Light pollution destroys the lives of animals at night

“Here is the battle of day and night”: The last breath of Victor Hugo, May 22, 1885, says, by metaphorically approaching the night of death, how terrible darkness is. Its decline, since the invention of the light bulb, is seen as progress, which is more productive.
“One of the reasons for our longing to light up the planet is undoubtedly our nyctophobia, that is, our fear of the dark,” writes the Swedish zoologist Johan Eklöf. This fear is written into our heritage, both genetic and cultural. […]. »

Nature is indifferent. “Modern atomic clocks show us that the rotation of the earth is gradually slowing down and, as a result, the cycle is getting longer: a little more day, a little more night, the researcher continues. The speed of this change is not amazing, about two milliseconds per century, but if it is always the same, then the first living creature on Earth, more than three billion years ago, knew days and nights twice as short as ours. »

disco ball

Life has adapted. A rustle of wings here, a stealthy footstep there: in the night, comfort comes. Another party begins, sometimes sad too. “For animals sensitive to the ultraviolet spectrum, the earth probably glows like a fluorescent disco track”, thought Johan Eklöf.

Artificial lights kill the night

Seen from the sidereal sky, Earth looks like a disco ball with megalopolises shining like so many golden facets. “Artificial lighting in the world, warns the zoologist, now represents a tenth of all our energy consumption, but only a small part of this light is useful to us; for others, it are disappearing into the sky instead of illuminating, as expected, our paths and our carriage entrances. Researchers in Europe and the United States have shown that misdirected and overpowered lamps equal the carbon footprint of nearly twenty million cars. »

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France plays its full part in this bright orgy: eleven million streetlights that aren’t just for dogs. Their numbers have increased by about 90% in the last twenty years?! In addition, there are 3.5 million illuminated signs.

The tribute paid by nocturnal species, that is one-third of vertebrates and almost two-thirds of invertebrates, is monstrous. The polarized light reflecting from cars, public lights or buildings, among other things, pulls many of them in an endless ballet, until sunset or sunrise.

optical compass

“We have known for a long time that bees use polarized light, the researcher said. In recent years, it has been discovered that many insects, spiders, crustaceans and even birds also use this optical compass, including at night: when the sun disappears below the horizon, the moon produces the same effect, although its light is four hundred. thousand times weaker than the sun. “Not enough to compete, therefore, with the artificial that light…

“Darkness, he insisted, was their protection, and the pale reflection of the stars and moon was essential both for their navigation and for their hormonal functioning. Any disturbance of the natural day-night alternation therefore constitutes a threat to their existence. »

Are supersonic flights back in the air?

As proof, on summer nights, the windshields are no longer, as in the past, black with insects. In other words, it is urgent to leave the night at night. “It is, the zoologist regrets, very difficult – although it is not impossible – to stop the crazy runaway of the world’s temperature, to free our environment of its plastics and their toxins, and to prevent the spread of invasive species: the wrong. plant or animal in the wrong place. It’s easier to dim or turn off the light. Light pollution is usually the easiest environmental problem to solve, at least from a purely technical standpoint. “Which work .

Jerome Pilleyre

Read on. Johan Eklöf, Let’s brave the night. Manifesto against light pollutionTana Editions, 2022, €19.90.

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