It’s just a little light in the dark. What’s the big deal?

Light at night can obviously be a very beneficial thing. We naturally want to see where we’re going when it’s dark, and turning on lights is cheaper, safer, and much more practical than burning a bunch of candles everywhere. However, as our towns and cities have grown, the skies at night have brightened with them. Just 100 years ago, you could clearly see the Milky Way Galaxy from within any major city at night (assuming the smog and air pollution didn’t block it out). Thousands of stars were visible in the night sky for the world’s entire population to see, inspiring them to create timeless art, and create a sense of wonder and curiosity in our humanity.

So what happened?

As our cities continued to grow, light shined brighter. It was perceived as technology achievement to drown out the night sky, but no regard was given for the consequences of removing one of our greatest natural resources. In time, new generations growing up in urban areas didn’t even realize the Milky Way Galaxy was just beyond their bubble of “sky glow.” Now, more than one-third of humanity and 80% of Americans grow up never seeing the Milky Way. In addition, many businesses shine their lights as brightly as possible during night hours so that they appear open, or at the very least, to entice people to peek into their windows in the hopes of seeing them return the next day.

What we’re working to protect goes way beyond seeing a few extra stars.
The excess light that we’re constantly pouring into the sky has numerous repercussions on the world around us.

For starters, it’s estimated that roughly $3,000,000,000 is spent on simply lighting the sky, where the light is never even used (while blocking out the view of the Milky Way). At a time when the climate crisis is hitting critical, that’s a significant amount of energy and resources that could be used on more productive solutions.

In addition, light as night goes completely against the evolution of the animal kingdom, thus wreaking havoc on all species, from large mammals, to insects. Most insects are unnaturally drawn away from their habitat and frequently die of dehydration trying to fly into a light, ultimately going to waste. And while you might not care much about a few insects, keep in mind that the entire food chain (including humans) is dependent upon a healthy insect population. Without insects, everything collapses. And if you like seeing birds, you won’t enjoy learning that up to 1,000,000,000 migrating birds die every year from unshielded lights in North America alone.

Countless cultures throughout history have also looked up to the Milky Way Galaxy for inspiration and to establish a sense of connection with the rest of the Universe. Without that, we begin to feel lost, isolated, and disconnected from the rest of the cosmos. Likewise, without seeing an abundance of stars and the Milky Way, we stop asking meaningful questions that stimulates our curiosity, leading to a natural growth in our own mindset. In a sense, by not seeing the space around us, we lose what it means to be human.

Similarly, by being exposed to excess light at night, we’re also going against our own evolution. Light at night, particularly light heavy in the blue end of the spectrum (TVs, smartphones, screens, etc.), have been shown to be the cause of severe health problems in the human body. The effects on our bodies, simply from too much light at night, can range from type 2 diabetes, insomnia, depression, cancer, and more. Think about it. Up until less than 100 years ago, the only light we had at night was a bit of dim fire, heavy in the orange end of the spectrum (ie, the opposite of blue). Now we’re not just exposed to a bit more light, but instead, we’re flooding our eyes with devices, streetlights, ads, and more in all parts of the spectrum. That’s bound to have some consequential impacts on our bodies, and countless articles support that.

Of course many people insist on bright lights to deter criminals. However, studies have shown that brightly lit areas aren’t any safer than dimmer ones, and in fact, may even have more crime. The reasons can be quite logical. If you leave a bunch of lights on at night to deter a would-be criminal, yet everyone’s sound asleep inside, you’re providing that criminal with all the light they need to work discretely. If it’s dark all around your property, they’ll need a flashlight, just like anyone would, to see the details of what they’re doing. And a flashlight in the dark is a suspicious sight. In addition, less bright light means less contrast. Your eyes will naturally adjust to the brightest light visible. This leaves the shadows difficult to see into. With shielded lighting, the contrast is reduced, allowing you to easily determine objects between lit and shaded areas.

Ok, so what are the tradeoffs?

It’s shockingly minimal! All that’s required is to retrofit or replace non-compliant fixtures with Dark Sky Compliant fixtures, and you’ll be able to see the improvement immediately.

This is what we’re fighting for. On a pros and cons list, there are virtually no cons and all pros. In doing so, we can become Dark Sky Certified from the International Dark Sky Association.

Our commitment to preserving the night sky is to conserve one of the last great treasures of the natural world.

Light pollution in Jackson has become a problem for the health and safety of people and wildlife, not to mention the wasted money and energy associated with unnecessary artificial light. Light pollution also impedes our ability to enjoy dark night skies. Many other cities around the globe are capitalizing on promoting their efforts to restore their night skies. We can save our night skies too! Wyoming Stargazing is embarking on a campaign to Save Our Night Skies in Jackson Hole and we need your help. You can sign up below for the Save Our Night Skies e-mail list to receive updates on what’s happening with this campaign and you can participate in our citizen science research project with your smartphone to collect data on light pollution in Jackson Hole. Download instructions for how to participate in the citizen science research project here!

With generous support from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, the Teton Conservation District, 1% for the Tetons, the JH Travel and Tourism Board, Free Roaming Photography, the Teton Photography Group, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and many private donors we’re trying to help the Town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park achieve Dark Sky Certification from the International Dark Sky Association. Why? Keep reading this page to discover all the answers and more.

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