The dark-sky movement is an effort to reduce light pollution. This is a problem not only in large cities, but it impacts us here in the valley as well. There are many advantages to reducing light pollution from increased stars visible at night, improving public health and safety, to cutting energy use. James Madison University professors Shanil Virani and Dr. Paul Bogard are leading the charge here in the valley this week along with many dedicated students and community members with their events called Starry Nights Harrisonburg. They are starting the conversation, asking questions, and offering insights. Last night the first event was held at the Court Square Theater. The screening of “The City Dark”, an award-winning documentary, highlighted the increased light pollution in cities on the east coast and the impacts on environmental health, human health, and energy usage.
As one of the panel members, I was honored to be part of the conversation. This is an interesting topic for me as I started my career in 1999 in Charlottesville. Albemarle County had already put a dark sky ordinance in place and Charlottesville soon followed with their own. For the last 15 years I have been working to meet those standards on the majority of our projects. The selections were slim 15 years ago for compliant fixtures and we did not have many options. Since that time, full cut off light fixtures (dark sky compliant) have become readily available in any aesthetic and at almost any price range. We just completed a project using cutting edge LED bollards and pole lights in a historic neighborhood. Using motion sensors and these very efficient light fixtures the energy usage is near zero, and the light pollution is non-existent. Some will tell you they need more light to create a safe neighborhood, but the reality is, to build a healthy and SAFE neighborhood, you need well designed and intentional lighting.
Design matters in every aspect of our lives. The decisions we make impact the environment, health, and welfare of our community. We can be better by taking time to design the best solutions, plan for the future, and think through the impacts of our design decisions prior to implementation. If you have time, I encourage you to get involved in this conversation to stop light pollution and to improve our community. Events are scheduled all this week and are free to the public.