Urbanization, migrating birds and sea turtles

Born and raised inBerlin, I’m a natural city dweller. I lived some time in rural Upper State South Carolina. And if I ever thought Greer was the middle of nowhere, the tiny place in the Negev desert that I called my home for over a year, lies at least 100 miles beyond that. But I love the Moloch – guilty.

Don’t get me wrong. I use the word Moloch and added an urban skyline to the series of backgrounds, but urbanization in itself isn’t a problem. More people live on less space, their commuting distance is cut down, public transport and car sharing pay off, the reproduction rate of city dwellers is far lower, what leads to a lower increase in the world population – not just economical advantages, but also advantages for the ecology and climate are numerous.

Yet, wherever you have a city, you have suburbs. And suburbs of suburbs. While the inner city areas may go rack and ruin, planned development areas with single family homes eat their way into the nature around and with it comes the traffic of commuters, and their heating and their light. Did you know that it is quite typical that while we may have perfect weather during the week, it often rains on weekends inBerlin? That’s because a thick cloud of emissions encloses the city like a tortoiseshell on work days that leads the real clouds around the greater area, while on the weekends we have room for real weather in the skies. AndBerlinis nothing compared to cities in e.g.China, where they had to shut down the industry aroundBeijingso that the sportsmen in the 2008 Olympic Games could breath and see something.

Urban heat islands are an increasing problem too. They are not just created by the heat given off by vehicles and factories and generated by heating and cooling units. Where in rural areas a lot of the solar energy is used to evaporate water from fields and vegetation, in a city it is absorbed into the urban structures and stored there. Hence, during daylight hours we have less natural cooling through evaporation, what leads to warmer temperatures overall, what leads to an increased use of a/c’s.

And, have you ever tried a romantic summer night in the city? Street café’s, beach bars and street festivals are great. But kissing under a starry sky? The stars are there, but with all the lights you can hardly see them. That’s not just sad. A single light post already can change the eco-system as it privileges nocturnal species, mainly insects, that are drawn to the light over those that prefer real darkness. Lit towers disturb the orientation of migrating birds and lead many of them into their death. Hibernating animals adjust the time when it is necessary to retreat by the hours of daylight. Hence, too much light confuses them too. Finally, though this list is probably not all inclusive, given that I write all of this from the top of my head as a means to make you think, sea turtle babies don’t find their way from the beach to the sea through the guidance of the moon. They crawl away from the darkness that are the dunes towards the brighter water (as do young sea birds). If the dunes aren’t that dark, they are lost.

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