Astronomers in Tucson versus everyone elseby Hugh Holub on Jul. 05, 2011, under environment water and energy, politics
The Arizona Daily Star has another in what promises to be a long series of articles about the negative impacts of the Rosemont Mine as determined by the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that is floating around.
The Tuesday July 5th story is about the potential impact of the mine on local astronomy.
For those not familiar with Tucson’s role in astronomy, various mountain tops around the region have telescopes perched on them…Kitt Peak west of Tucson, Mount Hopkins in the Santa Ritas and the Mount Graham scopes that are being sought to be torn down because of the Mount Graham Red Squirrel.
The current issue is light pollution.
Tucson and Pima County have some of the toughest light pollution ordinances in the country. The Rosemont Mine project has agreed to comply with Pima County’s ordinance even though legally it probably does not have to.
One would think…end of story.
Not in Pima County.
The gang of astronomers at the Smithsonian site on Mount Hopkins have waged a constant war against all new development in the region around their mountain.
I personally ran into this bunch when I was working on a proposed master planned community at I-19 and Chavez Siding Road.
Even though this development not only was going to comply with the toughest light pollution ordinance imaginable, it even offered to put light code enforcement into the covenants conditions and restrictions inside the project so homeowners could enforce the light controls. We agreed to every one of their demands.
Not good enough for the Mount Hopkins gang.
Their goal was no higher density development anywhere in the region, period.
I came away with the impression that if they could get away with it, they would sterilize all the land within 50 miles of their mountain to protect their stargazing activities.
The Mount Hopkins gang is characteristic of a kind of mentality that is dominating the debates in Tucson now…I’ve got mine and there is no compromise for anything else new.
What this ultimately does is leave the hard liner “no way” people out in the cold because the real world works inside of compromise…you don’t get 100% of what you want and I don’t either. We’re going to have to find a middle ground.
What is ironic about the opposition to development from Mount Hopkins is the biggest source of growth in light pollution is coming from the south….Nogales, Sonora … which is expected to grow from 500,000 people today to over one million in 30 years. There is no light pollution control in that city.
The Star story features amateur astronomer David Levy who has without question done spectacular comet discovery work.
His scopes are 3.5 milkes south of Interstate 10 near Vail. He is worried about light pollution from the proposed mine.
When Levy moved out to Vail ibn 1996 it was a sparsely settled remote area. But that is changing and light pollution is increasing in the Vail area without regard to the Rosemont Mine.
There are many square miles of state land near Vail that were annexed by the City of Tucson and one can reasonably assume all that land will be developed into an urban extension of Tucson. Vail itself is growing.
Levy is threatening to leave if the Rosemont Mine goes forward. As the Star notes, a lot of people would be upset of this world class astronomer leaves.
My guess is the days of his dark skies in Vail are numbered anyway. Rosemont is just a convenient excuse.
And that is an example of a chronic problem in the region…whenever someone moves here they expect the status quo as it existed when they arrived to be maintained unchanged. They are in denial of the contant change that has been occuring in the region as far as urban development is concerned.
I can remember when people were upset about all those new subdivisions being built at Swan and Broadway. Tucson had less than 100,000 residents back then.
Coming back to the Mount Hopkins gang…what is the point of getting everyone to agree to your tough light pollution ordinances if that is not enough for you?