Keep our Skies Dark and our Outlook Good
A few years ago we were honored to be asked to create a short video called Losing the Dark — about light pollution for the International Dark-Sky Association. It was produced for use in both fulldome theaters and flat-screen venues. It’s available in 17 languages (plus English), and has been used around the world.
We just found out that it will be featured at the upcoming Starlight: Beyond Light Pollution leadership training forum in La Palma this July. It’s a great honor to be selected for this prestigious event. I was just looking over the schedule and it looks like a fabulous experience where you can learn a lot about all the issues, and participate in some cool excursions around the island and a trip to Roque de las Muchachos astronomy observatory. If you’re at all interested in astronomy, dark skies, astrophotography, and want to visit a great place, this looks like a wonderful event!
If you do sign up, let them know I recommended it. (How could I NOT? They’re showing my movie!!) I might get a chance to go if enough people sign up under my recommendation. If I can’t get there, I’ll do my darnedest to Skype in and help spread the world about sensible lighting practices.
Light Pollution in a Community
Light pollution is something you really come to take for granted when you live in a city or town. A lot of people don’t realize just how murky the night skies get from wasteful lighting practices until they get out in the countryside away from all of it. Then, they marvel at the beauty of the sky.
But, as we point out in the video, light pollution takes a toll on more than just the stars. It can actually pose a danger to health and safety. Case in point: not far from where I live, there’s a school shining an incredibly, intensely bright light right into people’s faces as they drive around the corner of a mountain road at night. One second you’re in the dark, the next second, you’re hit with a beam that dazzles the eyes. On a rainy, wet or icy night, that moment’s incapacitation could be fatal.
I and others have written to the school about this issue, and I’ve heard they’re considering at least changing the angle of the light so it doesn’t pose such a problem. It also shines directly into nearby windows, which is actually against the light trespass law. One neighbor said it is so bright it lights up their bedroom, despite having curtains. Intrusive lighting can affect a person’s health, and there are a studies backing this up. So, a little gentle education in the direction of safety will still maintain the school’s security and let the neighbors sleep at night. And, they’re not wasting money pointing light to the sky instead of the building.
This is the kind of thing that can be done in many areas — promoting sensible use of light not just for astronomy, but safety and health as well. In reading over the schedule for the conference, it looks like the organizers are not only teaching about those issues, but also acquainting attendees with the glory of the night sky! A win-win all the way around.
Join the Fight Against Light Pollution
Whether you head to La Palma or not, if you’re interested in mitigating lighting issues in your community, please consider joining in with the folks at the International Dark-Sky Association. Their mission is simple: the safe and effective use of light without lighting up the sky or affecting the neighbors. Visit their website to learn more about the organization. I’ve been a member and worked with them for years to help spread the word!