The Healthy Benefits of Dark-sky Programs in the United States: What Astronomy Can do for You.
Wars come in all kinds: there are drug wars, germ and chemical wars, conventional and digital wars fought on physical battlefields and television screens. There are wars against obesity and battles against childhood cancer.
And then there are other wars, such as those we wage against the heavy pollutants that cloud our cities and put thousands of tons of metals, chemicals, and dust into our air. There is also another war- against that product of “progress”; we call it LIGHT POLLUTION. In fact light pollution is ranked now among hazards such as tobacco smoke and other carcinogens as being a factor in the poor health we now face.
Light pollution disrupts our circadian rhythm, can be a factor in breast cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and sleep disorders. We think ourselves safer with so much artificial lights around our homes and apartments, lining our streets and shining from office buildings and skyscrpers every night, but we are just the opposite. We are not safe at all, and because of too much artificial light we are putting our health at risk. Not only are we putting human health at risk, but too much light, urban sprawl, and otherconstruction activity disrupts migration patterns for birds and butterflies, and destroys the habitat of animals such as foxes, coyotes, and deer.
We need to stop bickering and start acting for the good of our citizens, as our very health and all that is built on it- indeed the strength of this nation, depends on having the most healthy environment possible.
Officials of America, we elected you to improve things, not make the situation worse. You can begin by putting party lines and dogma aside, settling down, putting politics aside, and taking a look at the benefits of programs such as the dark -sky observing events offered by many organizations. You can do the best thing for your constituents by seeing what is needed to make us healthier and get the ball rolling for real improvements.
Challenge the industries in your state, the schools and technical institutes too, to design and test better light fixtures for streets and buildings. Not only do we need better designs for them but perhaps through better design we can have fewer invasive lights to throw any kind of light pollution into the viewing atmosphere. Shade the beams downward instead of around and up, where the light is no loger used to give safety to the road but is then wasted. Reduce carbon emissions by turning off lights or dimming them where there is little or no use for them.
It will not be long before you start to see the healthy benefits of dark -sky programs and the promotion of them. Get outside sometime, to an area of this country… your country… and take a look at what you have been missing. The stars, the moon, the galaxies and the planets are waiting for you!