Dark-Sky Movement: How You Can Participate

Americana, Featured Article, Living Green, Outdoors, Traditions
on July 23, 2013

The dark-sky movement is a collection of worldwide efforts aimed at minimizing the impact of artificial light at night. Here are some ways to participate in the movement:

Use only the lighting that you need, including inside your own home. “During our tours, folks are pleasantly surprised at how easily they adapt to the dark,” says Sean O’Brien, who leads astronomy programs at Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Va. “Often they’d never had the chance to find out how little light they really need to see.”

Join the International Dark-Sky Association. You don’t have to be a professional astronomer to become part of the movement. By joining, you can commit to more thoughtful use of light at night, receive updates from the organization, and participate in local chapter activities.

Work with your community on simple fixes. Often, the sources of light pollution are unneeded light or incorrectly installed or aimed fixtures, and many people are unaware of the costs and effects. “Lots of commercial districts are beginning to ask themselves questions like, ‘Do we really need every single light on in empty parking lots all night?’” O’Brien says.

Lobby for health reasons. Sky glow exacerbates the effects of air pollution because it suppresses the functioning of a naturally occurring air-cleansing compound called nitrate radical, according to a 2010 study by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association.

Educate others. Homeowners associations, city councils and company committees are natural outlets to voice concerns and offer suggestions. A good source for science-based information is International Dark-Skies Association’s website.

Understand safety issues. Local and personal “safety” lighting configurations can be counterproductive and actually blind us to intruders. “More light doesn’t necessarily equal more safe,” O’Brien says. “Uneven illumination sometimes makes it easier for someone to hide.”

Stay optimistic. Unlike many other environmental issues today, society can minimize or eliminate light pollution rather quickly. “I can’t think of anybody who loses,” O’Brien says. “And we’ll get back the kind of night sky our ancestors would’ve taken for granted.”
Learn more about the Dark-Sky Movement