Valley could become dark skies Mecca

Remember the old Louie Armstrong song, "What a Wonderful World" and the lyrics "I see skies of blue; clouds of white; the bright, blessed days; the dark, sacred nights ..."

It is the last part, the dark, sacred nights, that I think needs some serious and immediate consideration here for the Sacramento Valley and Golden Valley in particular.

Just because we have chosen not to incorporate does not mean that change, growth and development will in any way be stopped or even slowed. It just means we will have little control, if any, on the wave of development that is surely coming our way in the next few years.

And one of the grave effects of this growth, among others, and I say of great importance will be the ever-steady infringement on and inevitable loss of one of our greatest assets - the dark night sky.

The bright lights around businesses on state Highway 68 and U.S. Route 93, and the home/property/security lights available through the county are slowly but surely taking away our gorgeous, gorgeous dark, sacred nights.

As a resident, the hair on the back of my neck raises up every time a new lot is being prepared for a new home or business, and I cannot get there fast enough to beg them not to put in one of those intrusive security lights that will block my view of the night sky.

I would not want to suggest that the businesses or our citizens, our neighbors should in any way be denied security measures.

However, there is a new awareness of and interest in "light pollution" that we might collectively want to address and consider taking action on preventing.

"We are losing our heritage of starry nights. Artificial light in the night sky threatens to destroy the spectacular views the heavens offer. This light pollution wastes energy and provides no benefit to society," the Utah Dark Sky Association states.

One trend in many places is to adapt new city and county standards requiring alternative lighting fixtures that pinpoint the light more directly, efficiently avoiding projecting light sideways and the skyward invasion of light from one property to the next.

There is an organization called the International Dark Sky Association; some of you might have seen their brochure and banner at Golden Valley Days this year.

The goal of the organization is education, awareness of the problems associated with light pollution and alternative product choices for individuals and municipalities to safely but conservatively and respectfully light the night.

Recently, there was an article about the National Park Service tracking, documenting and making recommendations to the city of Pahrump near Las Vegas about the light pollution now sweeping over Death Valley as expansion and development come ever closer to the edge of the park.

The article spoke of Pahrump's response, adopting lighting standards for new buildings and parking lot light ordinances in the rural and residential areas, retrofitting the existing antiquated, light-polluting street lights and security fixtures with new, efficient ones in a city-wide mandate.

Flagstaff has done similarly and has become the first International Dark Sky City. Flagstaff was a natural for this new thinking, with a long history of watching the night sky and having their location one of the best for long-range viewing of the night sky with the Lowell Observatory.

Their citizens were adamant in making sure that they will continue to enjoy the wonder and majesty of the night sky.

I, for one, think we should do the same and PRONTO!

It is possible for Golden Valley and the residents to adopt a position, as did Flagstaff, that we want to preserve this one aspect about our beautiful valley absolutely and for posterity.

We can all rally around this one consideration; we can petition and educate the county Planning and Zoning and the county supervisors to mandate and adopt the new standards of lighting fixtures residential and commercial to protect our night sky, not only for ourselves but the entire county.

It is a straightforward pitch and the numbers speak to the savings in energy cost, cost per lighting unit, maintenance and retrofitting for already-established lighting.

Moreover, there are many examples across the country in Texas and Wisconsin and in the world of communities that have already made a strong stand on preserving the night sky and the details for adapting new technology to correct this insidious problem that is already researched and well documented so our county supervisors and planners can see the win-win situation.

And surely they can be persuaded beyond a shadow of a doubt of the benefits for everyone involved and see their way clear to adopt something that will continue to give so much to so many now and in the years to come.

This is a win-win situation for Golden Valley and Mohave County. Let's take the lead here, shall we Golden Valley?

Melanie DeBo

Windy River Institute

Golden Valley