Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Haley Reading Group: The Health Effects of a World Without Darkness



[Best American Science and Nature Writing]

Brittany Tuggle

Rebecca Boyle’s article “The Health Effects of a World Without Darkness,” reprinted in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, highlights the various problematic implications of living in an industrialized world wherein entire lives are constantly bathed in light. Boyle illuminates America (and other developed countries particularly) with provoking thought about our dependence on lights, much to our detriment, in stark contrast to the ways in which developing countries rely more on darkness. Ultimately, the article speaks to an important issue of what the world at large is facing as we continue to interrupt our biological patterns with light.

Boyle’s discussion of the health effects of light was especially enlightening. At one point, Boyle notes that “light is the major factor in [cases of] depression, obesity, and cancer” (52). This point indicates the serious dangers intertwined with the pleasures of living in light.

After reading Boyle’s article, what was one point concerning the dangers of artificial light that compelled you? Why was that point or passage notable to you? Please provide a page number citation.

49 comments:

Olivia Slater said...

Over the summer I took an Interdisciplinary Studies course; environment, natural resources, and human involvement within these controversial topics were the main focus.Boyle involves these aspects in her discussion on the prominence of light in the modern developed world; "Smarter, more efficient use [of energy] can cut wasted light, wasted ;money, and wasted energy" (53). This portion of the chapter addressed the more environmentally pertinent issues. The us of natural resources for wasted lights is costly for the community. Tax dollars pay for public street lamps when, often times, these lamps are illuminating vacant streets in neighborhoods where people are asleep. This is not to say that all lights at night should be disabled, but rather that society should learn to conserve energy.
In my class, we discussed the drastically beneficial, both environmentally and monetarily, that countries such as Germany have taken. Germany has reduced its carbon footprint by 80% in the last several years. By implementing solar panels, wind turbines, etc., the country has created beneficial alternative sources of power within a developed country. Ultimately, this will lead to less money being spent on harmful chemicals that ruin the environment. By relying on naturally occurring sources of energy like wind and sunlight, they are saving the planet and maintaining an advanced society. This chapter addresses this issue and suggests a similar thought process in regards to the German energy revolution.

Natasha said...

On page 40, I found the experiments on mice and rats to be very intriguing. The mice exposed to the bright light "exhibited depressive symptoms, behaving lifelessly and ignoring their sugar-water treats."

However, the rats had even more symptoms from the light than the mice. The scientists noticed changes in their "neuronal connectivity in the hippocampus, the part of the brain involved in learning, memory, and affective responses." Furthermore, the rats exposed to the light were getting fat even though they were eating the same amount of calories as the other group of rats not exposed to the light.

These experiments stood out to me because they are not just opinions, they are tested experiments with verifiable results. I found it quite convincing.

-Natasha Handy

Aleeya Barrolle said...

“The Health Effects of a World Without Darkness” article brought to my attention many effects of light on birds. Boyle says, “In New York every September, columns of light shine skyward in tribute to the destroyed World Trade Center towers. Tens of thousands of migrating birds, trying to navigate by the moon and stars, fly into the beams and circle, zombielike, until someone shuts the lights off. Birds also collide with glittering buildings and lighthouses and are stunned, falling to their deaths” (47). This statement presents to the world that our remembrance for the World Trade Center is potentially causing deaths of birds.

Without reading Boyle's article I would not have known about these effects of light. From this reading I have received a whole new understanding of what light does. Light is something that hurts and helps us.

-Aleeya B

Asher said...

I never knew how important light was. Well, that sounds silly, I should say , I never knew how much light affects a lot of our lives. We very much take it for granted, but artificial light can also be harmful. I really liked reading about "The Health Effects of a World Without Darkness". The passage that stood up to me states, "A growing body of evidence shows that light pollution exacerbates, and might directly cause cancer, obesity, and depression, the troublesome triumvirate of industrialized society," (48) This passage shocked me, because I've been reading with the aid of a lamplight all my life. I've noticed often that, when doing this, I tend to stay up later and later. Is it because of the lamp/artificial light? I have always had a hard time sleeping, a mild case of insomnia, you could say. But, I never thought that it could possibly be because of artificial light. I'm astounded, and now very cautious, of how much time I spend with artificial lights. I also have twinkle lights in my room, that stay for about 5-6 hours before I sleep. I think now, I will turn them off. It's important to read up on these kinds of things. It could possible save someone from having the above illnesses.

-Asher Denkyirah

Joshua Jones said...

One item that I found interesting was on page 47, " In New York every September, columns of light shine skyward in tribute to the destroyed World Trade Center towers. Tens of thousands of migrating birds, trying to navigate by the moon and stars, fly into beams and circle, zombielike.."

This piece compelled me because the author clearly provided evidence of human's negative effects on animal life. Specifically, because we celebrate an event, we selfishly, blindly and blissfully interrupt the patterns of birds, causing their death while we mourn for ours.

Joshua J.

Cheniya A. said...

What struck me in the article is the passage about melatonin and its effect on DNA. In my public health seminar, our class has just learned the dangers of reduced melatonin production. What I did not realize is that artificial light affects the circadian rhythm and in turn, melatonin produced.

Moreover, this lead to the biological effects on cancer. As someone with cancer running in my family, this really spoke to me. Especially because that part of my family is comprised of what i would call "night owls." This article provided me with a new understanding in relation to artificial light, hormone production, and its subsequent effects.

-Cheniya A.

Nylah Berner said...

In the passage, on page 50, a very interesting study was conducted using rats. "They found that mice who were exposed to constant bright light exhibited depressive symptoms, behaving listlessly and ignoring their sugar water treatments." On the same page it says, "... the light-exposed rats got fat, even though they were eating the same amount of calories as their dark-sequestered mates. What changed was their circadian rhythms; like a snack night owl, they were eating when they should have been inactive, upending their digestive and metabolic activity."

This is interesting because, studies have proven that eating after a certain time can cause unwanted weight gain. People say you shouldn't eat after a certain time in the evening, but I never thought it was connected to light. But now it makes sense after reading this, and seeing how it affects your digestive and metabolic activity.

-Nylah B

Marcus Barnes said...

After reading this part of the book, my eyes have been opened to the effects over use of light and light pollution really can have on a person or even animals. The passage, "A growing body of evidence shows that light pollution exacerbates, and might directly cause, cancer, obesity, and depression, the troublesome triumvirate of industrialized society," (48) made me realize that some of the major impacts using a lot of excessive light can have. I knew that the light from iPhones, computers, and televisions at night were somewhat unhealthy, but I never really imagined that they could be that dangerous for human health. After reading this, I might just have to really watch the amount of unhealthy light that I allow around me and try to limit it. I have been one to use my electronics at night before sleeping, so I may need to start reducing the amount of time I am on them at night.

- Marcus B.

Simone Hall said...

In the passage "The Health Effects on a World Without Darkness" page 48 stuck out to me. This is because they made the comment that "A growing body of evidence shows that light pollution exacerbates, and might directly cause, cancer, obesity, and depression." The topic of cancer hits close to home for me because my grandma died of breast cancer.

Knowing that they may be getting closer to finding one cause of cancer is comforting for me and makes me believe that maybe people will not have to suffer for much longer the way that my grandma unfortunately had to. It is crazy, yet interesting knowing that something as small as a cell phone lighting up, or a television being left on could be partly to blame for an epidemic as large and fast growing as cancer has become.
- Simone Hall

Brandy Collier said...

There was a very interesting passage on page 47, about the effects that artificial lights has on migratory animals. The passage states, "For migratory birds that fly at night, artificial light is a deadly siren". Big cities always have their artificial lights on throughout the night and it hurts the birds because they migrate using the light from the moon so they become confused with all of the extra lights. Also in the passage it states that birds crash into buildings causing them to fall and die. I found this interesting because I was not aware that the artificial lights at night effected any animals or their eyesight.

Nyla Gantt said...

"Just a brief glimpse at your mobile phone at bedtime is enough to expose your retinas to artificial light..." (page 54) from the passage "The Health Effects on a World Without Darkness." This sentence in particular really stuck out to me because I use my phone almost 24/7. Like most teens and young adults, I use my phone the most at night laying in bed while the light is off. I've been told by my mom more than a million times that when there is a bright light in your face, your eyes strain to take in all the light.

- Nyla G.

Tatyana Curtis said...

Tatyana C. said,
In the chapter “The Health Effects of a World Without Darkness”, Boyle discusses many reasons that support her over all message of the danger that comes with artificial lights. Many of the topics were compelling but there was one that truly notable and stood out above the rest. On page 48 Boyle says, “Animals that make their living during the day are still disrupted by artificial nighttime light.” She goes on to explain what she meant by this sentence. Ultimately what I understood was that animals develop in a particular way at particular times. Having 24/7 light will throw off their natural development causing a trickle of harm.

-Tatyana Curtis

Kaelyn Blunt said...

In this chapter of "The Heath Effects of a World Without Darkness", What I found interesting was the section about the bats. About how they will change their whole eating path just to stay away from a small amount of light. I of course knew before that they were nocturnal, but I did not know that it was to this degree. It is just amazing that such a small amount of light to a bat pushes them away from a path, and in turn messes up the environment to which they once flew over.And not only that, but that bats born in sunlight have physically different bodies. That "their wings were shorter and they weighed less-than those born to the dark". Light is a lot more important than I thought.

Trevon Bosley said...

Rebecca Boyle's article ,"The Health Effects of A World Without Light," highlighted many issues caused by our everyday lights.I was unaware of many of the issues discussed in the reading ,so majority of the points brought up truly interested me,but what stood out the most was the lights effect on the mice. Not only did the rats express more depressive behavior but the scientists also noticed ,"the light exposed rodents got fat,even though they were eating the same number of calories as their dark-sequestered mates."(Boyle50) I found it interesting that everyday light has power over not only our emotional status ,but our weight change as well.

Aja J. said...

One point that I found interesting in article was on page 48, when it is said that “animals that make their living during the day are still disrupted by artificial nighttime light.” I found this very interesting because it was also stated that nighttime light also affected nocturnal animals. To some diurnal animals, nighttime light can cause melatonin suppression, which affects sleep. I never realized what artificial nighttime light could do to animals, so this article was very enlightening.

-Aja J

Kathryn Hatches said...

One point I enjoyed that the author made was: "despite their utility, these [fire] artificial lights were sources of danger in their own right" (Page 45). The writer discusses how while artificial light was initially created to protect our ancestors, it has actually backfired in some ways. Oftentimes fires have been set unintentionally and destroyed both human made and natural environments alike. I thought this was definitely worth noting because I had never thought about how fire and other forms of artificial light have caused almost as many problems as they have solutions.

Katie Hatches

Maxwell C. said...

This entire article really showed and proved how much artificial light can mess up animals and insects and even humans. Migrating animals get confused because the usually follow the stars and moonlight but because of artificial light created by us people they get lost and don't make it to where they are supposed to be. Light at nighttime even messes with humans because when it is time to sleep our bodies release melatonin but if there is still light at night then our bodies think it is still daytime and hold off on releasing this essential chemical. In the present time light at night time is needed because of all the traveling we do at night. We have to make sure we can see so we don't wreck and cause havoc from not being able to see in the dark. Although it wouldn't hurt to just use not as many lights, there are millions of lights on at night that really aren't needed and these lights are even keeping us from seeing the stars at night. Artificial light is very much needed but at what cost?
-Maxwell C.

Kayla Daniels said...

One point that was made that I found interesting was how on pages 47 and 48 they went through how animals have navigated and survived through darkness. This points out exactly how natural and important the dark is. Humans create artificial light during the night that causes their sleep patterns to be thrown off. This piece of the article just shows that we need to embrace the dark as well as light.

Payton bridegroom said...

On page 51 it says "blue light also pours from the phone, tablet, or computer screen on which you're reading this". I found this interesting because in the paragraph before it talks about how different colored lights can affect how you sleep. For example blue light was shown to exacerbate or worsen insomnia. Which makes me wonder if I don't enough sleep because I am always on my phone.
-Payton B.

Jazmyn Maggitt said...

The passage that stuck out to me was on page 51 stating,"Using a phone after lights-out about once a week increased the risk of being "very tired" by five times." I find this to be a very shocking and interesting fact. I use my phone after "lights-out" almost every single night and I often complain of needing more sleep. The thing is, I blame my tiredness on just being up too late, I never would have thought that it had anything to do with the light that my phone gives off while I'm on it. It makes sense that my body recognizes that light as something close to daylight and so it leads to less peaceful sleep, I however, never would have put that together if I hadn't read it in this book.
-Jazmyn M

Alona Davenport said...

Something my mother used to tell me when I was younger was to not be on my phone before I went to bed. I normally just brushed her off and continue to text multiple people until I felt fatigue. In fact, I still do this. I would hear a lot that the phone's light makes it harder to sleep and would brush that information off as well.
On pg 53 an experiment was conducted were 8 people went on a camping trip for 2 weeks and weren't allowed anything with artificial light after sunset. A week later, melatonin would rise at sunset (as it should) and fall at sunrise.
This was notable because I found it surprising that the light from phone's actually does disturb your sleep patterns rather than just serving as a minor distraction until you felt tired.

Alona D.

Alona Davenport said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica D said...

One point that stood out to me was on page 48. It states that," A growing body of evidence shows that light pollution exacerbates, and might directly cause, cancer, obesity, and depression, the troublesome triumvirate of industrialization society. Light exposure at night has a negative impact on melatonin. Melatonin is an antioxidant, which protects DNA from damage;this has important implications for cancer biology. There are a lot of things that are said to cause cancer, but it is kinda shocking that something we are exposed to everyday can have a big impact on cancer. Light controls and is a lot more important than one would think.

Jessica D said...

One point that stood out to me was on page 48. It states that," A growing body of evidence shows that light pollution exacerbates, and might directly cause, cancer, obesity, and depression, the troublesome triumvirate of industrialization society. Light exposure at night has a negative impact on melatonin. Melatonin is an antioxidant, which protects DNA from damage;this has important implications for cancer biology. There are a lot of things that are said to cause cancer, but it is kinda shocking that something we are exposed to everyday can have a big impact on cancer. Light controls and is a lot more important than one would think.

Peyton D. said...

Page 49 stuck out to me. The author discusses the natural production of melatonin and how it regulates one's sleep-wake cycle. Light actually stops the production of melatonin (Page 49). I can relate to this personally. I moved to Edwardsville and into the dorms and would have trouble sleeping. I would wake up with light in my face due to the light pole outside. I continued to have trouble sleeping until I got a sleep mask. A world full of light is not always a good thing.

DeAndre Ghist said...

On page 54, the author says "Just a brief glimpse at your mobile phone at bedtime is enough to expose your retinas to artificial light..". This is both interesting and relatable for my generation, because we are all dependent on technology. This really hits me because I never really thought about how much we depend on light until reading these passages. Although, I do believe that people should rely less on artificial light and should "disconnect" a little more, and go outside to enjoy the darkness.

DeAndre Ghist said...

On page 54, the author says "Just a brief glimpse at your mobile phone at bedtime is enough to expose your retinas to artificial light..". This is both interesting and relatable for my generation, because we are all dependent on technology. This really hits me because I never really thought about how much we depend on light until reading these passages. Although, I do believe that people should rely less on artificial light and should "disconnect" a little more, and go outside to enjoy the darkness.

John Kriha said...

One point about the dangers of artificial light that I found particularly interesting was on page 46. "...nighttime light itself is far more dangerous than the dark". In short, Boyle states that artificial light at night interferes with the body's perception of time of day that was deeply ingrained through the natural cycle of night and day; with clear boundaries between the two. This argument was intriguing to me because I happen to be a person who is unable to fall asleep unless the light is off. However, younger children tend to not be able to fall asleep without a night light. In a similar sense, watching television at night or watching a movie in a dark theatre can damage your eyesight because of the the contrast of light and dark.

Derick B. said...

One thing that intrigued me about the article was that insects conjure around artificial lights until they die of exhaustion or are eaten by bats or birds (page 48). This is intriguing to me because I always wondered why insects did this.

Zuriah Harkins said...

One thing that compelled me was that light can delay the production of the hormone melatonin. According to Rebecca Boyle, European blackbirds that were exposed to 0.3 lux developed their reproductive systems a month earlier, and molted earlier, than birds kept in the dark (Page 48). This was interesting because I would have never guessed that light could have this kind of affect on birds. It was also interesting that melatonin, which regulates our sleep-wake cycle, can be connected to cancer when we do not produce enough of it.

Zuriah H.

Robert Craig Jr said...

I found the experiment on the mice and rats very interesting. As they were exposed to more bright light, the subjects showcased more symptoms of depression, rats more so than mice. I feel as though this relates to how we live in society. As our cities become brighter and more expansive, we show higher rates of depression and anxiety. It is almost as if our want to expand and become "brighter" is driving us further and further into darkness. Maybe as a society we need to "turn off" occasionally and let our minds reset. Otherwise, we may drive ourselves into an unbreakable depression.

Lyric Barnes said...

The most compelling section of our reading,"The Health Effects on a World Without Darkness" was the section about the effect light has on birds considering that most birds are out during the day and usually don't display issues due to the light. The passage states, “In New York every September, columns of light shine skyward in tribute to the destroyed World Trade Center towers. Tens of thousands of migrating birds, trying to navigate by the moon and stars, fly into the beams and circle, zombie like, until someone shuts the lights off. Birds also collide with glittering buildings and lighthouses and are stunned, falling to their deaths” (47). I found this because when New York shines the lights in tribute to the towers because of the deaths and damages that took place, that same tribute is causing deaths.

Unknown said...

What got my attention was migratory birds getting taken off course due to artificial light. During the night, our cities artificial light mimics that of the moon and stars.

David B.

Carlie Bibbs said...

One point within the passage that was notable to me was about how the lights from our electronic devices may cause us more harm than good (51). And this point just makes me think about all of the different inventions that humans come up with. We think only in the short term about how the inventions will positively help us, but I think it is time to also start thinking about the risks involved.
The fact that our society is only becoming more technologically advanced is quite frightening because of all the potential harm we could be causing ourselves.
-Carlie B

Sydney J said...

One part that caught my attention about artificial light was the affect on animals. I am an animal lover so it's unfortunate to read it affects them as well. On page 48 it talked about how it was disrupting the ecosystem.
Sydney J.

Richyrich98 Gude said...

One part from the article concerning the dangers of artificial light that compelled me would be the part where the author spoke on the side effects and effects in general artificial light has on humans. From not going to sleep on time due to the delayed release of the hormone melatonin (page 48), to it being a factor of things such as depression and obesity (48). This hit me because it made me wonder would we humans have ever used artificial light had we known what it could possibly do to us in the long run? It also made me think what are ways we can effectively use artificial light to lower the effects it has on us.
Richard G.

Paris Smith said...

The passage, "A growing body of evidence shows that light pollution exacerbates, and might directly cause, cancer, obesity, and depression, the troublesome triumvirate of industrialized society," (48) It made me think of all the times that I scrolled through Facebook on my phone at night just to try and get some sleep and I have known that staring at a screen too long was harmful to the body but I never really knew the reality of it until know and I will definitely make sure and keep track of all the light I let into my life.

Breanna B. said...

After reading through what a lot of my peers noted, I couldn't agree more. On page 48, we have a link to serious health issues. Page 40 details the effect light had on mice. I feel we have become a society very reliant upon light. With such a dependence, an addiction really, one would think we would all be more aware of the side-effects. I have always complained about the brightness of my phone and computer screens, because it hurts my eyes; with all I have learned in reading Boyle's article, I am now concerned not only with the effect of screentime on my eyes, but my mental and physical health. More recently, I have tried to cut back. Yet it is very difficult to do so when so many aspects of our lives are controlled by light. On page 53, she talks about cutting our energy uses and therefore cutting use of light. Not only are there environmental effects, but we as the user are blindly falling victim to our own addiction.

cassidy oliver said...

I've never really thought about the effects of artificial lighting but this story points out something really interesting. The author claims that "artificial light provides an artificial sense of security" (Skloot 46). A sense of security that does not actually exists is especially dangerous, especially in urban areas. Artificial light does not correlate to lower crime rates, yet most of us believe that crime correlates with darkness. The darkness causes the crime and believing that is more dangerous than some crimes in their own right.

Miya Evans said...

It really surprised me how light has such adverse effects on animal life. On page 47, they talk about how birds circle the beams of light that stand in memory of the World Trade Center until someone shuts the lights off. It also states how some birds will fly into the sides of buildings due to being in a stunned state caused by the artificial light. Another point that compelled me was how the sleeping and eating habits of bats were altered due to light. There was also a mention of blue light on page 49. This intrigued me because years ago I heard about this particular topic on the news. They stated in the newscast that artificial light, specifically blue light, has the power to alter our sleep patterns. It keeps the body up and alter when it really wants to sleep, thus interrupting our sleep cycle. One of the tops sources of this blue light is our cell phones. Light pollution is a lot more serious than some may think. It's more than just not being able to see the stars at night.

Alexis Acoff said...

On pages 46-47, the author discussed how our artificial light sources cause confusion and sometimes death among many animals that do their traveling at night. I did not realize that many animals choose to migrate and hunt at night because they use the light of the moon to guide them to where they need to be. Our production and over-use of artificial light almost seemed selfish as I was reading this article. It seems as if we do not realize that humans are not the only ones on this earth and that many of the "great inventions" of our times are actually harmful in the long run to not only the other animals on this earth, but to ourselves.

Kellsey H said...

After reading Boyle’s article, the point concerning the dangers of artificial light that compelled me was the one made in regards to animals (Page 47).I have been entirely unmindful of the effects that artificial lighting can have on other creatures living on earth. I feel selfish having disrupted their natural way of life in order to improve mine. It is unfair and changes need to be made.

--Kellsey H

Fiona Hill said...

I found the mice studies on page 40 to be the most intriguing part of this chapter. I found this interesting because the assumptions and conclusions made in the chapter was backed up by scientific evidence. I found it interesting how The mice in the light gained more weight just because they were in the light and how there were neurological differences as well.

Fiona H.

Shardai J-H. said...

I found a statement on page 46 intriguing. It states, "Even now, artificial light provides an artificial sense of security." It was found that there is "no correlation between nighttime lighting and crime rates."

Many individuals' sense of security comes from artificial light. This dates back to childhood, if one was scared of the dark, or scared of anything during bedtime, a light was turned on to make them feel safe. This false safety that was fed to us as children causes many people to not be aware of their surroundings at all times of the day, not just when things seem unsafe- at night. When in reality crime has no set time of day.

Bryce Barker said...

On page 51, Boyle talks about how looking at a tablet or phone at night reduces melatonin levels by 22 percent. This helps attribute for why many people, including myself, wake up tired. I could climb into bed and be ready to fall asleep, but before I shut my eyes I pull out by phone and look at it and then an hour later I am still on it and doing things because I forgot that I was even tired. When we let our electronics into the bedroom, we decrease the amount of sleep that we get because we shove a bright screen into our face which has effected us and will affect future generations in the long run.

Barry F. said...


I have known that light pollution has been an issue in growing urban areas for a while. On page 48 when she brought up how it can affect our sleep cycles. In Chicago, I lived on the corner of a major highway which was well lit, so my bedroom constantly had light coming in at night. Also, the increase in cell phone usage has caused many people, including me, to have a hard time getting to sleep and staying sleep.

Ashley Murray said...

I found the section on page 48 discussing how light can affect our sleep cycles compelling because I never knew it was called "light pollution". Growing up in a major city, living in Chicago I thought nothing of the bright lights because it was something I became accustomed to. I also found page 51 interesting explaining how light from our devices such as phones ipads etc can decreases melatonin levels which is a hormone made by the pineal gland , a small gland in the brain that helps control sleep and wake cycles.This explains the poor sleep habitats youth obtain by staying up on their phones past bedtime!

-Ashley M

Aliyah Butler said...

I'm surprised that light has such an impact on health. Initially, I didn't think that this was such a huge issue for me, since I haven't stayed somewhere with a huge amount of light pollution (in my opinion). But, the passage about our phones being a source of light surprised me. I'm always on my phone even when I should be sleeping. This could be negatively impacting my health.

Aliyah B.

Jeremiah B. said...

One part that really stood out to me in the article was when Boyle talked about the effects light had on animals (47). Artificial light causes problems for animals that use the nocturnal light of the moon for navigation. It's also affecting different species' hunting and mating habits which could put them at risk of depopulation. I never realized that the artificial light we produced had this big of an impact on other organisms until reading this article.