Wiltonians urged to enjoy the night sky

Since elementary school, Christina Duncan said, she has always considered herself to be a conservationist.

“My fourth grade teacher took our class outside and showed us smog and said, ‘That’s from people driving too much and wasting energy. It’s making our air dirty and you should be conscious of how you use energy,’” Ms. Duncan told The Bulletin last week.

“I thought she was the coolest teacher ever, and as a fourth grader, one of the things I could do was turn off lights, and I’ve turned out lights ever since.”

Ms. Duncan said it surprises her how many people don’t turn off lights when they leave a room.

“It’s so simple to just hit that switch,” she said.

Ms. Duncan attended a convention last year in Chicago where she saw The City Dark, a documentary about light pollution.

“I was struck by how much I didn’t know about the effects of light pollution,” she said.

Ms. Duncan said she learned that big, bright lights are damaging to wildlife, like distracting migrating birds.

“I knew birds flew into buildings during migration, but I had no idea of the numbers until I watched The City Dark,” she said.

Lights can also negatively affect trees. “In the fall, if they’re around too much light, they don’t drop their leaves on time,” she said.

“In the spring, they can leaf out too early and be damaged by frost because their day and night schedule gets mixed up.”

Ms. Duncan said The City Dark opened her eyes to all the damage that light can do.

“It seems sort of innocuous, but it really isn’t,” she said. “I felt like the film would be a good candidate for Wilton Go Green’s Green Speaker series at Wilton library.”

After returning from Chicago, Ms. Duncan approached the organization about showing the film.

“Wilton Go Green has been wonderful and very helpful and supportive,” said Ms. Duncan.

Ms. Duncan said she thought the screening of The City Dark on March 27 at 7 p.m. would tie in well with an upcoming event on March 29 — Earth Hour.

Earth Hour is an annual, international event on March 29 at 8:30 p.m. in which people are encouraged to turn out their lights for one hour.

“It’s an opportunity for the town of Wilton, which has worked very hard toward energy efficiency, to do something visual by getting as many people as we can to turn out their lights — unnecessary lights — for one hour,” said Ms. Duncan.

If enough people in Wilton participate in Earth Hour, said Ms. Duncan, they will see what a difference it can have on the night sky.

“You open your eyes and see the sky,” she said. “As The City Dark points out, we have lost that tie to the night sky. We can see some stars, but what we see here compared to what is up there is pretty minimal.”

According to the Earth Hour website, the event has turned into a global phenomenon, with hundreds of millions of people coming together to display a commitment to protect the planet.

“Earth Hour is an international event. Chicago and Paris and London — they all participate,” said Ms. Duncan.

Ms. Duncan is organizing an Earth Hour event at Woodcock Nature Center from 8 to 9:30.

“I wanted to find a place where we could be outside, because hopefully the weather will be nice and we can all look up and see some of these beautiful stars,” she said.

Ms. Duncan said the Wilton Historical Society agreed to turn its lights out for Earth Hour, and Wilton Hardware staff will attend the Wilton Library screening of The City Dark and will bring efficient lightbulbs and timers.

“If you drive around town during the daylight hours, you can see many houses here in town that have their exterior lights on,” said Ms. Duncan.

“Timers are very simple and sell for under $40. They program the day and time and they automatically adjust for the lengths of the days.”

Ms. Duncan said she is working on getting as many different groups and people to participate in Earth Hour as possible.

For those who don’t participate in Earth Hour, Ms. Duncan said she asks they just take the time to consider turning off unnecessary exterior lights, install timers and turn off lights when leaving a room.

“It’s a small and simple step people can take to conserve a surprising amount of electricity,” she said.

Information: earthhour.org.