by Elizabeth Newton
I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, “What a wonderful world”
— Louis Armstrong
Last night, I walked along our rural lane, marveling at the beauty of the winter night sky where Orion and Sirius were twinkling brightly due to the waning crescent moon. I heard the cry of a mother fox and the answering mew of her kit, a reminder that the night-hunting shift was well underway. I’m thrilled to hear these sounds, just as I am to hear the soft hooting of the great horned owls and the screeching of the barn owls. We need all these night-hunting predators to keep our rodent population in check.
Unfortunately, too often, our neighbors seem unaware of how important it is to keep the night skies free from light intrusion. In my neighborhood and elsewhere, I am disheartened at how often I see lights that are thoughtlessly installed and then left on all night long. Any fixture that aims light upward instead of down at the ground can blind or disorient night-hunting animals. In widespread use, they can also dim the night sky for those of us who cherish watching meteor showers, lunar eclipses or just simple star gazing.
Fortunately, there are some international efforts aimed at working toward reclaiming the night skies by reducing light pollution. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is an organization that seeks to preserve dark skies by providing educational resources to individuals and communities that wish to improve home and civic lighting. The IDA has stated that lights pointed toward the ground not only prevent light pollution, they are also a much safer choice for businesses and homeowners because they focus the light where it is most needed.
We are fortunate to live in a county with such beautiful night skies. Small efforts by individuals and communities can add up to make big changes. Let’s all do what we can to preserve the dark sacred night.
Elizabeth Newton is Sonoma Land Trust’s Office Manager. She lives in Sebastopol with her husband on a small hobby farm and tracks in as much soil into the office as the stewardship team.
Sonoma Land Trust is a local nonprofit based in Santa Rosa, CA, that conserves scenic, natural, agricultural and open lands in Sonoma County for the benefit of the community and future generations. This blog focuses on SLT's stewardship team, whose members do hands-on work to directly protect, restore, and safeguard the land for generations to come.