Unpopular Opinion: Liking fireworks makes you a bad person
Is there anything that represents the apathy and shortsightedness of humans more than fireworks?
People spend thousands of dollars for 5-minutes of loud bangs and bright lights. It’s the infant equivalent of dangling keys—only a lot more harmful.
I’ll just say it: if you love traditional fireworks—you hate animals, children, veterans, and the environment—and there is no middle ground.
You’re also a simpleton. Although, it’s not all your fault. Biology plays a role in this.
In conversation with Anna Brooks of Popular Science, Daniel Glaser, a neuroscientist and the director of Science Gallery London at King’s College in the United Kingdom, says we like fireworks so much because they scare us—activating the amygdala, a little ball of nerves in the brain that detects fear. After the lights have stimulated the anticipation of a threat, the resounding crack of the firework confirms this perception in our brains. In response, our reward centers release a surge of dopamine—a chemical that regulates pleasure.
Okay, so you have an excuse for liking fireworks. But do you know what else releases a surge of dopamine? Fentanyl. So not only do you love fireworks and hate animals, veterans, and the environment, you’re also defending fentanyl. I hope you’re happy with yourself.
Seriously, though, last year more than 250 million pounds of fireworks erupted in the United States alone, generating $1.2 billion in revenue, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association—because of course there’s an association for fireworks.
Dogs, cats, and other pets are typically terrified of fireworks. The brightness and the sound likely send your tremoring pet under the bed in terror—if you’re one of the lucky ones. Pets can become so terrified that they flee their homes, end up lost, and even get hit by cars.
An animal’s hearing can also be much more sensitive than a human’s. There have been reported cases of hearing loss and tinnitus suffered by dogs within close proximity to fireworks. A dog’s ears alone can detect sound at three times the distance of human ears. Think those fireworks are loud? Multiply the sound by three and tell me how much fun you’re having.
What about pets living in shelters that don’t have a place to hide for that tiny bit of comfort? Then there are also the poisonous chemicals released into the air (more on that later), negatively impacting wildlife.
Those with PTDS related to war can become triggered during your night of celebration. According to Veteran Affairs Canada, loud noises such as fireworks may lead to a flashback, in which the affected person feels or acts as if the traumatic event were recurring in the present.
For people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), bright and loud fireworks can be overwhelming. There are websites dedicated to helping parents shield their children with ASD from what can be a stressful sensory overload.
How many environmentally conscious people ditched their plastic straws while enjoying a refreshment during a Victoria Day fireworks display? According to Alexandra Franklin-Cheung of BBC’s Science Focus, “fireworks propel a cocktail of chemicals into the atmosphere, many of which can harm both people and the environment… additionally, many fireworks contain oxidizers known as perchlorates. These can dissolve in water, contaminating rivers, lakes and drinking water”.
There is a movement to eliminate the traditional noise in place of “quiet fireworks”. Banff, Alta. is one of several North American communities to abandon traditional firework displays for quieter alternative light shows.
“We wanted to minimize the impact on wildlife in the townsite and obviously the surrounding national park, as loud fireworks can be stressful to them,” deputy mayor, Corrie DiManno told the Globe and Mail. “And for us, moving to special-effect pyrotechnics helps us to walk the walk, so to speak. We consider ourselves leaders in this environment preservation so we wanted to make that we were doing all we can.”
Your children may be disappointed, but consider quieter options the next time you want to celebrate. It may be an ideal time for a lesson in empathy. Or you could always just dangle some keys in front of them.