Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sea Turtles' Plight

Read the original article here

Last week, National Seashore park rangers were heartbroken after a loggerhead sea turtle nest they did not know existed hatched and most of the babies disappeared after crawling in the wrong direction.
Light pollution was blamed for the loss of the endangered species.
The nest was laid within 8-feet of the Gulf. Sea turtles, which have been around since the time of dinosaurs, naturally use the glow that stars, planets and the moon create when they reflect on the Gulf.
But these days, the artificial lights of coastal development far outshine celestial lights.
Park rangers and volunteers spend tireless hours hunting down, marking and monitoring every sea turtle nest they can find. They know if they are not there when the turtles hatch they'll most likely head north, east or west toward the brightest glow of beach homes, businesses or condominiums instead of into the relative safety of the Gulf of Mexico.
...The homeowners association of the [condominium towers of Portofino Resort] have taken steps to install turtle-friendly lights in their parking garages. Still, sitting on the beach looking at both the horizons — over the Gulf and to the north — it was clear why the turtles made a beeline toward the resort [as well as to the] north.
The biggest problem was... the interior lights shining brightly from condominiums [where] owners or renters do not close their drapes or blinds at night.
Escambia County has adopted a turtle-friendly light ordinance. It asks residents and renters to voluntarily close their drapes at night during nesting season. Even if people just closed them shortly after dark, it would make a huge difference.
Would it be enough? It might help, but the glow from Gulf Breeze across Santa Rosa Sound is [also] alluring... Lights at Pensacola Naval Air Station pose a similar problem for turtles on Fort Pickens and Perdido Key beaches.
As I sat in the dark [observing] the light pollution, I realized it's a huge challenge that needs to be addressed by the entire coastal community.
Why? For millions of years, sea turtles have been a vital part of ocean ecosystems, according to Oceana. Today, however, they're on the brink of extinction. Coastal development has shrunk their breeding grounds and light pollution has invaded what remains.
So, is it too much to ask, since we've taken so much for ourselves, to simply adopt the park rangers' slogan: "Lights out for sea turtles?"
Adapted from Kimberly Blair: Lights out for sea turtles

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Light in Your Sky

I will always remember my first real encounter with the night sky. I grew up in a more urbanized area, and didn't have much more exposure to the stars than flattening my nose against the car window as my family drove down the highway. It wasn't until a wilderness astronomy program that I became exposed to the marvels of the universe and the humbling feeling that those who stargaze often are well acquainted with.

Sights which used to be common to even the amateur astronomer are becoming so washed out by light pollution that extensive travel or high-power telescopes are required to see them. 99% of the earth's skies are considered to be "light-polluted," meaning that artificial light has been introduced in some way to the natural environment (See the National Parks Service discussion on light pollution here for more information). 

It isn't just the views that are being lost. Nearly half of known species are nocturnal, requiring natural darkness. This resource—and it is a resource—provides necessary environmental conditions without which, death and disorientation may occur. Additionally, research is finding that we are not immune to the effects of unwanted light. "Light pollution can also impact human health by disrupting melatonin, and can cause sleep disturbances" (Chepesiuk, 2009; Clark, 2006, as cited by Mace & McDaniel, 2013). 

This isn't a problem we can ignore and hope will go away. The capacity and responsibility for what lights our sky belongs to each of us. Visit this link for some simple ways to reduce light pollution, or like us on Facebook to receive updates on the ongoing battle for our natural resources.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Sounds are Drowning

 Airplanes, motorcycles, machinery and urbanization--the blessings of living in the modern age provide us with many opportunities and resources no generation before us has been privileged to. There are some resources, however, that are dwindling. As society progresses toward a more universal modernity, the sounds of the natural world are drowning in the industrial, suburban noise which dominates our lives.

Have you ever heard the trill of the nightingale, the howl of the coyote and the still, peaceful ripples of the stream? For me, it is sounds such as these which draw me to visit National Parks across the country. In the whistling of the wind through the aspen trees and all natural sounds, I find a restorative experience—one which many have come to expect.

I recently found myself at the Grand Staircase National Monument near Escalante, Utah. The desert wilderness was filled with the chirping of crickets, day and night, hawk calls, and beaver churrs. As I began to become immersed in the serenity of the soundscape, or environment of sounds, the rumbling of jet engines echoed through the canyon.

All too often, we find ourselves encountering such noise. It disrupts our experience of the wild, and pulls us back to the doldrums of everyday life we had intended to leave behind. The soundscapes of National Parks are a vital component to a healthy, relaxing experience for us and the generations to come after us.

Help support the cause of wildlife sounds. Like us on Facebook here or visit the National Parks Service website for ideas on how to get involved.

"All of nature begins to whisper its secrets to us through its sounds. Sounds that were previously incomprehensible to our soul now become the meaningful language of nature."

-Rudolf Steiner