EDITORIAL: Turn down lights to darken area skies

2013-11-19T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Turn down lights to darken area skies nwitimes.com
November 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

The dark skies following Sunday's vicious storms, with power out for tens of thousands of homes and businesses in the region, were scary for people driving through the region, unsure of where debris might be hiding.

If the skies were clear, along with the lights out, that would have made for good stargazing. But astronomy buffs seeking "dark sky" commitments from communities aren't going to that extreme.

They just want the outdoor lighting focused downward, where it's needed, rather than up into the sky.

Dyer joined this effort to reduce light pollution a few years ago, and now a Beverly Shores couple is asking their community and others to get on board.

Alan and Rosemary Bell led a fundraising effort to pay for shields with flat bottoms to direct streetlight illumination toward the ground.

"After we did it, people just started writing us checks," Rosemary Bell said. So much assistance was received that the Bells eventually had to cut off donations.

Because of this campaign, Beverly Shores went from 61 streetlights to 48. The town still has plenty of light, but it's no longer directed upward.

The Bells want other communities to follow suit. It's a good idea.

"We need to change the 'we've always done it this way' mentality," Alan Bell said. "More light isn't necessarily more secure or safe light."

Creating a "dark sky" community involves more than just retrofitting or swapping out streetlights. It also involves changing requirements for future commercial and residential lights as well.

As the Bells have shown, there's broad public support for making it easier to observe the night sky.

For thousands of years, people have laid on blankets to spot constellations, observe comets and enjoy meteor showers. Reduce light pollution, and this popular pastime becomes easier. 

More communities should follow the Bells's advice, retrofitting streetlights to focus light downward where it's needed and taking other steps to darken the sky for stargazers' enjoyment.

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