Conserving the Darkness

One of the things that attracted me to the Town of Beekman is the opportunity to become involved in local government. Over the past few days I have been considering to which committees I might reasonably devote time and effort: already I merely expressed an interest and was accepted on the architectural review board of the home-owners association. One which piques my interest is the conservation advisory committee. To familiarize myself with the issues, I am reading the Town of Beekman Open Space Plan (PDF), adopted in April 2005, and the proposed wetlands protection law.

Since we’ve just moved here, most of what we see is unfamiliar. I expect that to change soon enough, but for now I am looking at this environment with new eyes. After ten years in Mahopac, I had become accustomed to the warm glow on overcast nights from, I supposed, the City to our South. On clear nights, the additional light was not obvious — I could see so many stars. But over Christmas I was reminded how many more you can see from Highland County, Virginia.

Today’s Poughkeepsie Journal reports that the lights from Union Vale Middle School bother its neighbors. The lights, seen in this photograph, have been left burning all night long. As the Journal puts it, Arnold and Andrea Ruf don’t have a night light in their bedroom.

If you drive up Roosevelt Drive to the top of the hill, you can look South to the Green Haven Correctional Facility. The lights from the prison, and from the farm across the road, turn our overcast nights orange.

How many more stars would we see if these lights lit the ground instead of the sky?