Lansing, Michigan, USA – Last month, the Michigan State Senate adopted a resolution formally recognizing July 2021 as Dark Sky Awareness Month in the state. This accomplishment is the result of a six-month-long effort championed by IDA Delegate Robert Parrish.
Robert leveraged the fact that one of the state’s top industries is tourism. Coupled with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s ad campaign recognizing a nationwide rise in astrotourism, this gave him an angle with a quantitative political attraction. Robert carefully researched other resolutions to benchmark how they were written and offered a template to the senator’s office for them to follow and build on. He believes that this lessened the workload of public officials, making them more likely to adopt the resolution. Additionally, it offered him the opportunity to educate them on the adverse effects of light pollution.
Robert credits his persistence for his success. He kept the lines of communication open throughout the process by checking in with his local state senator’s office every few weeks. He has found this same approach to be helpful in the past as well. Robert followed the same path in getting his local county government to adopt a Dark Sky resolution. This led to a local township adopting basic outdoor lighting ordinances and the county seat (Cassopolis, MI) installing new dark sky-friendly lighting along their main street.
As an IDA Delegate, the work that Robert does is extremely personal to him, “Everything I do as a representative to the IDA, I do in memory of my father,” he explained. We shared a love for the beauty of the night sky, and he was the reason I began my quest to get Dr. Lawless International Dark Sky Park and Michigan Dark Sky Preserve its certification.”
After a process that lasted more than two and half years, Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park received its IDA designation as an International Dark Sky Park in January of 2020. This designation was the second of its kind in the state. Headlands International Dark Sky Park was designated nine years earlier. In 2017, it was named International Dark Sky Place of the Year for innovation in the public education initiatives at the park.
All of these successes didn’t come without their challenges, though. “I believe that the biggest challenge is to accept the fact that government works at a very slow pace. At times, keeping my impatience at bay while keeping things moving forward was a struggle,” Robert explained. “Also, one has to realize that politicians, like most people, are unaware of how insidious light pollution is. As delegates to the IDA, don’t take your knowledge of the subject matter for granted. For anyone wishing to accomplish the same in their State, teaching will be key.” There you have it. When it comes to dark sky advocacy, keep calm and carry on.
We can’t wait to see what successes come out of the state of Michigan next. Happy Dark Sky Awareness Month!