2009-03-12 / Editorial

Restore the night sky over Conanicut Island


In 1638, Chief Conanicus decided to sell this island in the middle of Narragansett Bay to the English settlers for grazing sheep. When the chief looked upwards to the evening heavens over the island he saw a wonderful sight. The night sky was filled with twinkling stars and planets, clustered in an astronomical display we now call the Milky Way.

Of course, progress soon came to the island. Those settlers built homes and businesses and streets. They called the community Jamestown. Candles and oil lamps and cooking fires twinkled in the night.

The rest, as they say, is history.

In the 1700s, a light was constructed at Beavertail to warn mariners of the rocky shoreline. The night sky was never the same.

It was nearly another 200 years before the night sky over Conanicut Island became drastically different. Electricity came to Jamestown in the early 1900s. Electricity was a wonderful thing. It powered the lights that could turn darkness into day. But the twinkling stars in the heavens above became much harder to see.

We can have too much of a good thing. We have lights everywhere. Now we talk about light pollution. We never see the true night sky over Jamestown, unless we experience a power outage.

On Saturday, March 28, at 8:30 p.m. millions of people all over the world will turn off their lights for one hour to make a statement about what is happening to our planet. The event is called Earth Hour.

Let's turn off the lights on Conanicut Island. Turn off the lights at your home and business inside and out. The Town Council should order all municipal building and street lights turned off. RITBA can flip the switch for an hour on the necklace lights gracing the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.

Think about the energy that will be saved worldwide in that one hour on March 28. If the weather cooperates, we might even have a good view of the Milky Way overhead.

More importantly, we might realize that we could live just as well by leaving a few of those lights turned off at night. Less light means we are consuming less energy. That would be good for the earth and would save us money to boot.

— Jeff McDonough

Return to top