Dawson is switching to LED (Light Emitting Diode) streetlights, swapping out the older HPS (high pressure sodium) for the newer, more eco-friendly, longer lasting lights.
It’s a move that makes sense in a lot of ways. Yukon Energy and the City of Dawson figure that changing the 170 residential streetlights will save the town about $5,000 annually in power bills.
The LEDs are also supposed to last about six times longer than the HPS lights, so that ought to mean that the one they installed in the pole outside our house today will still be shining when my ashes are six feet under.
Of course, the compact fluorescents we’re using in most of our household sockets were supposed to last much, much longer than they actually do, so the estimates on LEDs are suspect. What manufacturer really wants to produce a product that only needs to be replaced every 25 years?
But since the utility is paying the $50,000 cost of the changes, it was a deal the town really couldn’t refuse.
Still, I worry about the ravens.
Our hardy territorial bird can be found out and about, in the air and perched in trees and on roofs in all kinds of weather – including the sort that has us all running our vehicles for 10 minutes to loosen the ice on the windows and make the seats just a little bit flexible.
There will be the ravens, soaring through the air, checking out the bags that people may have been incautious enough to leave in the open backs of their pick-ups, pecking away at the garbage bags that haven’t been properly secured in the roadside bins.
And all around the town you can find then zeroing in on the sensors that tell the streetlights it’s time to come on, because there are times here, even in December and January, when there’s enough ambient and reflected light to prevent the streetlights from clicking to brightness.
They know what they are doing. They know that where there is light there is also a modicum of heat. They swoop in on the tops of the lights, flexing them slightly, and croaking their gabbling satisfaction at their own cleverness.
Then, when they feel they’ve had enough, or when they spy some potential food source to go and investigate, they flex slightly and spring up like a diver executing a gravity free leap into the air.
It’s going to be a surprise to them to discover that the new lights don’t shed much energy in the form of heat. I hope it doesn’t completely change their behaviour.
I suppose there must be other places where they can find a little respite from the bitter winter. They do perch on roofs now, sidling over near chimneys, so I’m sure they’ll manage.
Puffed up on a street lamp,
picking at the garbage bags,
finding warmth and food near
the dwelling place of man.
Out there on the highway,
black against the winter snow,
bound to beat this frozen season
any way they can.