What Can We Do About Light Pollution?
With truly dark skies (Bortle Class 1) becoming an endangered species, many parks and cities across the globe are doubling their efforts to become “dark sky preserve” sites. Often times though, these efforts conflict with housing developments, mining efforts, and other side-effects of the rapidly developing world.
In some cases, cities, parks, and dark sky preservationists clash with new developments, as it’s very easy for developers to throw up lighting without any concern for night skies or lighting efficiency. Recent studies have shown that increased levels of artificial lighting at night can have a detrimental effect on birds, insects, and even humans. New studies by the EPA have also led to a correlation between high smog levels in the lower atmosphere and high levels of artificial lighting at night.
In the debate between providing adequate light at night, and protecting our night skies, opponents often cite security and cost as the main factors for not utilizing “dark sky safe” lighting methods. That being said, many cities are now seeing tremendous cost-savings from reducing their nighttime lighting levels, along with a corresponding reduction in crime! Seems like criminals don’t like carrying flashlights! Also consider with energy costs rapidly rising, the value of reclaiming countless millions of tons of coal, and barrels of oil wasted on unnecessary outdoor lighting. With the heightened concerns over energy usage and global climate change, it is a logical conclusion to reduce energy usage through the use of properly configured, energy efficient outdoor lighting.
What other factors affect our night skies, and what can be done to help take back the night?
For starters, you can do a few things right at home, along with encouraging your neighbors, friends and family to do the same. By taking a few small steps, you can save money on your monthly utility bill, and help reduce light pollution. Here are a few quick and easy ways you can help:
The IDA helps cities and parks develop strategies for protecting their night skies, and in some cases, actually improving the quality of their night skies.
Take a camera and a tripod and get some high quality pictures of the breathtaking beauty of pristine night skies. You can use the photos to show friends, family, and officials the importance of protecting our night skies.
No one is saying we should abandon our standard of living and return to the 1800′s. Many cities, such as Flagstaff, Arizona (among many others) have shown that it is very possible, and not terribly difficult to balance the needs of modern lifestyles with the desire to protect our night skies.
As a final thought, consider these quotes from the late Carl Sagan:
“Before we invented civilization our ancestors lived mainly in the open out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away.”
Our ancestors lived out of doors. They were as familiar with the night sky as most of us are with our favorite television programs. The Sun, the Moon, the stars, and the planets all rose in the east and set in the west, traversing the sky overhead in the interim. The motion of the heavenly bodies was not merely a diversion, eliciting a reverential nod and grunt; it was the only way to tell the time of day and the seasons. For hunters and gatherers, as well as for agricultural peoples, knowing about the sky was a matter of life and death.