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America’s night skies are being washed out by population growth.

author Published by Henry Barbaro

April 2 to 8, 2024 marks International Dark Sky Week.  Held each year during the week of the new moon in April, which is also Global Astronomy Month, the worldwide event draws attention to the deleterious effects of light pollution, potential steps for mitigating the loss of dark skies, and celebrates the beauty of natural light at night.

In general, as population densities increase so do all forms of pollution.  This is true for air and water pollution, and light pollution is no exception.  Light pollution is defined as the alteration of natural lighting levels during the evening caused by human light sources. 

The Census Bureau projects that in 35 years America’s population will swell to 404 million, and that 90% of that growth will be from immigration.  Please consider the future of America’s night skies and our quality of life.  Please work to reduce immigration-driven population growth by limiting chain migration and passing the Nuclear Family Priority Act, H.R. 7833.

Light pollution is one of the most pervasive forms of environmental degradation. It adversely affects otherwise pristine areas because it can be seen during the night hundreds of miles from its source in landscapes that seem untouched by humans during the day.  Light pollution damages the nighttime experience even in protected areas, such as national parks (for example, the light domes of Las Vegas and Los Angeles can be seen from Death Valley National Park).

A light pollution map of the U.S. shows the concentrations of artificial light throughout the country.  Across the U.S., dark skies are disappearing at an alarming rate.  Colorado provides an example of a state with a marked decline in dark skies.  As its population grows, so too does the volume of light that radiates into the night sky.  Between 2013 and 2023, Colorado’s population grew more than 11 percent, and most of that was along the Front Range corridor where light pollution is the worst in the state.

Simulation of light pollution growth in the United States: 1950s, 1970s, 1990s, and projected to 2025.
Credit: P. Cinzano, F. Falchi, C. D. Elvidge. Copyright 2001 ISTIL, Thiene. Reproduced from ISTIL Report 2001. Rapporto ISTIL 2001- Stato del cielo notturno e inquinamento luminoso in Italia; ISBN 88-88517-00-6

A 2016 study calculated that nearly 80 percent of Americans cannot see the Milky Way and more than 99 percent live under light-polluted skies. Some scientists believe that natural nighttime darkness may already be extinct in much of the eastern U.S.

Dark skies have important health and life-cycle benefits for humans and animals.  For both, circadian rhythms can be disrupted by unnatural levels of light at night.  For wildlife, they may not be able to hunt, hide from predators, or perform crucial mating rituals.  Animals that migrate, like sea turtles and birds, use natural nighttime light for guidance and can be misdirected by artificial lights.  For people, light pollution literally blocks the view of the universe.

International Dark Sky Week is an opportunity to learn about the impacts of light pollution, as well as technologies and practices employed for mitigation.  This includes using LED light bulbs and light fixtures that direct light downwards, participating in Lights Out for Birds by turning off unnecessary lights from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and turning lights off when not in use.

But like managing all types of pollution, mitigation measures have their limitations, and their benefits can be readily overwhelmed by the sheer growth in human numbers.  We are witnessing this as America’s population continues to soar to unprecedented levels, with no end in sight.  The Census Bureau predicts that America’s population will grow by another 70 million in the next 35 years, with roughly 90% caused by immigration.  It’s significant that this projection was made before the recent and disturbing immigration surge at the southern border, which has brought illegal immigration to more than twice the rates of legal immigration.

Take Action for a Better Immigration Policy

Unless we are complacent with the idea of fully losing our night skies just about everywhere, Americans must act to bring our population growth rate down to a sustainable level.  With fertility rates at responsibly-low levels, this means reducing our record-high immigration rates.  Our quality-of-life, and that of future generations, is at stake.  Otherwise, the great majority of Americans will no longer be able to gaze into the Milky Way, our home galaxy.

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Explore More: Sustainability Initiative, Conservation Challenges, Immigration Numbers.

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