Featured image: "Lightning and Stars" by Jennifer Sensiba.

Colorado Aims To Reduce Light Pollution With Dark Sky Month

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Earlier this month, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced Dark Sky Month. The goal? To raise awareness of a serious problem that affects people, animals, and plants without many of us even noticing.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a legal action of any kind, and carries no force of law. It’s just a proclamation that carries symbolic meaning, but at the same time brings attention to the issue. In the proclamation, the Governor’s team makes some good points that deserve to be shared.

The first thing he mentions is the aesthetics of having dark skies at night. There are still parts of Colorado where the skies are Bortle Class 1, or in other words, have skies about as dark as possible. In these darkest places, you can have a view of not only the Milky Way, but you can see the rest of the night sky in all of its glory. It’s possible to do things like see your shadow cast in the light of Jupiter, or see the gegenschein (a patch of light opposite the sun refracted via gas and dust).

But beauty and wonder aren’t the only reasons dark skies matter. Life on earth evolved to rely on light during the day and darkness at night. When there’s too much light at night, all sorts of things can go wrong for people and animals. Hormone fluctuations and bad sleep can lead to heart disease, obesity, cancer, and many other bad things. On top of these problems, animals struggle more than we do, as light makes them lose their way at night, get eaten by predators more, or starve.

Colorado in particular stands to benefit a lot from keeping its dark skies at night. Not only are the health and safety effects of dark nights well known (overly bright lights blind you to what’s in the shadows), but many people like to travel out west to see the stars. In many places throughout the world, including most of the eastern United States, views of the stars at night are either faint or non-existent. This means a lot of tourism to states with dark skies.

There’s also the issue of energy use. Wasting energy to pointlessly put light where it’s not wanted or needed doesn’t make a lot of sense.

The proclamation also mentions that there are reasonable ways to solve the problem. Nobody needs to stumble around in the dark! To protect the sky at night, lights should:

  • Have a clear purpose and be needed
  • Only be pointed where it’s needed to accomplish the purpose
  • Not be brighter than needed
  • Only be on when needed
  • Be of warmer colors when possible

Places that have done these things have had great success at not only restoring the view of the dark sky, but also making sure people still have the light they need for human safety and productivity. In many cases, the solution is as simple as putting lights on a motion switch or adding a better housing to make sure they’re pointed down instead of leaking most of the light up into the night sky to reflect off dust.

While it would be great to see Colorado take more concrete actions to address light pollution, like standards for new construction, rebates for lighting upgrades, or ordinances requiring people to switch out for better lights, a proclamation designed to wake people up to the facts of light pollution is a lot better than nothing.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 2023 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba