News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Battling light pollution with growth

People in Sisters have the increasingly unique opportunity of being able to gaze at clear night skies full of stars. However, with the local population rising, outdoor lighting needs to be implemented in an intentional way so that light bulbs are shielded by opaque coverings that direct the light down where it is intended and hide the source of the light (as is outlined in the Sisters City Dark Sky Standard and the Deschutes County Lighting Ordinance).

Otherwise, increased light pollution will obscure the ability to see such a vast array of stars, including the beautiful Milky Way Galaxy, which most people in the world are now unable to see because artificial lights wash out their view of the night sky.

With civilization developing continuously, artificial lighting has also increased, causing light pollution. Light pollution results from human-sourced artificial lighting, and is exacerbated by lights that are misdirected, pointing light out or up into the air.

It creates problems for humans and wildlife. Currently, 80 percent of Americans live under light-polluted skies. This pollution is growing at an annual rate of more than six percent in larger cities. Even in darker areas like Sisters, people see the light domes of neighboring communities on the horizon.

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, about 40 percent of the light we use in the U.S. is wasted by being directed into the air. Excessive and improper lighting threatens our night-sky heritage, disrupts our sleep patterns, endangers nocturnal habitats, wastes energy and money, and decreases security. However, unlike many forms of pollution, light pollution is easy to reduce, simply by using appropriately directed lighting, or turning off lights when they are not needed.

In order to raise awareness about the value of preserving dark skies and the issue of light pollution in our community, the Sisters High School Astronomy Club and the Oregon International Dark-Sky Association are partnering to present a showing of the documentary film “Saving the Dark.” This film will be showing free to the public on Wednesday, January 15, at Sisters Movie House at 7 p.m.; doors open at 6:30.

Saving the Dark focuses on the need to preserve night skies and addresses ways to lower light pollution. In addition, it informs the audience about how to increase business and home security as well as overall safety at night with the use of effective outdoor lighting.

The director of the film, Sriram Murali, has shown his passion for astronomy, night skies, and raising awareness about light pollution through his film. Sriram had little exposure to astronomy and the issue of light pollution growing up, which is what inspired him to make this film. He created it in collaboration with the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) and is devoted to helping protect our nighttime environment.

The SHS Astronomy Club members hope to encourage dialogue about how to maintain our dark skies and reduce light pollution in our community through a panel discussion, with special guests representing different perspectives in our community. This question-and-answer discussion will be held directly following the film. Information will also be available from the International Dark-Sky Association, Sisters Astronomy Club, and the Oregon Observatory. Paul Allen Bennett will also have his book “Night Skies” available for purchase.


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