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My Goals and Intentions

Leaving 7 January 2022, I hope to begin a 10-day-long expedition to experience and document, through photos and blog posts, dark skies in the Southwest. The Southwest is a region of the United States with a deep and rich history in the stars. A map of International Dark Sky Parks shows how this region above most in the world is packed with dark parks - sites of minimal to no light pollution disrupting one's view of the night sky.

Why am I doing this? I seek to experience natural darkness in full to further my understanding of why it needs to be preserved from the growing threat of light pollution.

Humanity is losing its view of the night sky to an epidemic of light pollution. 99 percent of American and European populations live under light polluted skies, and an estimated 80 of the world’s population does too (Falchi et al., 2016). This matters because human and environmental health are linked to the natural fluctuations of day to night (Argentiero et al., 2021; Falchi et al., 2011; Nadybal et al., 2020; Navara & Nelson, 2007; Pothukuchi, 2021; Rich & Longcore, 2006; Robinson et al., 2021; Zissis, 2020).

At night, proper darkness cues our bodies to begin producing melatonin, an important hormone that boosts immune response, is a powerful antioxidant and regulates healthy sleep (Falchi et al., 2011; Nadybal et al., 2020; Navara & Nelson, 2007). When we’re exposed to light at night like that from a typical shopping mall, light which is 200 thousand times brighter than natural night-time darkness, melatonin production is seriously reduced, leading to a ripple in negative health impacts (Falchi et al., 2011, p. 2716).

Light pollution a growing problem. From 1947 to 2000, light pollution grew at a rate of six percent per year (Growth of Light Pollution - Night Skies (U.S. National Park Service), n.d.). This has had widespread impacts on environmental health. Not only has this led to the disruption of bird migrations, sea turtle hatchlings making their way offshore, nighttime pollinators visiting plants under outdoor lighting, but it also contributes to an enormous amount of energy waste – meaning more greenhouse gases in our atmosphere (Information About Sea Turtles, n.d.; “Light Pollution Wastes Energy and Money,” n.d.; “Pollinator Week 2021,” 2021; Sorte, n.d.). Some studies even show that outdoor lighting at night does not contribute to less crime (“Lighting, Crime and Safety,” n.d.).

In addition to these negative human and environmental health impacts, light pollution is also making extinct humanity’s experience with the night sky. This is an experience that has existed for all time and has completely changed how people orient and regulate their lives. Why does it matter if we lose this experience? To try and understand why, I want you to think back and try to remember a time when you last went out to go and see the stars. What did you feel once you were out there, bundled up in the dark, looking at the heavens above, laying side-by-side, and just soaking it all in. Were you starstruck – in wonder and awe at the absolute and indefinite grander of the natural cosmos? Did you feel as if you were a part of something greater than just yourself?

These are just some of the questions I seek to answer by traveling to dark parks and sites constructed by Native Americans that are oriented around celestial events, such as solstices and equinoxes of both the Sun and Moon, throughout the Southwest.

I'm excited to have to have you join me in my travels!

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