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Colorado Celebrates Dark Sky Month This June

Colorado Celebrates Dark Sky Month This June Image

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado. Photo: Bettymaya Foott

Thanks to the work of the IDA Colorado Chapter, Governor Jared Polis recently proclaimed June 2019 “Dark Sky Month” in the state. This designation is the result of committed dark sky advocates in Colorado, including Richard O’Brien, Dr. Bob Stencil, and Ryan Parker, director of the state chapter. With this proclamation, the state government recognizes dark skies as a valuable resource in Colorado and identifies light pollution as an economic, environmental, and cultural issue worth addressing.

The origins of the proclamation go back to Fiske Planetarium in Boulder, Colorado. In partnership with the Sierra Club and the planetarium, IDA Colorado hosted “Bringing Back Dark Skies”, an event to discuss the importance of dark skies and the newly implemented Boulder Outdoor Lighting Ordinance. In the audience was a staff member from the governor’s office who approached Richard O’Brien to learn more about supporting the cause. With community organizing and support from staff at the International Dark-Sky Association, the proclamation was soon developed and signed.

In celebration of the proclamation, IDA Colorado will host a repeat dark sky event at Fiske Planetarium, June 12th and invites all to join. The chapter encourages Coloradans to participate in Dark Sky Month by visiting one of the state’s six International Dark Sky Places, learning and educating others about light pollution and seeking opportunities to protect the night in their community. Want to get involved with IDA Colorado directly? They are always looking for new dark sky defenders to join the cause!

Under the infectiously enthusiastic leadership of Ryan Parker, IDA Colorado takes a celebratory approach to protect dark skies. The chapter combats light pollution by building allies in communities across the state and recognizing good dark sky behavior when they see it.

Parker became involved in IDA about six years ago and is a passionate, effective advocate for the organization’s mission. As a fifth-generation Coloradan who grew up on a farm, Parker says that the message of being a good steward of the planet was instilled in him at a young age. Colorado is known for open space and wildlife, he explains, and he’s inspired to protect those resources, including the natural night, for future generations.

A real estate agent by trade, Parker believes in using a “neighborly” approach to dark sky advocacy, emphasizing that protecting the night “is not a political thing, it’s a human thing.” When rallying support for dark skies, Parker’s advice to advocates is to take time to relate to people and be respectful. To open a conversation about the topic, he often asks, “What do dark skies mean to you?” He aims to win people over with positivity and facts, focusing his message around the impacts of lighting on human health, nature, safety and security, energy, and heritage.  

Parker has also discovered that when people are recognized for making positive changes, it encourages others to step up to the plate. He’s harnessed the power of social media to post a weekly video shout-out to people in his community who are practicing dark sky friendly lighting principles, equating good lighting with being a good neighbor.

IDA Colorado frequently organizes field trips to connect its members to dark skies. A self-described “kid at heart,” Parker tries to bring a sense of adventure and fun to the chapter’s activities in order to encourage others to join the “dark side.” This June, the chapter will be visiting Westcliffe International Dark Sky Community to have a BBQ and connect over dark skies in a relaxed, fun, campfire environment. In August, IDA Colorado is teaming up with a local Chamber of Commerce to host “A Starry Night,” an evening of stories, stars and stewardship of the night sky. Participants will learn about traditional methods of using the stars for wayfinding while enjoying snacks and refreshments under the night sky.

Currently, IDA Colorado is working to streamline its messaging to empower members and strengthen their impact. The chapter has been working with local governments and agencies to amend the local zoning codes to include residential and street lights, and are pursuing opportunities to establish more International Dark Sky Places in the state. Parker says it’s crucial to address light pollution now, before it’s too late. In his characteristically playful way, Parker says “once the genie has been let out of the bottle, you can’t put it back in.”

 

You connect with IDA Colorado at facebook.com/ColoradoIDA.

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