I don’t know about you, but when I step out of my house or car at night, the first thing I do is look up. It is almost instinctual to gaze skyward and take notice of what is happening in the atmosphere. But even more importantly, I want to see the stars—to witness the bright pinpricks of light against the dark sky, taking note of constellations, looking for planets and hoping for a shooting star. It fills me with wonder, activates my curiosity and, even though I can’t prove it, probably lowers my heartbeat and respiration, bringing my body into a more relaxed state. In other words, it’s good for me.
There’s a word for the love of nature that’s popping up in the mainstream media these days: biophilia. The late E.O. Wilson coined the term in his 1984 book of the same name, and while he was speaking of our inherent need to connect with various species of the natural world, we can also love wild places. For me, the nighttime sky is one of those wild places.
I’m willing to bet that you, dear reader, have now, or have had in the past, a special place outside where you could go for respite, play, comfort or to simply hang out. In my early career, I conducted environmental awareness workshops, and I can tell you that every single participant shared a story of such a place, many folks recalling childhood memories of nature connections, including sky gazing—at clouds, the moon and stars, and memorable sunrises or sunsets. While honeymooning, my spouse and I joined about 40 other people in Acadia National Park to watch a sunset. When the last bit of light dipped below the horizon, we all clapped. Many gave a standing ovation.
So, why does all of this matter? Why am I telling you about my love of the celestial, and more specifically, dark skies?
When we first moved to Granby in 2003, we could go outside and occasionally discern the outline of the Milky Way Galaxy. But lately when I step outside at night, the familiar hazy strip is almost gone. Maybe on moonless nights, I can just make it out—and that makes me a little sad.
On a recent April night, my husband and I made our way to the swing set in our side yard for a little conversation and sky gazing. We were quite surprised, troubled, really, to discover that a basement light was casting an obnoxious glare out the casement window and across the slope of our yard, probably visible to our neighbors. Once inside, we turned the offending light off, but it was a bellwether moment for me—how many of us are causing light pollution of our own, perhaps unaware? The bigger question: what if each of us stepped outside at night and assessed our house and property for problematic light? Would you find, as I did, some unintentional light pollution?
The good news is that it’s pretty easy to make changes that can have an immediate and noticeable impact:
• Turn your outside lights off when it gets dark, or when you go to bed.
• Close curtains or blinds to reduce the glare coming from your home at night.
• Choose bulbs that are warmer and lower in lumens, both for indoors and outside.
If you want to learn more, visit darksky.org for a full list of recommendations and consider attending the Conservation Conversation on Monday, May 8, 6:30–7:30 p.m. at Granby Public Library. Register to attend at bit.ly/ConservationConversationDarkSkies