Until I interviewed the Dark Ranger (aka Kevin Poe), I hadn’t thought much about the seeming disappearance of the stars in the sky. I knew my suburban existence had something to do with not seeing as many stars as I remember as a kid, but I also figured I had romanticized that magical sparkly starry sky of my summer-camp days in the Berkshire mountains of Western Massachusetts. The other time I remember a fabulously star-filled sky was during a honeymoon trip to a pretty remote island – the tiki torches didn’t seem to diminish the twinkling of that night sky much at all.
Kevin (who I kept calling Ken during our first interview – Sorry Ken, I mean Kevin! Public apology #2), is a park ranger in Mt. Zion National Park and has made it somewhat of a life’s mission to help illuminate (cute, right?) us about why we need to start paying attention to light pollution.
Sometimes terms like sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter and over-illumination are used to describe excessive night light’s intrusion on a naturally dark sky. Here’s the International Dark Sky Association’s glossary of relevant terms about light pollution page. Also, if you want to see where light clusters around cities and towns are and what they look like from the sky, here’s a great interactive Google ‘night lights’ map that you can search for your own area and see how it looks from the night sky.
Good reasons to be concerned about light pollution:
Waste of Energy – Let’s face it, there is probably a lot of over-illuminating going on, especially here in the US, where we have an obsession with keeping the lights on all night. According to the International Dark Sky Association, we burn up a whopping 22,000 gigawatt-hours of useless light that is pointed up towards the sky! Their math has this at an estimated cost (in terms of money) of $2.2 billion a year. In terms of carbon footprint?
3.6 million tons of coal or 12.9 million barrels of oil is used
to generated this type of lost light
Ecosystems & Wildlife – While light pollution can disrupt elements of the ecosystem in subtle ways that may ultimately have lasting effects, it has a definite and negative impact on nocturnal animals. In general all animals (including humans) have a biological code that follows a circadian rhythm, which is just a inherent natural clock.