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Greenhouse Light Pollution Is Affecting Prey, Migration, And Humans

Emily Robertson
greenhouse light pollution

As the cannabis boom continues, unexpectedly negative impacts are cropping up. What happens when your light/dark cycles are messed with? 

The increasing number of cannabis greenhouses has made many ecstatic. But, it has left just as many frustrated. Residents around the new cannabis facilities have been complaining about the light pollution and smell that creeps up around these farming communities.

While the smell can be managed with proper ventilation systems, the issue of greenhouse light pollution is one that is a bit harder to battle. If you live in the city, seeing the stars is a rare occurrence anyway. But those in the country have different expectations.

Those in rural Canada take pride in the glittering blanket that watches over them every night, and seeing the stars is one of the aspects of country living that makes the long drive into the city well worth it. Companies like Canopy Growth in B.C. have already dealt with upset neighbors over their growth ops.

Is there a way to solve it?

greenhouse light light pollution

 

Increased Light Pollution

Greenhouses have been in the country for decades – why suddenly is this a problem? Well, cannabis plants require a specific regiment of light and heat that other plants may not need. For instance, at one stage of a cannabis plant’s growth cycle, it needs 18 hours of proper light to grow properly. In contrast, other plants need an equal balance of 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark to thrive. In the winter in particular when nights are longer, this can be a bit of a pain.

When the sun can’t hold up to the task, cannabis growers need to artificially provide the light required to make sure their little sprouts grow healthy and strong. Despite the great news for the growing $6.5 bn retail market, neighbors to these facilities are more concerned with their sleep and their nightly star show.

Why is Light Pollution a Big Deal?

City folk may be thinking, “what’s the big deal? So you can’t see the stars – join the club!” But light pollution is a bigger problem than just a ruined astronomical experience.

Just like plants, animals also need a certain amount of light and dark to keep their life cycles healthy. Prey animals need darkness to hide from nocturnal predators. Without this, the balance of animal populations can be thrown out of whack. In the same vein, some birds migrate at night and light pollution affects their navigational abilities.

Similarly, you know that increased croaking sound you hear after sunset? That’s the frog population working on their mating rituals. However, with light pollution frogs don’t croak as much, which could affect their populations.

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And of course, the surrounding plants that naturally grow in the area may see effects too. Not all plants require 50/50 light and dark or 18 hours of light. Farm plants in the surrounding areas, or even the habitats of local animals, can get disrupted by the interruption of excess artificial light.

Finally, as much as humans like to believe themselves separate from the natural world, our needs are really not that far off. We run on a circadian rhythm that matches the natural pattern of light and dark. When this is disrupted, we’re at a higher risk of certain illnesses, like heart disease and obesity, and even breast cancer in cases of extreme exposure to light at night.

What Can We Do About This?

John Barentine, director of public policy at the International Dark-Sky Association, told the press that, “by exposing ourselves to artificial light during those times of day when the body and the brain don’t expect them to be there, it can have the effect of beginning a cascade of biological processes that might lead to certain kinds of chronic diseases”. He went on to say that he’s not sure operators are “very conscious of the light issues”.

So, when companies like Canopy Growth felt this backlash, they had to start looking for solutions that they hadn’t previously considered. Jordan Sinclair, vice-president of communications for the company, explained that, “There’s always going to be a transition period. The producers themselves have to go through a period of making sure they’re good neighbours.”

greenhouse light, light pollution, cannabis farms, Canada, legalization, light pollution, smell, skunk, regulations, agriculture

In states like Arizona, where Barentine works, he said: “We’re beginning to get counties and municipalities, mostly here in the U.S., reaching out to us asking for help with the regulatory aspect.”

He went on to explain that, “this is so new in many respects, that we don’t have an out-of-the-box policy solution to this.”

Scramble to Keep Up With the Greenhouse Light Dilemma

This has left some companies scrambling for innovation and new engineering ideas. In B.C., Canopy growth has attempted to reduce their greenhouse light pollution by installing shades on the sides of greenhouses. This is a relatively affordable solution, though it can take several weeks, or even months, to plan and install shades.

The fact is that most places don’t yet have regulations considering cannabis greenhouses. As a result, greenhouse light regulations pertain to outdoor lighting rather than that coming from inside the structures.

This is just one more way that federal laws and regulations need to shift for the new industry. But Canopy may be on the right track. Especially to ensuring that we can get our medicine without causing harm to surrounding populations.

Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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