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(IAAC) Fwd: Night Skies in the National Parks



I thought some of y'all might be interested in sharing this with your own State,
Provincial or National Parks managers... It's a lovely piece.
Clear (DARK) skies!
Lew Gramer
Medford, MA, USA
------- Forwarded Message
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 1999 21:54:26 -0500
From: Mark Davis - North American Meteor Network <MeteorObs@Charleston.Net>
Subject: (meteorobs) Night Skies in the National Parks
To: Meteor Observing List <meteorobs@latrade.com>
Below is a note I clipped from a NPS mail list which I thought some
might find of interest......
-Mark
>     NIGHT SKY AND THE NPS: The night sky has been identified as an
>     important resource in many of the national parks. During this past
>     decade, many parks have focused on interpreting and preserving the
>     dark night sky. While parks have retrofitted their lighting systems to
>     reduce light pollution, the parks are vulnerable to light sources
>     outside of the parks. To preserve the dark skies of our parks,
>     statewide ordinances are needed. The night sky is among 11 endangered
>     places in New Mexico that were recently designated by the New Mexico
>     Heritage Preservation Alliance. Hopefully, the designation of the New
>     Mexico night sky as an endangered place will increase public awareness
>     and help achieve statewide protection. The night sky nomination was
>     prepared by Jerry Rogers, Superintendent of the Intermountain Support
>     Office, Santa Fe and Joe Sovick, Recreation and Partnerships. The
>     nomination reads as follows.
>
>     "From the pleistocene to the present, the night sky has been an
>     important element in cultural heritage. The combination of what
>     appeared to be eternal order in certain night sky patterns with such
>     changeable things as lunar phases, planetary movements, seasonal
>     angles of declination, and annual meteor showers was one of the early
>     great stimuli to curiosity. The discovery of predictable order among
>     the inconstant was important in the development of belief systems and
>     their attendant cultural values--influencing even the idea of what it
>     means to be human. It remains so today. Mammoth hunters at Clovis and
>     Folsom, ancestral Puebloans at Chaco and Pecos, Vasquez de Coronado in
>     his explorations, O=0Fate and De Vargas in their conquests, cowboys on
>     nightherd duty, and office workers resting from their daily toils all
>     have lived under, admired, and wondered about the same night
>     sky--virtually unchanged in human history. A pristine night sky almost
>     universally stimulates thought. Some are humbled in their
>     insignificance before the visible universe, and some are exhilarated
>     by a sense of identification therewith.
>
>     Some measure and test the movement of our earthly platform within the
>     solar system, the solar system within the galaxy, and the galaxy
>     within the universe until human understanding is exhausted and
>     calculation at its limit. Some speculate about life elsewhere, and
>     some contemplate that the flesh, blood, and bones of our very
>     bodies--even the energy powering our thoughts--are of the light and
>     substance we see coming down from the spangles above.
>
>     Without conscious action it will be much more difficult for future
>     generations to have the same experiences, or even to imagine them. As
>     urban areas expand and change without consideration of the night sky
>     continues, places where it can be experienced grow fewer and more
>     difficult to reach. We risk losing a beauty that has been the backdrop
>     to and motivator of human action since time immemorial.
>
>     Surprisingly, it costs society more to pollute the sky with light than
>     to keep it dark. Most upwardly directed light is wasted. We pay once
>     in the electric bill for the light that goes where it is not needed,
>     again in environmental degradation from emissions in generating the
>     electricity, and again in the loss of the night sky that is masked by
>     wasted light. The most common security lights are mercury vapor
>     lights, which, although the least expensive to purchase, are among the
>     most expensive to operate. About 30% of their light goes into the sky
>     at angles that perform no service but do contribute to light
>     pollution.
>
>     There is no evil figure, no profiteering corporation, nor irresistible
>     force behind the problem. Today's utility companies are
>     environmentally conscious and interested in conserving, not wasting,
>     energy resources. What is most lacking is public recognition of the
>     problem, broad understanding that light pollution is not inevitable,
>     and the will to do something about it. Fortunately costs are minimal
>     in preventing light pollution, especially for new developments. Costs
>     of incorporating outdoor lighting systems friendly to the night sky
>     are not prohibitive. Sometimes they are not costs at all.
>
>     Several years ago, when the National Park Service realized that its
>     own mercury vapor lights near the visitor center at Chaco Culture
>     National Historical Park were a form of pollution and removed the
>     lights, the park experienced a 30% reduction in the electric bill. At
>     Chaco we learned that shielded floodlights directed downward, and
>     properly directed motion sensors
>     were effective in meeting visitor and security needs while serving as
>     significant energy savers and pollution preventers.
>
>     It is not too late!  New Mexico is fortunate that unimpaired remnants
>     of the clear night sky remain. Some progressive New Mexico communities
>     have or are developing ordinances to help preserve this exceptional
>     visual, natural, and cultural resource. Some private developments are
>     writing protective provisions into covenants on the deeds of the
>     houses they build. The New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance can
>     demonstrate its interest in EVERYONE'S heritage, show support for one
>     of the most ancient and universal cultural values, and make a
>     significant difference in citizen awareness and in public and private
>     action by listing the night sky among the most threatened heritage
>     resources in 1998.
>
> SOURCE: Recreation and Partnerships, Santa Fe
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