Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brilliant stupidity

A group in the neighboring city of Wilkes-Barre has decided to beautify the city by illuminating the trees in Public Square - by shining floodlights up at them.

Wilkes-Barre is easy to spot from Nanticoke: it's the big bright glow six miles to the East. A few years ago the city decided to replace its corroding, collapsing, but properly-shielded streetlights, boxy units installed during the rebuilding and recovery from the flood of 1972 that directed nearly 100% of the light downwards, with fancy, old-fashioned looking streetlights that send light in every direction, including up. This prompted me to write my first-ever letter to the editor of a local newspaper.

As a backyard astronomer, proponent of responsible lighting, and member of the International Dark Sky Association, I've probably put more thought into issues of glare, shadows, dazzling, and skyglow than most people who look at these things and say, "OK, this is the low bidder. Next on the agenda..." Wilkes-Barre's new streetlights are not the worst thing possible - for that you would need to travel to Jessup, just outside of Olyphant, to see the rows of blinding, dazzling, upward-pointing orbs that now line the tiny community's Main Street. But they are part of a trend towards wasteful, irresponsible, skyglow-producing lighting in an era when we should be working hard to conserve every last bit of energy.

We don't need to light the sky. There are plenty of lights up there already. If you live in a place like Nanticoke, maybe you remember once being able to see the Milky Way stretching across the sky almost any clear night. Now? Now if you want to see it, you'd better hope for a blackout. It's still visible, if you know where and when to look, but odds are it's not going to catch the eye of a seven-year-old kid the way it once did.

Meanwhile, searchlights have swept the sky for months to advertise the newly-opened movie theaters in Wilkes-Barre. The newly-opened casino in nearby Plains Township has made its presence known by turning all the lights on in the attached racetrack formerly known as Pocono Downs. Stores at the Wyoming Valley Mall have installed Nuremberg Rally-style upward-pointed lights for a dramatic effect. Flags of enormous size are lit at night by equally enormous floodlights.

And now someone thinks it's a good idea to aim lights up at trees.



Jennifer said...

Did you actually see the lights? I had to watch our news story a "couple two tree" times before I actually saw the lights. They might as well put candles there for all the light the lights are going to give off.

D.B. Echo said...

What I saw looked like plain old floodlights planted under the trees, pointed up at a 45 degree angle or so. And I'm not sure why the reports were saying that Leadership Wilkes-Barre "plans" to do this when they've quite obviously started doing it! I guess the period of public comment is over.

And why isn't this report showing up on either the station website or the Leadership Wilkes-Barre website? It's a conspiracy, I tell ya! The aliens...landing strips...well-lighted...McGroarty...gaaaaah....

Jennifer said...

They "plan" to do it because, as of right now, they don't actually have the money to do it. The plan seems to be to show of this one tree. And, now that everyone has gazed at it in wide wonder, businesses will be more than happy to put up the $150/tree it will take to make the other 31 treees around Public Square look just as wondrous. Until that happens, it's a "plan."

RocketBootKid said...

I live 50 miles north of glasgow and, while I can see the milky way and aurora borealis, I can still see the orange glow to the south, even with mountain ranges in the way.

Anonymous said...

I have to shut all the lights off my porch to see the stars (plus look through the trees). It's one of the best things about moving up north.

Keep fighting the good fight against sky glow, DB. Failure to see the stars means we don't come in contact with the vastness of the universe at least once every 24 hours, like God intended.

Sometimes I think we should have a blackout, 15 minutes per night, to turn out all the lights in the country and all go outside and wonder at the stars.

After the revolution ...

Bill @ IB

betz said...

I have been blessed with a child who sees things thru different eyes. He is always asking me why we cannot turn off the street lights so that he could see the sky better.....thats my boy. :)