Let there not be Light
It was a lazy morning. I woke up just at the right time to reach my class. I wished to bunk it today, but something about my professors just made me not to miss my class again. I was not late, but Professor was already in the class. Sir never dresses in casuals. Today he looked like he was in a jovial mood.
When the class settled down, he said, “We will discuss a grave issue today. Imagine, you are back at home after a very tiresome day, you have your dinner and go to bed. Your body wakes up to sweet light coming from your window and sounds of birds from outside. You figure out it is time to wake up and you get up despite of not feeling energetic enough. You walk to your window and look outside to the new day and then you look at your watch. It says 11.30 pm. It is not yet the morning! You wake up a bit more and realise that the day light is actually an artificial light source nearby, which has been upgraded to a fancy flood light. May be a hoarding by a new commercial. What will you do?”
My class is very active and quick.
“Put the curtains and go back to sleep.”, piped an answer from a corner. We all had a laugh.
“Ah! Yes.” The professor smiled and continued.
“Let us change the perspective for a while, shall we. We have watches and curtains. What about the ones who depend totally on light for their activities?”
There was a silence for thought. The professor said, “Come on, tell me who all can be affected!”
“Birds”, said a student.
“Bats. They wake at the night.”,added another.
It just took us some more push of thought to add owls, bugs and spiders to the list.
Professor loved looking at us struggle with thought processes.
“Well. If birds wake up early to hunt, and the worms are not awake yet, they will come back empty.” , thought a student aloud.
“But, if birds woke up early and got lost, isn’t there a possibility of them to get tired and may be collapse due to exhaustion? “ another student added.
“Well. That cannot be right. We do not see such stuff happening. Do we?” I asked with scepticism.
The professor smiled.
“Well, let me tell you what happened and what is in the news. In 2008, the Tucker County High School in West Virginia witnessed hundreds of birds crashing on the brightly lit school, when it was still dark. Within minutes the whole school was a massacre scene for birds.”
“Did they give a holiday to the students?” asked a jovial student. The class laughed.
“Oh! It was worse than that! They had to make sure that the place does not carry some bird related diseases. Actually, these phenomenon are widely studied, and these effects are classified under Light Pollution. Birds are not the only ones getting affected. You see, the darkness has its own life. A study conducted by Daniel Lewanzik from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife research in Berlin showed that light pollution slows down the regrowth of the forests. Nocturnal bats are better pollinators than birds and they get scared due to excessive light, not coming out. Fruit eating bats are very good seed dispensers as their droppings contain both seeds and manure. These problems on ecology are well documented. A scientific report by FWRI scientist Blair E. Witherington and R. Erik Martin of Ecological Associates Inc. shows that new born sea turtles have a tendency to go towards brighter areas immediately after hatching, which in a typical natural lit beach will be towards the sea, where the night sky is lit by stars and moon. But in a not so natural beach, the turtles will tend to walk towards the brighter side, which will not be towards the water, and hence eventually perish. These are very few to mention effects on environment. The overuse of unnatural light disturbs bugs, insects, birds, animals, amphibians and even humans.”
The class was silent. They never had thought that artificial light can be so disastrous for other organisms.
“Why do we humans on day to day basis not feel such extreme effects?” I was curious.
“Good Question”, replied Professor. “It is just that we humans are better at adapting due to our advancements in medicines which give us an advantage over animals. We can of course pull our curtains and go back to sleep, we have a good productive life! Very comfortable, with all the fancy lights. We also have the advantage to be indifferent and overlook how all the less evolved organisms suffer. But we even have a very special gift just by being a human. We have empathy. Empathy to the weak. We can feel the pain of others and choose not to be indifferent. We can adjust our comforts, dim our lights a bit, so that the weak ones can also live in peace.”
The bell rang. There was a pause. No one moved.
The Professor sighed. He added with a smile, “Well, it is a choice we can make, to be indifferent or to have empathy , which leaves us all with a question. With we being celebrators of festival of Light, do we actually use light wisely? Class dismiss.
- Nishchal Dwivedi