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.