The New Mexico chapter of Dark Skies International conducted its first meeting Dec. 1 at New Mexico Tech with the goal of bringing stakeholders together on the issue of preserving dark skies.
“The main goals were to bring together people with different interests in dark skies to discuss how we can build a broad coalition to preserve and enhance dark skies in New Mexico,” Jon Holtzman said. “We invited people trying to get representation from different types of groups who are interested in dark skies, perhaps for different reasons.”
Holtmaz is the chair of New Mexico State Council DarkSky, which is a state chapter of the DarkSky International.
Groups including the Apache Point Observation, the illuminating Engineering Society, Magdalena Ridge Observatory, NRAO, Albuquerque Astronomical Society and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, were invited to the meeting.
With sixty people in attendance, in person and via zoom, it was a full day of presentations and opportunities for attendees to have discussions and network in breakout sessions.
“I think we made an excellent start. Of course, the real proof will be in how we move forward.” Holtzman said.
John Briggs, New Mexico chapter board member and Magdalena astronomer said they were very pleased with the success of the first meeting.
“A key point is that concerned people and organizations involve much more than just astronomers. It’s becoming well recognized that there’s a significant general economic value to our dark skies.” Briggs said.
Magdalena art gallery owner, Catherine DeMaria, who was a co-curator of Dark Sky Land Exhibition Series attended the meeting. She said that it was powerful to see so many different stakeholders from across the state committed to the preservation of the New Mexico Night sky.
“It makes me hopeful that this will be addressed legislatively on a local and state level,” DeMaria said.
In the opening presentations, Ruskin Hartley, executive director of Dark Skies International, from London, England, spoke to the group about the need of diversity among those involved in the preservation of dark skies.
“This is no longer just a special interest for astronomers to see the night sky,” Hartley said. “So many of us yearn for that connection, for that night sky, that so much of humanity has lost,”
He said it was important to understand the impact light has on human and animal biology. He talked about modern lives of being indoors under lights during the day and then spending evenings watching tv.
“We are changing our relationship with light and dark with untold consequences,” Hartley said.
He talked about the waste of energy around the world used on unnecessary lighting.
“Most people recognize smokestack as source of pollutant. I don’t think many people recognized the light emitted from the city at two o’clock in the morning as an embodiment of waste, but it’s energy that could be used for other purposes,” Hartley said. “We need to look at how we can apply light that meets our needs and reduces waste.”
Dark Sky International has 76 chapters in 45 countries, over six continents.The meeting was organized by the State Council of NM DarkSky, in collaboration with people from DarkSky International with financial support from the Carroll Petrie Foundation. More information on DarkSky International can found on their website: darksky.org