A recent report highlighted the tremendous drop in wild bird numbers since 1970, with 3 billion fewer birds flying in the U.S. now than 50 years ago.

Reasons include depredation by cats (the presence of which in the environment should have been stopped decades ago by regulation) and collisions with windows (a much more difficult situation to address). And, of course, habitat loss leads the list.

But another important reason for this drastic reduction in bird populations is the huge loss of insects they feed upon, undoubtedly thanks in part to ubiquitous artificial lighting. Such lighting attracts insects and keeps them from procreating as they circle fixtures endlessly.

Lights burn all night upon house facades, around barns and sheds, and at closed businesses and churches — all of which could use motion-detector lighting instead. Flag poles have become omnipresent, with far too many of them illuminated all night.

Despite popular belief, there is no law that says a flag must be lit at night (although the U.S. Flag Code says it should be). The Flag Code is simply “a codification of customs and rules…,” and “no penalty or punishment is specified in the Flag Code for display of the flag of the United States in a manner other than as suggested.”

Does it make sense to light a flag at night that attracts and causes the deaths of insects when a human is hardly ever there to gaze upon it?

People could easily do something about such unnecessary and overdone lighting if only they understood how dependent humans are upon other organisms for their own existence.

All life forms fulfill various functions that help to keep our environment working properly for our benefit. Plants keep our atmosphere breathable by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen; pollinators make it possible for our plants to perpetuate their kind; decomposers return nutrients to the soil so plants can grow; predators help to keep animal populations limited … you get the picture.

Too many folks reject the fact that we are completely dependent upon nature — because they want to live however they please. The result is evident in the deteriorating state of the only planet we can call home.

Marlene A. Condon

Albemarle County


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