In China, setting off firecrackers and fireworks during the Chinese New Year period is an important custom, reportedly because in traditional Chinese culture, firecrackers were originally used to scare away evil spirits. Is Covid-19 then a consequence of the Chinese not exploding away enough firecrackers before the start of this year?
I live in a city which in 2014 broke the Guinness World Record for the largest ever fireworks display, and where fireworks are a weekend occurance at a local entertainment destination which is open six months a year. This NYE, we have been promised another show of explosives. Yes, explosives.
Here are 10 reasons why we need to do away with fireworks:
1. The chemicals used in most fireworks are the same ones found in explosives.
2. The source of the August 2020 Beirut explosion was dozens of bags of fireworks.
3. The random explosion of fireworks can trigger a startle response in people who have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
4. For individuals who have witnessed gun violence or who have served in the military, fireworks may trigger their PTSD.
5. Airborne particles from fireworks have been found to deplete lung defenses far more than pollution from traffic sources.
6. Fireworks represent a danger both to animals who live in areas where they explode, or in relatively distant locations when the wind transports the harmful particles released on explosion.
7. Particle pollution in the air has been found to eventually deposit on the ground and get washed into lakes and rivers.
8. Many birds who flee from their nests due to the sounds of fireworks do not know how to return to their nests once the noise ends, which leaves many of their young helpless.
9. Even ‘safe’ fireworks can be a hazard in drought-stricken areas at risk from bushfires.
10. Because of light pollution, most people on Earth never see a naturally dark night sky, and this also affects migrating birds, insects and other animals by disrupting the light-dark cycle they are tuned into.
A couple of months ago I was having a conversation with with a friend when the subject of the sky came up. I was explaining how when I was growing up I never really got to look at the sky very much, and that it took my moving out of the city (and the country), for me to be able to notice the clouds in the sky. It was also a change for me to live in a suburban town where street lights were non-existent. On moving back to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), I could not help but be dazzled by the lights which welcomed me back, but now my friend and I marveled at the possiblity of having to experience the night sky without all the artificial lights.
Here is what we can do for New Year’s Eve (NYE) 2020:
1. Ask that our city not resort to fireworks or light shows on NYE, and instead turn off all unnecessary city lights.
2. Plan to get together with other living beings in our community and revel together in the wonder that is the night sky.
3. Turn off our own unnecessary electronic devices, and enjoy our free digital detox. Try to connect with loved ones far away in spirit.
4. Think of everyone else we do not know on earth, and recognize how the universe and this planet is our shared home.
5. Ask ourselves what we can do this calendar year to make life more bearable for other living beings.
6. Keep one another posted on what we are doing this year to make NYE 2022 without fireworks and light pollution possible in cities around the world by signing up on http://ahlanwasahlan.org/2022
I believe that our fascination with fireworks and artificial lights exists because drawing attention to what we are capable of producing is one of the ways we can proclaim our existence and our might. Light is also synonymous with guidance and is used to commemorate many national and religious occasions. However, it is important for us to realize that our innate desire for guidance has allowed us to seek comfort in polluting artificial lights, and potentially harmful candles and fireworks. What we might be missing out on is the opportunity to feel vulnerable, to develop our night vision, to self reflect, and to feel the connection we have with the universe through the unadulterated night sky.