Replace Fireworks with Laser Light Shows

July 4th, American Independence Day, has passed - but one of its primary activities has not, at least here in Wisconsin. Storms yesterday and today have postponed many community's shows. But maybe, just maybe, we shouldn't have them at all. Maybe we should replace them all with something else, like laser light shows. Some communities, like Salt Lake City, are already doing it because of a few of the many reasons I will argue everyone should.

Fireworks are... I'm looking for an appropriate word here... problematic. Personally I have stronger feelings against them than that, but I understand that many people enjoy the spectacle. But most people don't understand the negative effects. I'll start with the first and most obvious one and after the break I'll get into more.

As a dog companion, specifically a dog with noise anxiety among others, fireworks are entirely unenjoyable. The times when official fireworks are set, and usually for days before and after at random times, our life revolves around managing his fear.

Fireworks are a great example of just how selfish human beings can be. People's enjoyment of them, an so-called tradition around their use, makes it easy for people to gloss over the very negative impact they have in many ways. As with any activity or convenience, any calls to look at different options now falls under the 'cancel culture' tag and people shut down and won't even listen. I hope here you do - read - and listen to the effects fireworks have to the world around us including people, animals, and the environment.

I shouldn't need to get too much into dogs and fear of fireworks. I think most people understand at least that. But as they are 'just dogs' many, most, would scoff at making a change just for them. Before I move on though, a few notes. The effect is more than just having a scared dog in your home. Shelters are inundated with stray dogs. People take them to fireworks displays thinking they will be ok, they may let them out in the yard. Dogs in any situation, even in the house, can and will break free if scared enough. They will slip out of a leash, out of your grasp, out of the yard - they will even break through windows of a house to try to escape. They can get hurt then, and they will run. While running they can get hit by cars or injure themselves. If caught they can end up at shelters, filling them up and increasing their work to try to return these lost dogs on top of their normal case load. July 5th is the busiest day of the year for shelters.

But its not only dogs or pets that are affected, wildlife and people also can be. As Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) points out the shock of fireworks can cause wildlife to flee, ending up in unexpected areas or roadways, flying into buildings and other obstacles, and even abandoning nests, leaving young vulnerable to predators. The same can affect people, especially those with PTSD. I personally have been with a person suffering during fireworks. People also can be affected by fireworks' affects on air quality. IQAir says that fireworks generate huge concentrations of pollutants from colorants and explosives as well as from the metals and fuses that make up the firework itself. Right after a celebration, pollutant concentrations can be up to eight times higher than normal in the hours right after a fireworks show and wind conditions can cause those pollutants to stay in the air for as long as five hours after a fireworks show. And of course, fireworks injure people as well.  Fireworks injured 1,500 people and sparklers 1,100 people in 2021. 

There are other environmental effects as well. FWS says fireworks have the potential of starting wildfires, directly affecting wildlife and destroying essential habitat. Litter from firecrackers, bottle rockets and other explosives can be choking hazards for wildlife and may be toxic if ingested. In Wisconsin, 98% of all wildfires are started by by people, and fireworks is one of those ways. While exploding and airborne fireworks are the most hazardous, even sparklers, fountains and smoke bombs can cause an ignition. Salt Lake City moved on from fireworks because of the threat of wildfires as well as air pollution concerns.

Fireworks cause air, light and sound pollution. They cause anxiety in all living beings, including humans. They can start wildfires. When we have options like laser shows, why are we still using such destructive means of entertainment? Because freedom? We are better than that. Oh, while we are at it, releasing balloons isn't great either. Yeah, I know, I'm a party-pooper.


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