It’s International Dark Sky Week. For those of you asking why we would celebrate a “dark sky” — you are asking the right question.
All over the world, light pollution is jeopardizing our view of the nighttime sky and has spurred a major, global initiative to protect the ancient pastime of gazing into the galaxy. Dark Sky Week asks us all to examine how we can play a role in protecting this irreplaceable, shared resource.
Our existing detrimental lighting trends include: leaving outdoor lighting on from dusk until dawn (including landscape lighting), using unshielded lighting fixtures (that aim light in all directions including toward the sky), using excessive wattage and number of lighting sources. These bad habits all contribute to light pollution. Developments in technology and the design of lighting fixtures have provided a wide-range of cost effective alternatives to our current lighting that address all of these issues.
States and countries down to the smallest municipalities have begun to adopt legislation that aims to reduce light pollution. Here on the East End, Southold, Southampton, Riverhead, East Hampton and a handful of villages have all adopted dark skies lighting codes. Generally, residential and even commercial lighting is addressed by the legislation, which (among other requirements) requires new construction to utilize dark-sky fixtures as well as the proper height and placement of lights to prevent light pollution.
The dark skies movement truly embodies the ideals of sustainability. It works to protect our view of the stars, but in the end it reduces energy consumption, protects our health and safety, and restores the natural nocturnal setting that plant and animal species rely on to survive.
Here are a few simple things you can do to protect our dark sky:
1. Check out www.darksky.org and go to “Outdoor Lighting” for a list of lighting fixtures and manufacturers that are “dark-sky” friendly. These fixtures concentrate the light in the direction where it is needed and do not project it into the sky (or into your neighbor’s window for that matter). Additionally, they often require less wattage because all of the light is being used to illuminate a more concentrated area.
2. Shield existing fixtures; especially flood lights (and PAR lamps) that many of us have on our driveways and side yards. Shields are very inexpensive, costing less than $20. Check out www.parshield.com for more details or contact Group for the East End for a free shield.
3. Use compact fluorescent bulbs — they use less energy.
4. For more information on dark sky fixture manufacturers, homeowners’ guides, the environmental impacts of light pollution and what more you can do to make a difference, check out the International Dark-Sky Association’s web site — www.darksky.org.
Jenn Hartnagel is an environmental advocate for the Group for the East End.