Saving darkness like an endangered species
How far do you have to go to see just a few stars? If you can step onto your front porch and see the same constellations that the Greeks and Babylonians named, you’re in a minority of modern humans. Have you ever seen the contour of the Milky Way with your naked eye? It’s an awe-inspiring experience that, sadly, fewer and fewer of us get to enjoy.
The good news is that the problem of light pollution is now getting publicity. The better news is we’re not helpless to stop its worsening or reverse it by many degrees. Recently, the south Florida treasure that is Big Cypress has just become the first National Preserve in the U.S. to earn its official Dark Sky Park accreditation. The International Dark-Sky Association is the outfit in charge of handing out that designation. Big Cypress is now the:
“…first of the 19 National Preserves to achieve Dark Sky Park status. It is the first National Park Service (NPS) unit east of Colorado to earn this designation and only the sixteenth NPS unit in the country to do so. The national preserve joins Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park in central Florida, which was designated earlier in 2016 as the first International Dark Sky Place in Florida.”
It’s a big deal! The park had pretty dark night skies already, compared to neighboring regions. (Just check out this light pollution map and search for Florida to see us lit up like a Christmas tree on fire.) The preserve has had to work to get into compliance with guidelines governing outdoor light fixtures, for instance. Now it is a premiere place to view the heavens either on your own on a backpacking trek or at one of the upcoming public astronomy events.
If you haven’t been beyond the reach of light pollution in a while, plan a trip into the dark. It just might inspire you to ask, why can’t my city do better at reducing light pollution? Good question! And good night.