Who Could Ask For Anything More? As an emergency room physician, I often worked twenty-four hour shifts. ER docs are not alonetoday nearly one-fifth of the world population works in shifts. Our regular pattern of waking and sleepingcalled circadian rhythmsare fundamental to mental and physical wellbeing. The resulting lack of regular sleep and rest is not conducive to a healthy home life, or a healthy body. Hypertension, peptic ulcer disease, cardiovascular mortality, higher incidences of work-related accidents and car accidents, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and higher divorce rates are more common in shift workers. Life expectancy for shift workers is reduced by as much as four years. Artificial light also harms wildlife. When we disrupt Gods natural rhythm of light and dark, the migration, reproduction, and feeding of life on earth is affected. Along the coasts, sea turtles have a harder time finding darkened beaches for nesting. Frogs and toads living near highways artificially made as much as a million times brighter than normal have their nighttime breeding songs thrown out of kilter. Whole flocks of winged creatures exhaust themselves trying to escape the maze of city lights. Is our 24-hour productivity quota really worth the toll? By short-circuiting our sensitivity to Gods patterns of light and dark, we are blindly experimenting with human health as well as the health of every living creature on earth. But heres the good news: Of all the forms of pollution facing the world today, light pollution is probably the most easily fixed. Simple changes in lighting design and installation translates to immediate reductions in the amount of light we pour out into the atmosphere. As a bonus, these changes also save us energy. Hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. now use covered street fixtures that light only the ground below rather than wastefully shining it in all directions. At home, porch lights that are tucked into ceilings and outdoor motion detectors can ensure safety while reducing waste. Light pollution (and air pollution in general) interferes with stargazing. But something else often gets in the way: we are often so worn out from our busy schedules that we dont take time to connect with the natural world. Slow down. Shut off the TV, close the laptop, and linger outdoors in the evenings for a change. Switch off the porch lights, spread a blanket on the lawn, and try to count the stars, just as Abraham did. As you gaze upward, you cannot help but be filled with the humility and wonder at Gods creation.
For more of Dr. Sleeth’s reflections, see the Blessed Earth Hope for Creation Films and Guidebooks (Zondervan 2010).