Embracing the Stars: Illuminating Hawaii's Dark Skies Legislation
January 29, 2024
Image credit: Casey Horner, Unsplash

On January 19, Hawaii took a significant step towards preserving its natural beauty by introducing House Bill 2027 – legislation aimed at mitigating the adverse effects of light pollution. This landmark bill addresses the challenges posed by excessive artificial light, particularly in areas such as highways and harbors, and reflects the state’s commitment to safeguarding its unique ecosystem and scenic landscapes.

The detrimental impacts of light pollution on Hawaii’s culture, people, and nature cannot be overstated. Astronomical observations, a crucial part of Hawaii’s cultural identity, have been compromised due to decreased visibility caused by excessive artificial lighting. Moreover, key and protected species, including sea turtles and seabirds, face disruptions in their natural navigational patterns caused by the glaring lights. The bill recognizes the adverse effects on the circadian rhythms of both wildlife and humans, emphasizing the need for a holistic approach to address these challenges.

One of the key provisions of House Bill 2027 is the relocation of the Dark Skies Protection Advisory Committee from the University of Hawaii to the existing Department of Land and Natural Resources. A strategic decision at every level, this move leverages the administrative capabilities of the department to enhance the committee’s effectiveness. Established in 2017, the Dark Skies Protection Advisory Committee will now play a pivotal role in reducing overall light pollution, evaluating energy conservation methods related to light production, and protecting species negatively impacted by artificial light.

The bill also recognizes the significant cost involved in illuminating places such as highways, harbors, and other facilities. The monetary and energy costs associated with excessive lighting are substantial, making it imperative to explore sustainable alternatives. By evaluating means to conserve energy in light production, Hawaii aims to strike a balance between maintaining visibility and reducing the ecological footprint of artificial lighting.

In addition to its conservation efforts, House Bill 2027 acknowledges the educational opportunities associated with darker skies. The legislation encourages the development of programs for K-12 and college students to benefit from the beauty of natural nighttime experiences. This educational component aligns with Hawaii’s commitment to fostering an appreciation for its unique environment and cultural heritage among the younger generation.

As a national organization dedicated to the preservation of scenic and natural beauty, Scenic America supports House Bill 2027. We believe that our night skies are a key component of scenic beauty, and must be preserved as fervently and deliberately as our daytime views of mountains, rivers, and valleys. This legislation aligns with our mission by addressing the intersection of conservation efforts and the aesthetic appeal of Hawaii’s landscapes. By advocating for a darker, more natural nighttime experience, the bill contributes to our vision of promoting sustainable practices that enhance both the ecological and visual aspects of our surroundings.

It’s noteworthy that Hawaii has already taken steps to regulate outdoor lighting, with state-wide LED billboard bans already in effect. Upholding these regulations is crucial to ensuring that the impacts of House Bill 2027 are not diminished over time. By maintaining a commitment to dark skies, Hawaii can continue to set an example for responsible environmental stewardship and sustainable practices.

As House Bill 2027 is set to go into effect on July 1, Hawaii is poised to become a beacon of responsible and considerate lighting practices, preserving its natural beauty for generations to come. The passage of this legislation marks a significant milestone in the ongoing efforts to balance progress with environmental conservation, showcasing Hawaii’s dedication to both its people and the planet.