"The treasures hidden in the heavens are so rich that the human mind shall never be lacking in fresh nourishment."

-Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)

 The night skies have been inspiring people since the sun first set.  It's easy to get lost in space just lying on your back and gazing at the stars on a clear summer night.  And the great thing is that wherever you are you’re at the edge of a visual wilderness that can be explored by just looking up.

Unfortunately, access to this wilderness has been limited in the urbanizing parts of the world, including Central Florida.  Perhaps it’s an innate fear of the dark, but the result is that the excess light that we distribute accumulates into the night glow that’s seen around metropolitan areas and overwhelms the light from all but the brightest stars at night.  Whether such high light levels are necessary is questionable.  A study by the U.S. Dept. of Justice found that while bright street lighting decreases the fear of crime, there was no meaningful evidence that street lighting affects actual crime levels.  Other examples have shown that reduced lighting can be more effective in illuminating dark corners, while the glare from stronger lights can reduce the ability to see.

Just looking at the accompanying Central Florida at NightCredit: National Atlas of the United States, U.S. Dept of the Interiormap of light pollution in the east central Florida region quickly points out the level of light pollution from our urban areas.  On this 1997 map, the large white area from Longwood in SeminoleCounty to south Orlando stands out clearly, with outlying blotches at the Orange/Osceola county line representing Lake Buena Vista/Disney World and Kissimmee.  Far to the east, Melbourne shines as a white point, though nearly all of BrevardCounty east of the St. Johns River is affected by excessive light.

OsceolaCounty is fortunate in having the greatest extent of dark skies remaining in the region, however there is no certainty that it will stay that way.  The new town of Harmony is privileged to be located in a part of the county that is truly dark at night.  Its town center is located at the end of the yellow line in the darker portion of OsceolaCounty.

Just as we keep pollution from our lakes and groundwaters, as we value our clean air, and as we work to protect and improve our natural habitat areas, it is important to keep the night skies clean of unnecessary lighting.  The individual homes at Harmony have been designed to control light pollution, but the streetlights that have been installed were the first response to that objective.  

These lights have fixtures (luminares) that are referred to as “full cut-off”, meaning the lighting element is shielded so that light shines only down on the ground, where it’s needed, rather than out horizontally or up into the sky.  The white coating inside the shield collects surplus light and reflects it back down to the ground where it can be used.

Full cut off streetlights at HarmonyCredit: Treebeard

It is Harmony’s objective to have all public and commercial lighting in Harmony conform to Dark Sky standards and to also promote Dark Sky lighting for its residential uses.  The School District of Osceola County has supported this effort during construction of HarmonyHigh School at Harmony.  It installed Dark Sky lighting at its football/soccer stadium to counter the image of such facilities as mammoth light wasters.

To promote a public awareness of light pollution, the Harmony Institute hosted its first annual Dark Sky Festival at HarmonySquarePark in 2003.  An estimated 450 people attended that first year to hear speakers on nighttime lighting topics, see exhibits from a variety of agencies and interest groups, view the heavens through telescopes provided by local astronomers and otherwise enjoy an evening outdoors.  Since then the festival has grown, regularly attracting 4,000 - 5,000 people each spring to the outdoor nighttime event.

Big ScopeCredit: Treebeard

The challenge of protecting our night skies from light pollution requires broad participation and is one that requires changes in old habits.  But it’s also one that can be easily met and the pollution easily reversed with some “environmentally intelligent” thinking before we act.  If we are to continue to be nourished by the “treasures hidden in the heavens” as Johannes Kepler was 400 years ago, the effort is critical.

For information on home lighting options that will eliminate light trespass see: http://www.infobarrel.com/Controlling_LIght_Pollution_at_Home