Chasing away the darkness and all the life that thrives in it
Tue Jul 12
Humans have spent their time trying to make nature bend to our whims and pursuit of productivity, but nature is a lot more complex and the unintended consequences are finally coming to light. A recent study from Iowa State University shows how our bright nights are making our allergies worse and endangering our local economies.
How does increased light cause such varying issues? With more artificial light, the study shows that leaf buds broke through earlier in the Spring while leaf color changes in Fall were delayed. This means a longer season of pollen but also plant production. This could also mean good things for agriculture, but it’s a mistiming with pollinators and could put plants at greater risk of Spring frost damage.
But the problem isn’t just plants or even light pollution. The modern conveniences of brightly lit, 24/7 parking lots and blinding nighttime stadiums are tricking migrating birds, making their grueling journeys deadly. Newly hatched baby turtles are making their way to the horizon lit by passing cars rather than the ocean, leading to their deaths by cars and predators.
And then there’s the noise. Aircraft emissions have increased seven-fold and what used to be heard 100 feet away can now only be heard 10 feet away. The constant background noise is forcing animals to timidly hide rather than hunt and move. Birds are competing with urban noises and literally changing their tune to try to find mates.
Marine life isn’t safe either. The ruckus of passing ships is stopping whales from singing and ripping through the ocean so fast that manatees — which rely on their whiskers to detect current changes — are unable to move from the speeding boats in time. Some life, however, is adapting, such as spiders that are now spinning webs under street lamps to ensnare the attracted insected — but most are not.
So what to do about a world dying from our modern lifestyle? Scientists are doing more research across the board from dissecting the many factors in plant survival with climate change to experimenting with artificial soundscapes to enable animals to live a life they were evolved towards. Some cities are actively shielding their light or switching to LEDs which use less energy and affect plants less due to the longer wavelengths.
BELOW THE FOLD BYTES
Mickey Mouse 1.0
While it’s true that Disney’s copyright on the original, rat-like Mickey Mouse is expiring, that doesn’t mean the character is entirely up for grabs. There are a surprising number of things that are part and parcel to the characters in public domain that remain trademarked. For instance, Winnie the Pooh is in the public domain, but his signature red shirt is not. This has led to a horror film to feature the character but not in his red shirt. And copyright extensions aren’t just a question of intellectual property, it’s now a political pawn (honestly, what isn’t these days?). Republicans say it’s time to stop granting unnecessarily long copyright extensions to “woke” companies like Disney for enormous profit.
Suppressing the Press
The Philippines is about to lose a prominent news organization because President Duterte is unhappy with its criticisms of his war on drugs, which rights groups say has claimed 12,000 lives already. The trouble started in 2018 when the Philippines’ SEC decided to revoke the news organization’s certificate of incorporation on the grounds of foreign-ownership violations. Rappler will be contesting this latest decision to uphold the revocation, but it’s also not the only mainstream news organization to have been hit by President Duterte. Rappler is run by Maria Ressa, who jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 for defending press freedom in the face of disinformation and authoritarianism.
🎬 Action of the Week
At home, close the blinds to keep light indoors and turn off non-essential outdoors lights. But in reality, the most important steps are the big ones. Support efforts to regulate industry. Support your community’s efforts to switch out street lights to LEDs and update fixtures to properly shielded ones to both provide light where needed and keep it from escaping beyond. And don’t forget to find a spot of darkness and enjoy seeing our Milky Way galaxy (while we still can)!
THIS WEEK'S SOURCES
- The Conversation: Light pollution disrupting plants 3 days old | 3 minutes long
- The Atlantic: Modern sensory assault on animals 32 days old | 26 minutes long
ASCII-ING ABOUT THE NEWS
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Mickey Mouse finally out of the clubhouse?!
Art Credit: ASCII.co.uk