Friday, December 28, 2007

Cursed Light Pollution

The next clear night, go outside. Take a look skywards.
What do you see? Do you see stars? Lots of stars...or
just a few. Chances are, this time next year and every
year afterward that sky will look different. Possibly
very different. Depending on where you live, you may
not see any stars at all...let alone part of the Milky Way.
Every time I come to visit my parents, a sad sight greets
me to the the North and Northwest skies. The glow in the
horizon grows appreciably larger every year. It's not so
noticeable if you live with it every night, but I am fortunate
enough to live in a area that is truly dark indeed. Granted,
McMurdo Station does have it's fair share of light pollution,
but as a longtime proponent of "Dark Sky", I am pleased when-
ever a building goes dark as it did many times last winter
during an energy-saving campaign. There are some people in
the area that seem to be taking notice though. The city of
Dyer, Indiana (about 40 minutes northwest of Hebron) has
recently instituted "Dark Sky" standards for any new buildings
being constructed. Of course there are lots of naysayers and
people fighting this philosophy. Not only in Dyer, but around
the world. Mostly out of lack of education regarding the
subject but sometimes out of pure laziness to try something
different or greedily fighting to make as much money as possible.

A few weeks ago, Lynn and I were driving home fairly late
past the campus of Valparaiso University. Off to the
right was a huge glow. It came from the new Christopher
Center, which serves as the campus library. This is a
very attractive building, in which a bulk of the exterior
is glass. This glass shows almost every square foot of the
library's book collection. Why does every light in this area
need to be turned on at 12:30 am? Even though the library
does stay open some nights until midnight or 1:00am, this
night it closed at 9:00pm and I'd like to hope the lights
didn't stay on all night to show off the building's fine
architecture. On the same trip, we rode by the new Porter's
Vale Shopping Center that currently houses a new JC Penney
store and soon, a stadium-style movie theatre. Both
good for Valpo and Porter County. However, at this same
12:30am time, every light in the parking lot was on and
there must have been over 100 lights! In this formerly
rural area of Washington Township, there was a sole home
standing next to this "light forest". This house used to
be in the middle of the country with no other houses nearby.
How sad for them.

The other day, we had lunch with my Mom and Dad and a few
members of their Wednesday Lunch group. One of the group
is a member of the "Beautification Committee" for the Town
of Hebron. Hebron is undergoing a large "urban renewal" of
sorts, having lots and lots of money spent on re-developing
Main Street. Their friend described the street lights
that are going to be put into place and unfortunately, they
sound like the unshaded "acorn bulbs" that seem very attractive,
(and they are...during the day) giving streetscapes a old-town
feel. At night though, they are a different story, launching
many wasted lumens into the night sky. This creates both a
light pollution source and a waste of energy. The time is not
too late to make this change for Hebron. Often in need of good
press, the town needs to take a "Green" approach to this matter
and can save energy (more money for the often-cash-strapped
town) at the same time. It's their turn to shine...or in this
case...not shine.

No comments: