Celebrate the Earth at Home
Last night marked the 14th anniversary of Earth Hour. “Held every year on the last Saturday of March, Earth Hour engages millions of people in more than 180 countries and territories, switching off their lights to show support for our planet.” This movement started in Sydney Australia and has since become a global event. While largely being symbolic, it has also proven a vital catalyst for the environmental movement, bringing attention to the plight of the planet while looking to provide solutions for a greener future.
This year Earth Hour has asked for us all to partake in the “Virtual Spotlight” to share the following video in order to “put the spotlight on our planet and make it the most watched video in the world on March 27 (or beyond!) so that as many people as possible hear our message.”
One important aspect of Earth Hour we could all implement on a daily basis is turning off the lights, especially exterior lighting. This will have incredible benefits for local wildlife as artificial lighting is extremely disruptive to both our plants and wildlife. Artificial lighting has been shown to cause some species of trees to leaf out earlier in the spring, at a time when their leaves might still be affected by a hard frost. This same artificial lighting has also been shown to disrupt the dark cycle of photosynthesis, negatively affecting the plants ability to carry out respiration and produce energy.
Artificial lighting also negatively affects our many species of wildlife. Songbirds may be induced to migrate and breed earlier due to artificial lighting. These same birds (especially Mockingbirds) may be stimulated to sing and perform their territorial displays for extended periods of time while they would otherwise be resting. This burns up valuable calories during the breeding season which are better spent towards finding food and raising young. The most obvious impact on our wildlife, but extremely overlooked, is the incredible destructive toll artificial lighting has on our insects. Beneficial insects, especially our beautifully diverse Moths and our predatory insects (like Lightning Bugs) are drawn to artificial lighting, often to their death as they circle endlessly until dying of exhaustion.
Luckily, there are ways to limit your lighting outside and still provide the necessary security and safety needed for people. Using certified wildlife-friendly lighting is one option, taking advantage of amber and red-colored wavelengths, as well as shielded fixtures, to prevent stray light from affecting wildlife. Motion sensors are also an ideal option to allow an are to be quickly lighted for security or safety purposes while remaining wildlife friendly.
As many of you are already aware, the smallest of actions can have huge impacts and native gardening is no exception. Our native plant gardens have wide-reaching benefits, preserving our soils, cleansing our groundwater, supporting our wildlife, capturing carbon, all while beautifying the landscape. Do what you can to protect the Earth within the piece that belongs to you and spread the word about the importance of planting native species as a solution to the many ailments currently facing the planet.