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Climate change and energy

Artificial Lighting Is Hurting Ecosystems, and Tech Tweaks Can Fix It

January 17, 2018

We’re starting to understand the true effects of light pollution on the natural world—and as we do, we’ll be able to tune lights to counter the effects.

Blinded by the light: The world is incredibly illuminated. More than 10 percent of Earth’s land can be bathed in artificial light at night. That more than doubles if you include “skyglow,” where the atmosphere backscatters light.

Upsetting natural rhythms: A Nature article explains that many new studies confirm light is changing the natural world. It upsets the health of wild animals, changes the dynamics of ecosystems in grassland, and skews pollination so plants produce less fruit, among other things.

The tech fix: Many such effects are brought about by specific wavelengths of light that impact plants and animals. As more results pour in, we should be able to tune increasingly popular LED lighting so it doesn’t emit the frequencies that affect particular ecosystems.

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Illustration by Rose Wong

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