For centuries explorers have traversed the planet using the stars as their guide.
At the dawn of the 21st century, stars once a necessity of navigation are becoming a novelty.
It's a novelty the town of Genoa wants to curb.
The first town in Nevada is hoping to lead the state into reclaiming the view of the night sky.
The Genoa Town Board passed a resolution recently supporting efforts to reduce light pollution in the community. The resolution aims at educating residents about using good neighbor lighting.
In other words, light from your back yard spotlighting the neighbor's barn is a waste and trespass of light. People should be considerate of how their lighting affects their neighbors and the night environment. The issue isn't new to Genoa since some residents began to take light pollution education seriously.
A frequent morning walker, Maggie Tracey began to notice wayward light cutting into her view of the stars about two years ago. She found the Tuscon-based International Dark-Sky Association and began a learning process about light that pushed her into advocating for preservation of a dark sky. She is now the co-director of the Northern Nevada International Dark-Sky Association.
"It's endangered," the Genoa resident said. "The issue here is preserving the night sky. We're losing sight of the stars and there are real simple solutions to the problem."
The problem is light pollution, and the solutions are as simple as turning lights off at night and putting shields on light to focus light down rather than spreading the light into the sky.
Shutting lights off and using lower wattage bulbs also conserve energy, she said.
Genoa, population about 300, doesn't have a vast light pollution problem. But housing developments are popping up all over Douglas County, slowly lighting up the natural dark sky.
"One of the neat things about Genoa is you can walk outside and see the Big Dipper," said Bernie Carter, Genoa Town Board chairman. "Maybe with a little bit of awareness and education we can continue to see the stars there. Maybe other communities will look at us as an example."
There's no enforceability to the town's action, Carter said, but it is a statement that Genoa cares about the night sky and about controlling light pollution. The town will provide anyone interested with information on how to reduce light pollution.
For Tracey, it's a small victory in her attempt to educate people.
"Light pollution creeps up on you," she said. "Genoa made a really good-faith effort to show they value their community and they value the night sky and natural resources. It sets a precedent for other communities to look at how they want their communities to look. It only takes one person to start getting the word out."
Guidelines on good lighting:
-It provides the right amount of light for the intended purpose. It never over-lights.
-It uses "fully shielded" light fixtures that control light output, keeping light in its intended area.
-It ensures lighting fixtures are carefully installed to maximize their effectiveness on the targeted property and minimized the effect beyond the property boarder.
-It uses energy-efficient lamps or other light sources.
For information on the International Dark-Sky Association head to the Internet at www.darksky.org or call Maggie Tracey at 782-3397.