We are writing as state legislators to express our strong support for the dark sky principles expressed in Tony Rehagen’s recent op-ed “Losing the night sky” (Ideas, Sept. 22). Our bills (S1937/H2858) will help to restore much of night sky visibility to the 90 percent of people who now have little, if any, view of the stars and planets in our universe. The bills require roadways across Massachusetts to have fully shielded fixtures where lighting is necessary and will reduce glare for older and vision-impaired drivers where possible. Reducing light pollution is also critical to our ecosystem, since all animals, down to the smallest insects, depend on circadian rhythms of darkness and light in order to thrive. For these reasons, we believe it is time to enact our legislation now as part of a larger environmental protection agenda.
Senator Cindy Creem
Representative Sean Garballey
Creem is majority leader of the Massachusetts state Senate. Garballey is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
A last look at the Milky Way?
On a personal level, I sympathize with Tony Rahegan’s “Losing the Night.” Growing up in Southampton, I was also treated to immaculate views of the heavens, the inky black sky smeared with a trail of stars belonging to our Milky Way galaxy. Today, that view is under threat, and lack of good public policy is much to blame.
The legislation proposed by state Senator Creem and state Representative Garballey, is a path forward for the Commonwealth not only to lead in preserving our night sky, but perhaps even to restore it to its natural glory. At MIT’s Wallace Astrophysical Observatory, we have observed the change with our telescopes. In just a few short years, we are on the verge of losing our view of the Milky Way in Westford — in some years the brightening of our nighttime environment has exceeded 10 percent per year, far beyond the already atrocious 2.2 percent national average. Further, preserving the night sky is about more than the stars: It protects our fragile ecosystem, saves taxpayer dollars, and brings our carbon reduction goals much closer to reality.
The writer is observatory manager of the MIT Wallace Astrophysical Observatory and vice president of the Massachusetts chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association.