EDITOR, Daily News:
A silent Spring moment is desperately needed for the dark skies of Ketchikan.
Before 2016, Ketchikan’s light pollution was exactly what it needed to be for a rural community: a healthy dark sky that protected our migrating species, including salmon, and, more importantly, human health.
Fast forward to 2023, our light pollution has exploded into levels found in big cities without any pause to question the safety or impacts on our fragile ecosystem and the health of humans. Research shows light pollution increases metabolic disorders, breast and multiple other cancers, ocular eye damage, muscular degeneration, sleep disorders, and chronic inflammation. Low cognitive development in infants from a single bright blue LED outside a home is noted in this research.
While our night-time lights keep getting worse, over 100 cities and countries like New Zealand have taken the pledge to go dark. My favorite is Maui. In October of 2022, Maui implemented local laws that all outdoor lighting cannot exceed more then 2% blue light. They are going amber to protect their coastline and migrating birds. Boulder City received a $1.9 million dollar grant from Dark Skies for Tourism. Five other northern cities have Dark Sky festivals, which bring in millions of tourism dollars. Florida and Texas have banned all outdoor lighting in areas of migrating birds that are being devastated by light pollution.
With that in mind, let’s see how unshielded the blue LED lights harm this community’s ecosystems at the speed of light.
Migrating species demand the dark. They migrate with the circadian clock and moon cycle. But our light pollution is 100 times brighter than the moon. So there goes that clock. Less salmon migrate upstream, altering outdoing young fish. Lights extend predations with up to 40% loss of fish fry and smolts. One light changes the behavior of fish instantly as cortisol levels increase, thus decreasing testosterone. Not only salmon, but all living creates for millions of years have depended on the night skies for migration, reproduction, hibernation, and nocturnal animals. Added, light pollution will bring in more predators. Notice all of the wolves lately?
We all need to take responsibility to protect our dark skies. Do we really need 95 lights in a 3-block radius going all night or 15 ultra-bright lights for 40 feet of sidewalk? I challenge everyone to go take a drive at night and look at how unshielded lights are flooding the Tongass, Ketchikan Creek, Herring Cove, and Ward Cove. These areas demand protection from light pollution. Businesses and homeowners: Are your lights disturbing others’ peace? Are you adding to the city glare that steals our children’s ability to see the stars? We need to ask ourselves a multitude of questions. How many salmon can we afford to lose? 5%? 10%? The future health of salmon runs, health of children or blinding toxic lights, especially LEDs.
Lights do not make us safer. They only make us feel safe.