sea turtles climb onto the shore to lay their eggs and then abandon their children to the night.  When the hatchlings emerge, they are evolutionarily adapted to crawling towards the light - which has always been the reflection of the moon off the ocean waters.  But now, the baby turtles are crawling to homes and highways, only to go splat under a speeding semi.


Romeo was a fan of the dark too, he hoped it was the nightingale and not the lark that sung so that he could get another romp in the hay with Juliet before the morning.  If it was today, he may have had time to cop another feel even if it was the lark.  Songbirds have been shown to sing at odd hours due to artificial light that changes their mating cycle, as well as Romeo's.




Burning the candle at both ends is slowly affecting humans, the American Medical Association has declared that excessive light pollution negatively affects our circadian rhythm, or sleep-wake cycles, thereby affecting our overall health.  Our circadian rhythms are influenced by hormone levels, in particular the hormone melatonin.  Melatonin is produced in the dark and is required for proper immune system function, metabolism and affects several important hormone-producing glands.  The lack of melatonin has been implicated in increased incidences of insomnia, Type II diabetes, obesity, hypertension, stress and annoying energy drink commercials. 


So tonight of all nights, I will turn off that little switch under my Cheer Bear nightlight and sleep soundly while the night crawlers live in their domain.



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