Growing effort to dim city lights at night

Growing effort to dim city lights at night

Credit: Twigletboy

Growing effort to dim city lights at night

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by Tracy Loew, USA TODAY

KING5.com

Posted on April 24, 2014 at 2:50 PM

What do you see when you look up at night?

Chances are, not much.

Increasing population and brighter lights have turned the night sky in many places from an inky black pool to a sickly yellow haze.

The Milky Way, a source of inspiration for all of human history, is now visible to only an estimated one-third of Americans, according to the U.S. National Park Service.

But that's starting to change. Communities from Seaside, Ore., to Dripping Springs, Texas, are adopting "dark sky" ordinances meant to preserve the night.

Hawaii and New Hampshire have adopted statewide dark sky legislation. An international organization is devoted to helping communities take back the night.

"We definitely are getting a lot of inquiries for model ordinances," said W. Scott Kardel, managing director of the International Dark-Sky Association.

The ordinances require lights to point down or be shielded, and to be turned off at certain times.

"A lot of lighting is brighter than it needs to be. Some lighting is not even necessary. A lot of lighting could be turned off when it's not needed," Kardel said.

Light pollution doesn't just affect stargazers. Nocturnal animals can become disoriented. Birds that navigate by stars are tricked into flying into brightly lit high rises, Kardel said. The life cycle of insects is disrupted. Baby turtles crawl toward city lights instead of stars reflecting on the ocean.

As much as $2.2 billion per year is wasted just in the United States on unnecessary energy costs, he said.

In the last couple of years, Charlestown, R.I., Ojai, Calif., and Wildomar, Calif., have adopted dark sky ordinances. Campton Hills, Ill., Salem, Ore., Cannon Beach, Ore., and Olympia, Wash., currently are considering them.

Steve Dulaney, secretary of the Salem, Ore., astronomy club Night Sky 45, said he'd welcome stricter lighting regulations.

"Because Salem is getting much brighter, we've rapidly lost most of what we can see in terms of objects at night," said Dulaney. "It's actually sometimes difficult to find Saturn."

Loew also reports for the Statesman Journal, Salem, Ore.

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