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The Human Heritage of Dark Skies

For many people, simply remembering the dark skies and starry nights of their youth and wanting that experience for their children and children’s children is the impetus behind their support of dark sky efforts.  Until several generations ago, before urbanization and the widely available technological ability to overwhelm a landscape with lighting, the stars at night were part of the universal human experience; now an estimated 80% of the developed world is unable to see the Milky Way.

Dark Skies as Resource

Natural Resource

A natural resource is anything that people can use which comes from nature, such as air, water, wood, oil, wind energy, iron, and coal.

Dark skies are a guilt-free natural resource: no extraction cost or risk of environmental damage by virtue of its use.  And, with energy savings there is even payback for replenishing and preserving the dark skies, an unusual and distinctly virtuous cycle.

Cultural Resource

Cultural resources are, in the broadest sense, resources significant to human cultures - the ideas, customs, and social behavior of a society.  Some are part of the universal human experience, like dark skies, some specific to a group of people at a particular time in history with various interpretations of the night skies.  Ethno-astronomy is the study of some of these varieties of interpretation.

The human experience of a dark night is expressed in many ways, art, literature, philosophy, film, and others.

Economic Resource

Economic resources are the factors used in providing services (like astro-tourism or dark-sky experiences) or producing goods.  Dark sky is widely used as a way to develop sustainable destination economies for scenic gateway communities in the American West.

Retention of Community Character

For small towns and rural areas, the arrival of bright lights and large commercial signs threatens the distinctive community character built up and layered over many years.

Private Property Rights

The emerging concept of light trespass is important in the context of private property rights (an issue that, in the Western states, is debated in particularly strong terms) and, in at least several cases, has led some courts to conclude that light trespass is a physical trespass (not unlike pesticide or herbicide drift) and not a less-serious, with lighter sanctions, nuisance.