Photojournalism Practice 3

Relationships

Michael and Shaun feeding cows

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Sunday Night Dancing at the Inny Tavern

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Dutch couple who came to Ireland by horse and cart live self sufficiently.

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We Make Change Article One – By David Molloy

How is light pollution affecting the ecosystem?

Last night was the winter solstice. I was camping in the forest, in an area of gold tier dark sky reserve. It is one of few places left in the western world free from light pollution.

It was still and silent as the sun dropped, bats were ducking and diving over my head. Watching them I had a lot of questions. Now I am back in the warmth of my house, I can look up some answers.

Evidence suggests light pollution may be having a greater impact on the environment than we realise.

Some species of bat show increased activity in areas of artificial light, others may never leave their roosts at all with the presence of extended light periods.

The common pipistrelle is seen in greater volumes in areas of artificial lighting. We suspect this could be because greater hunting opportunities are provided where insects are attracted to the light. This may be beneficial for this species of bat, but it is not a positive effect for the insects or other animals which feed on them.  

Light pollution can also lead to grave consequences for sea turtles and migratory birds which rely on the night sky to navigate. Baby turtles may never make it from their eggs to the sea, and birds are drawn into urban areas where they are met with a lack of natural habitat and domestic cats.

Surprisingly, as a danger to some of our most highly protected species, it is rarely on the agenda of our wildlife protection agencies.

Satellite observations show that light pollution is increasing at a rate of 2% a year. The skies of Hong Kong are 1200 times brighter than they should be, and 83% of the world’s population now lives under polluted skies.

In the Netherlands, there are towns using infrared street lights, but the cheapest and simplest solution is to just turn the lights off. Studies show no changes in crime rates, and using less electricity means wasting less energy.

Sitting in my tent last night, all I could see was black. I had never seen darkness like that before. It was like sensory deprivation.

How much do we really know about light pollution? I thought.

How much can we see the effects?

In a world where the destruction of our wildlife is widespread, light pollution’s role is rarely questioned.

I’m not going to insist that you turn your lights off this Christmas, but I would encourage further research and discussion.