All through history, “the sky has inspired art, science, literature, religion,” said Scott Kardel, managing director of the International Dark-Sky Association. “We now have two generations of kids who don’t know how amazing the sky is – and so don’t know it needs protecting.”
Professional astronomers can move away from cities with lots of lights. In fact, telescopes are now built in remote areas of Chile and Hawaii. We even have telescopes in space.
But amateur astronomers are finding it harder to see the millions of stars that fill our skies.
The nonprofit International Dark-Sky Association works with communities, individuals, businesses, governments and scientists to promote lighting that works for people without causing light pollution.
Changing our lights
Cities are beginning to pass ordinances, or laws, about using lighting that shines only where it’s needed.
Technology is making it easier to conserve energy and light with motion sensors, which turn on the lights when someone enters the area. These types of lights are even available for parking lots and streetlights.
Cities take the lead
In Toronto, Ontario, city lights are dimmed during bird migration seasons.
Many cities along Florida’s coast have laws against lighting that can be seen from the beach. Some areas also restrict bonfires and flashlights on the beach during sea turtle nesting season.
What can kids do?
Families can start by looking at outdoor light fixtures at home. Does the light go where it’s supposed to? Is it too bright? Can lights be turned off when they’re not needed?
Kids can present projects at school about light pollution. If you’re interested in space, you might form an astronomy club. Members could work together toward better lighting in your city. Write a letter to local leaders, such as the mayor, or to the editor of the newspaper.
“Sometimes people are more willing to listen to kids than adults,” said Kardel.