You’re probably asking “how can light be pollution?” The simple fact is that it can be, and is. We use far too much lighting during the day and at night, and we’re paying subtle but cumulative prices for it. The effects extend beyond just us; it is affecting our ecosystem as well.
One definition of light pollution, by the U.S. National Park Service:
“Principally, the illumination of the night sky caused by artificial light sources, decreasing the visibility of stars and other natural sky phenomena. Also includes other incidental or obtrusive aspects of outdoor lighting such as glare, trespass into areas not needing lighting, use in areas where or at times when lighting is not needed, and disturbance of the natural nighttime landscape.”
Two types of light pollution are recognized: merely annoying light, such as some extra light spilling into your yard from a neighbor’s lights, and unnecessary light such as the by and large useless light streaming into the skies from our major cities. This second, excessive type of light is actually harmful to us, whether by disrupting our sleep patterns, hindering astronomical research, or vicariously through the upsetting of bird migration.
To start fighting light pollution, we can start in our homes. Turn off the lights when you’re not in a room. Don’t start using lights until you simply can’t see around your house anymore. Even then, if you’re home alone, I recommend using flashlights for moving around the house, and only turn on the lights if you’re going to be in a room for a long time. Hopefully businesses around the world, and cities, will at the very least change their lighting configurations so that less extra light is streaming directly into the sky, where we do not need it.