What Goes Up, Must Come Down

What Goes Up, Must Come Down

By: Kelsey Venekamp There I was, camping out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the night before the Indianapolis 500. With the burgers on the grill and the campfire crackling, the night sky slowly became filled with the illumination of hundreds of paper lanterns, set off into the sky by fellow campers and race fans. As I stared at the fire-lit lanterns floating off into the night sky, my gaze turned to skepticism as I started to wonder: What happens to the lanterns once the fire burns out and they fall back down to earth? After a quick Google search and some conversation among my fellow campers, I was shocked to learn of the negative impact sky lanterns have on our environment. According to A Greener Festival, there has been a marked increase in structural fires and wildfires, as well as series burns to humans and animals due to misuse or malfunction of sky lanterns. Apart from the obvious fire risk, lanterns contain a metal wire support, which if chopped up into hay or silage can cause harm to cattle and other livestock when consumed. Though there are sky lanterns available that claim to be fully biodegradable, The Guardian states that it takes six to eight weeks to biodegrade and on average, nine months for the wire to breakdown—though they noted that there is no proof or research to support this claim. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency also report that there are hundreds of false alarms every year due to lanterns being mistaken for flares at sea and the FAA has raised concerns over the use of floating lanterns, as they can be sucked into aircraft engines. Entire countries have banned the use of sky lanterns, including Austria, Australia, Brazil, New Zealand, Spain, Germany and parts of Canada. And in the USA, bans include California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Washington. Beautiful and cheap, destructive and dangerous, let’s not turn a blind eye to the harmful impact sky lanterns can have on the one green earth we have.

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