This morning, on the radio, I heard an interesting talk about light pollution. In particular, the ongoing study that the National Park Service is conducting on light pollution and how it affects the national park experience.
When the challenges faced when trying to retain some wildness in our public lands are spoken about, light pollution is perhaps the least discussed.
In many ways, light pollution perhaps has the largest psychological impact upon viewing the lands as wild.
However, with the growing metro areas and increased energy activity even around protected places, the night sky is in danger of losing this magic.
I saw an example of light pollution changing a wild area last year in the Pawnee Grassland.
Does it matter if the night sky is not as dark in our wild places?
Just on an everyday level, more municipalities are realizing the safety and economic benefits of less pollution.
From an outdoors person perspective, I find that light pollution does take away from the wildness of the place.
Being able to look on a horizon and not see cities, airports, etc. but only the Milky Way above does make the area seem more remote.
Perhaps it is a naive or an overly romantic notion, but I feel light pollution does change the feel of the area.
There are some things we can do on a local level. And there are signs that some companies are paying more attention to that aspect of our lives (Companies extracting natural resources using hoods to lessen the effects of artificial light, for example)
I really don’t have too much to say on this issue that hasn’t already been said better by other people.
I just bring this point up to say there is more to wild places than merely designating them as wilderness areas.
In the years ahead, I don’t think the largest battles will be to set aside lands for the public use. It will be to preserve, protect and cherish what makes those wild lands, well, wild.
With a movement to turn over our public lands to state control, increased expectation of connectivity of wherever we go and (possibly) just accepting light pollution as part of our growing society, the wild lands may become a little less wild.
Pay attention to the news, write your congress critters and help keep the wild lands wild.
And, perhaps, turn off those lights when you don’t need them.