Lighting, like rats, follows human civilization, and the damage isn’t noticed until after the fact.
More than 80% of North Americans can no longer see the Milky Way. That includes residents of Oahu and Maui.
Sky glow from Hilo can be seen in Kurtistown. Currently, our lighting ordinances protect the few on the mountaintop but do nothing to mitigate the light pollution caused by businesses and residential.
Light pollution impacts birds, marine life, night pollinators, human health and contributes to greenhouse gases.
The American Medical Association published guidelines in 2016 that LEDs should not be over 3,000 Kelvin because high-intensity blue rich/white light has been linked to obesity, diabetes, cancers, melatonin suppression, sleeplessness and depression.
The monetary value of a pristine night sky was calculated in an Michigan State University study determining that on the Colorado Plateau, $5.2 billion will be realized from astrotourism over the next 10 years and 10,000 jobs created annually.
It is sustainable, eco-friendly, low impact and spreads the tourist dollars to rural and otherwise overlooked areas. Astrotourism is spreading across the world and is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel market.
This has nothing to do with building gigantic observatories on mountaintops, but how to intelligently use outdoor lighting, like eliminating light trespass where your neighbor’s lights shine into your yard and into your house, and preserve this precious and rapidly disappearing natural resource.
There are 160, and counting, Dark Sky designated parks and sanctuaries around the world, but not a single one in Hawaii.
Hopefully, that will change and we start preserving our view of the heavens not just for astronomers but for all of us and generations to come.
To learn more check out Flagstaff, Ariz., lighting ordinances (www.flagstaffdarkskies.org), and know we can do better here in Hawaii County.