According to a recent story on Recordnet.com, sometimes it requires an act of nature for people to realize what they are missing. When the town of Calaveras experienced an electrical blackout due to the weather, the city was reminded of the costs of light pollution. The article highlights the struggles that county board supervisors like Merita Callaway face persuading colleagues and the community about the damages of light pollution. This task is especially challenging if the skies have been obstructed for so long that citizens have become accustomed to it. Unaware of the magnificence of the natural night sky, some paused in amazement as what was lost was returned once more. Once the power was restored, the conveniences of electricity returned along with the light pollution. The constellations were abandoned to recede once more, but hopefully only temporarily.
Anyone that has experienced power loss in their community reacts in disappointment at the temporary loss of electrical conveniences. Many electric powered resources are vital to the community. However, excess lighting that contributes to light pollution is not. Light trespass was the initial concern of the Planning Commission in Calaveras, not the preservation of the night sky. The Planning Committee has been directed to consider a voluntary ordinance, not a mandatory one. According to the Report.com article, Callaway believes that history proves that voluntary ordinances often fail. Callaway has a point, because communities have had opportunities to voluntarily act against light pollution and haven’t.
While there are limits to what voluntary ordinances can achieve, mandatory ordinances get results. Complaint based ordinances have had success in other areas. Remote skies seem the have the highest priority for illumination ordinances as they have the most clarity at night. Because the resources that astronomers need to observe the sky are diminishing due to light pollution, conservation is vital. The most basic rule of avoiding light pollution is to avoid light sources directed at the sky. Lighting fixtures should be shielded, and the beams directed downward.
It’s unfortunate that voluntary solutions have not worked to reduce light pollution. However, it is interesting to note that while the Planning Committee of Calaveras debates on whether to truly address light pollution, the weather just acts accordingly.