In today’s Finshots, we discuss how light pollution hurts our economies and the environment.

The Story

If you were to stand at the top of a high-rise building and watch the city lights at night, how would it make you feel?

Well, you’ll probably admire the view. But there’s a problem here. This light. It isn’t just light. It’s pollution. Light pollution.

Last week, the Science journal published a paper outlining the impact of light pollution. And it contains some very alarming observations. Between 2011 and 2022, scientists spotted fewer stars with their naked eyes each passing year. Artificial lighting overpowered everything making the dimmest stars barely visible. And they noted that the skies got brighter by about 10% every year.

This goes against conventional research which had us believe that night skies only got artificially brighter by about 2% every year. And this increased radiance emanating from artificial lights (called skyglow) is a problem. A big one.

Why’s that?

For starters, there’s the obvious economic impact. It’s energy intensive to keep the lights on through the night. You can argue that we need night time lighting. However, you have lighting that’s utilitarian (useful) and then you have lighting for aesthetic appeal. And we use a lot of lights simply to make our cities look pretty.

According to one report in the Cambridge Press —

“Light pollution directly costs the country [the US] at least a billion dollars a year in unnecessary electricity charges, in addition to the associated environmental harm from the mining and burning of fossil fuels to generate this wasted electricity.”

And that’s just the direct cost, mind you. There’s an indirect economic impact that no one talks about. We’re talking about the environmental kind.

Look, humans have a natural sleep-wake cycle. It’s an internal body clock of sorts. And our body uses lights to regulate this function. And look, it’s not just us. Animals, birds, and plants — all rely on this too. So when we use artificial lighting at night, it confuses living organisms.

For instance, plants have photoperiods i.e. light decides how they grow and develop. So when you use artificial lights, you mess around with this very important function. They get confused. It affects how they flower. It affects how they grow. They may even bloom earlier. And while this might not seem like such a bad thing at first, this change in behaviour can also confuse pollinators — like bees. And well, plants rely on bees to reproduce. So it creates a ripple effect.

Speaking of bees. The Indian Carpenter Bee is the world’s only known nocturnal bee species. They go about their pollinating business at night. You can find them in the Bhimashankar wildlife sanctuary — around 100 km from Mumbai. And the problem with Mumbai is that it’s brightly lit at night. You have skyglow and the skyglow affects the sanctuary.

So some researchers believe that the light pollution could affect their habitats and they even think the bees could go extinct.

If bees and other nocturnal insects disappear, our ecosystem could collapse. Even animals and birds that feed on certain nocturnal insects will struggle to find food. It affects their population too.

And yes, the birds. Especially migratory birds that navigate using stars. Bright lights could prevent them from reaching their natural destination altogether. And worse, they get confused and bump into brightly lit glass buildings. You see, birds don’t understand reflection and can’t make out that the glass is a barrier. All they see is the light and they fly straight into it. In New York City, the ‘city that never sleeps’, over 100,000 migratory birds are killed because they collide into these brightly lit buildings each year. Imagine this happening across the world.

And when migratory birds die, farmers suffer in tandum. You see, migratory seabirds are extremely valuable to the ecosystem. Or at least, their poop is. It’s a potent organic fertiliser. They call it guano. This poop or guano is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus — stuff that’s basically plant food. And seabirds can produce nutrient-rich guano that’s worth a whopping $1 billion a year.

In fact, even the official website of the Forest Department of Andhra Pradesh talks about guano. Because droppings from migratory Pelicans are very important for farmers near the Nelapattu National Park. Their poop is free fertiliser.

So yeah, you can see how light pollution can have a ripple effect on our entire ecosystem — plants, insects, birds, and animals. It hurts everyone.

And while there still isn’t enough research being conducted to understand the nuances of this problem, some cities and countries are paying attention.

In 2021, the city of Pittsburgh in the US decided to switch to dark sky lighting. This meant more lights that were dependent on motion sensors. Or fixing lights that were dimmer, cooler and with a lower wattage. Even making sure that lights had protective shields that would direct the light downwards to reduce pollution.

Australia too has guidelines in place. They encourage natural darkness where possible. And using low-intensity lights targeted to light up only the intended region. Even painting surfaces with darker shades to avoid reflecting light. They also prescribe regular light audits. Just to make sure that these artificial lights aren’t hurting the migratory birds and sea turtles during nesting season.

So yeah, these are good signs and there’s hope. We just need more countries to be mindful of the unintended consequences of making cities look prettier at night.

Until then…

Don't forget to share this article on WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Twitter

Ditto Insights: Why Millennials should buy a term plan

According to a survey, only 17% of Indian millennials (25–35 yrs) have bought term insurance. The actual numbers are likely even lower.

And the more worrying fact is that 55% hadn’t even heard of term insurance!

So why is this happening?

One common misconception is the dependent conundrum. Most millennials we spoke to want to buy a term policy because they want to cover their spouse and kids. And this makes perfect sense. After all, in your absence you want your term policy to pay out a large sum of money to cover your family’s needs for the future. But these very same people don’t think of their parents as dependents even though they support them extensively. I remember the moment it hit me. I routinely send money back home, but I had never considered my parents as my dependents. And when a colleague spoke about his experience, I immediately put two and two together. They were dependent on my income and my absence would most certainly affect them financially. So a term plan was a no-brainer for me.

There’s another reason why millennials should probably consider looking at a term plan — Debt. Most people we spoke to have home loans, education loans and other personal loans with a considerable interest burden. In their absence, this burden would shift to their dependents. It’s not something most people think of, but it happens all the time.

Finally, you actually get a pretty good bargain on term insurance prices when you’re younger. The idea is to pay a nominal sum every year (something that won’t burn your pocket) to protect your dependents in the event of your untimely demise. And this fee is lowest when you’re young.

So if you’re a millennial and you’re reading this, maybe you should reconsider buying a term plan. And don’t forget to talk to us at Ditto while you’re at it.

1. Just head to our website by clicking on the link here

2. Click on “Book a FREE call”

3. Select Term Insurance

4. Choose the date & time as per your convenience and RELAX!