Environmental Benefits

Why do humans, plants, and nonhuman animals need starry skies?

    The above image, titled “Dusk over south end of Tybee Island, Georgia,” was photographed by Starry Skies South member Meaghan Walsh Gerard (Georgia).

    Find out why humans, plants, and nonhuman animals need starry skies by watching the below videos and reading the provided resources.

    Written by Starry Skies South member Dr. William Baker.


    Lighting for starry skies is beneficial to human health. We’ve described this in the Social Benefits section of our website, and you can also learn more in the video below and here.

    Plants and Nonhuman Animals

    As mentioned above, we “Humans” are affected by light pollution. So, it makes sense that LP is also affecting other creatures. Think about a “moth to the flame”, or in this case, a moth to bad lighting. Insects swarm around lights at night. But this is not natural for them, and this behavior turns them into easy prey. We don’t need to be losing any more pollinators! Everything from frogs to butterflies are affected. Other and larger animals as also affected. Bird migrations are throw off by bright lights when they fly at night and navigate by the stars. The birds become disoriented and even fly into buildings, resulting in millions of bird deaths each year. The National Audubon Society encourages a “Lights Out” program.

    Let’s not forget hatching sea turtles. Shore lights confuse the newborn hatchlings, and instead of heading to the glow of the moonlight on the water, the hatchlings head inland. An estimated 100,000 hatchlings die in Florida each year from disorientation due to light pollution! We shouldn’t be adding to the factors that put our sea turtle populations as risk. program.

    Read more about why darkness at night is important for plant and animals like bird, sea turtle, and insect health here.

    Climate Impacts

    We’ve all been told that global warming is real, and we’ve all been told how we need to reduce our CO2 emissions. Without sacrificing our lifestyle, a reduction in LP will lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions, and this can have a powerful impact. In the U.S. alone, 15 million tons of CO2 are emitted each year to power residential outdoor lighting. How much more CO2 is being produced with commercial/government outdoor lighting? And how about worldwide? We in the Southeast may be feeling sorry for those on the West Coast who are being asked to cut back on energy use during heat waves, but just this past June, 2022, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) made the same request in North Alabama. It won’t be long before it is our turn in central Alabama and in other nearby areas.

    Additional Resources

    Want to learn how specific living organisms are affected by light pollution in more detail? Check out the Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) research article database.

    Want to read a synthesis of the most current findings of the effects of Artificial Light at Night on Planet Earth? Read the Artificial Light at Night: State of the Science 2022 Report.