A New Take on Light Pollution: Blinding Lights and Gentle Beams

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I recently arrived home after a three-day camping excursion, and I think one thing hit me the most out of all the aspects of camping versus urban living. Sitting at my desk and writing in my notebook, I realized how very bright and blinding the world is, when compared to the relative soft light of a thick forest. While camping, I sat on a rock in the woods. At my desk facing the window, I realized that I had to draw the blinds because the light reflects here from absolutely everything.

The cars and concrete and other windows strongly assaulted my eyes with reflected light that is unimpeded because of the lack of cover. While camping, the sun was shining brightly yet the gleam was dampened by the leaves and tree trunks so the light reaching the forest floor was reduced to a gentle speckling.

I continued my musing on this topic and realized that there are many aspects of light between the two areas that truly determine how the biodiversity of the land is supported.

In my neighborhood, the sun shines so strongly that planted flora will wilt and shrivel up because the soil itself will dry out into a solid block of dirt. To prevent this, I am required to either plant in shade, provide shade, or make sure that I water constantly.

However, in the forest, the trees protect the plants below from sun scorch (currently accosting my plants) and forces the atmosphere into a humid and damp state so that plant life on the forest floor abounds with the presence of mosses and lichens alongside what we think of as normal fauna. Although a powerful sun is present, the forest floor is healthy. The natural openings between tree limbs and spaces in the canopy where the trees have fallen expose new patches of ground where ground dwelling plants erupt. This natural speckling of light prompts biodiversity among our mountains.

The specific area I live was once prairie land with its own hardy plant species able to weather the heat of the sun. However, by adding more and more refractive surfaces around us, it raises the amount of light hitting the plants and animals in the area beyond that of simple direct sunlight.

In fact, there are recorded instances of city sky scrapers melting parked cars across the street because the amount of reflected light is focused and amplified onto it thus heating it to a melting point. Needless to say, the plastic components of the car were quite effectively ruined.

When we think of light pollution, at least in the way I thought it applied to me, it’s in regard to our ability to see the stars at night. Major cities and urban areas have so much light pollution that it dampens the light of the stars at night and some areas lack the ability to see the stars at all.

I’ve concluded that light pollution can occur strongly during our waking hours as well when the light is strongest in the sky, because we begin to create higher man-made levels of light in the area.

I could not find any studies or articles on this topic so who knows if day-time light pollution is a viable topic of discussion anyway? But stumbling across the idea while sitting at my desk, it was enough to make me think of human’s ability to cope with it.

When snow covers the ground, spending large amounts of time in the area without proper eye protection can result in a condition known as snow blindness. I wonder how that condition changes when the snow is replaced by windows and cars and metal and plastic and concrete and house paint.

Does it?




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