Cook County Commissioners Declare April 15-22 International Dark Sky Week

 By Steve Fernlund

At its March 14th Board meeting, Cook County Commissioners proclaimed April 15-22 as International Dark Sky Week. The Tribal Council of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa made the same proclamation.

The resolution was brought to the Board and Council by Starry Skies North, the Duluth-based chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association. According to its website, International Dark-Sky Association is a global organization promoting “win-win solutions that allow people to appreciate dark, star-filled skies while enjoying the benefits of responsible outdoor lighting.”

The site has a calendar of events schedule showing worldwide events during this week.

Light pollution is the inappropriate or excessive use of artificial outdoor lighting. It is a consequence of our industrialized and growing society. Among other things, light pollution interferes with astronomical research, disrupts ecosystems, has some adverse health effects on humans and other animals, and it wastes energy. More important to those living on the edge of wilderness areas is that it washes out starlight in the night sky.

The International Dark-Sky Association has designated more than 80 International Dark Sky Parks worldwide. In the area of Starry Skies North, it has designated Voyageur National Park, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and Quetico Provincial Park as Dark Sky Parks.

Starry Skies North kicks off Dark Sky Week with an invitational screening of the documentary “Northern Nights, Starry Skies.” It will be an online event Sunday, April 16 at 7 p.m. PBS North and The Center for Global Environmental Education at Hamline University produced the one-hour film The film examines the threat of light pollution and presents examples of citizen action to minimize light pollution. It celebrates the night sky with photography by Travis Novitsky of Grand Portage. Following the screening there will be a Q&A panel with Novitsky, Bob (Astro Bob) King, and Cyntia Lapp. The panel is moderated by Bob Foucault, the film’s director. Online registration is required for the screening and can be made at the  Starry Skies North website.

In 2018, Visit Cook County,  the umbrella tourism association in Cook County, launched its first Dark Sky Festival. Held annually in December,  the event has grown and continues to bring in experts in the night sky and space exploration. The 2023 event takes place December 7-9, 2023.

 “The night sky is something that is an incredible and unique natural resource,” says Linda Jurek, Executive Director of Visit Cook County. “For centuries the night sky has been revered by our ancestors as sacred and important. It is truly something to celebrate.”