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Festivals worsen light pollution: Christmas, Ramzan, Diwali impact

A recent study has confirmed that various global celebrations influence the levels of light pollution on a worldwide scale.

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
Festivals worsen light pollution: Christmas, Ramzan, Diwali impact
  • Recent research highlights the influence of celebrations like Christmas, Ramadan, Diwali, and Chinese New Year on light pollution levels worldwide.
  • A study by CSIC-affiliated scientists shows that light pollution affects cultural vibrancy beyond urban areas.
  • Festivals cause changes in nighttime lighting patterns, particularly with increased artificial lighting during Christmas and Diwali events.
  • Light pollution peaks during festive seasons, like Christmas, Ramadan, Diwali, and New Year celebrations.

A recent study has confirmed that various global celebrations, such as Christian Christmas, Muslim Ramadan, Chinese New Year, and Hindu Diwali, influence the levels of light pollution on a worldwide scale. These festive occasions have been found to impact the intensity of nighttime illumination, altering its patterns accordingly.

The close correlation between light pollution levels and cultural activity in our society, as discovered in the research published in the journal People and Nature, transcends urban areas. As revealed by the study, the profound impact of light pollution on our society's cultural vibrancy expands far beyond city limits.

Global celebrations impact nighttime illumination

Scientists affiliated with Spain's Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), including those from ICM (Institut de Ciències del Mar), the National Museum of Natural Sciences (MNCN), and the Doñana Biological Station (EBD), carried out the study.

The study draws on satellite imagery spanning from 2014 to 2019, employed to decipher the light pollution arising from festivals. These images provided comprehensive insights into nocturnal light intensity.

The study suggests that our established routines and societal inclinations can exacerbate light pollution, a phenomenon that is particularly conspicuous during significant cultural events and festivals. This encompasses the usage of artificial lighting during nighttime festivities, such as those observed during Christmas, Ramadan, Diwali, or the Chinese New Year.

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Annual Mean Light Pollution Peak. Photo Credit: ICM-CSIC

The patterns of light pollution coincide with the festival calendar. The researchers presented evidence that these major events contribute to a global escalation in urban light pollution. The analysis disclosed that light pollution reaches its zenith during Christmas (December–January) in Christian nations, Ramadan (May to July) in Muslim countries, and Diwali (October–November) in Hindu nations. In China and Vietnam, the zenith of light pollution aligns fleetingly with New Year celebrations (January–February).

Ramirez stresses understanding human impact

Dr. Francisco Ramirez, an ICM-CSIC researcher involved in the study, emphasizes that comprehending how human activities impact light pollution is crucial for evaluating its consequences and devising potential solutions.

"Understanding how human activities influence light pollution is key to assessing its impact and designing possible mitigation measures," states the ICM-CSIC researcher Dr. Francisco Ramírez. "Previous studies have related the economic development of countries to their light pollution patterns, determining that, in general, are the richest the ones that pollute the most. However, this is the first time that we have assessed how certain socio-cultural activities affect light pollution on a global scale."

Over the past few decades, the issue of light pollution has escalated concurrently with human advancement. Technological progress has led to shifts in the hues and intensities of artificial light, impacting not just humans but also other life forms. Research contends that as economies burgeon and populations swell, these repercussions will pose graver threats to the natural environment, transcending urban confines.

"Our results show that festivities and celebrations involving large concentrations of people and the use of night-time lights affect the seasonal pattern of light intensity, which can have effects on a wide variety of species," explains the ICM-CSIC researcher Dr. Marta Coll. "This is what happens to a wide variety of species that are attracted to artificial lights, often with fatal consequences."

Exeter study: Light pollution's effects

University of Exeter scientists conducted an earlier study that accentuated the increasing light pollution predicament and revealed its peculiar impact on organisms' visual acuity.

Dr. Marta Coll, another researcher at ICM-CSIC, points out, "Night-time lighting events like festivals and large gatherings disrupt the customary light intensity pattern throughout the year. These conditions can influence a variety of species, often yielding detrimental consequences."

"This work provides a solid basis for developing planning and management measures to mitigate the effects of light pollution," adds Dr. Andre Chiaradia, from the Phillip Island Nature Parks in Australia.

"The data obtained reveal the need for continuous monitoring of this type of pollution to understand its effect on the natural environment and to be able to develop global policies aimed at promoting a use of artificial lights that is compatible with the preservation of the natural world," concludes Dr. Chiaradia.

The researchers underscore the significance of ongoing monitoring of light pollution associated with human festivities. They also advocate for international strategies to mitigate the adverse outcomes of artificial light, promoting its judicious utilization. Minimizing nocturnal artificial light usage and restricting its intensity emerge as pivotal measures.

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