Have you ever looked at the night sky and noticed that it didn’t appear dark? That in fact, the sky which should be inky black was instead a dull gray or hazy blue?
Have you tried to stargaze and been unable to see any celestial bodies at all?
“It’s obtrusive or unwanted light that’s coming at night. And you can kind of think of it as a pollutant to animals and nature,” he said.
For a conservationist or ecologist, the subject seems to be a natural fit for an area of interest and research. Mitchell says from an economist’s perspective, this is a fascinating area as well.
“If you had a chemical spill in your local state park that killed a lot of the animals and destroyed a lot of the nature, people would be up in arms about it. Light pollution is very, very similar to that,” he said.
“It imposes these costs that are kind of difficult to see that people don’t know about. And as economist, of course, we’re interested in costs. We’re interested in reducing costs and getting benefits.”
Attend the Dark Skies conference
On Oct. 3-4, Missouri State will be hosting “Seeking the Dark: Nighttime Beauty, Biology and Tourism.” It’s the Missouri Chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association’s 2021 conference, which will have three tracks: education, conservation and policy.
This free conference will feature a keynote presentation entitled “The Last of the Dark” in the Plaster Student Union on the evening of Oct. 3.
Looking to the sky
Mitchell has studied this area with his colleague Dr. Terrel Gallaway for several years, and he’s glad to see the issue is getting more recognition.
“If you look at the skies over Springfield, Missouri, you might see 20 stars. If you’re in a place out in the western part of the United States, where you have literally dark skies, you can see thousands of stars,” Mitchell said.
“Not only does it attract tourism, but it also helps to keep the local animal flora, fauna, insect population in check. And that’s the things that a lot of people are going to the national parks for in the first place.”