International Dark Sky Executive Director Talks May 18 at Tennessee High School
Everybody hates air and water pollution, and some of us can’t stand noise pollution. But do you know the many adverse affects of light pollution—including your health?
Everybody hates air and water pollution, and some of us can’t stand noise pollution.
But do you know the many adverse affects of light pollution—including your health?
Well light pollution is serious business when it comes to wildlife, health, energy, safety and even the creative arts.
And you can learn all about this scourge of the 21st Century from the executive director of the only non-profit agency taking on this serious problem, the International Dark Sky Association, at a talk Thursday, May 18th at Tennessee High School Auditorium in Bristol.
J. Scott Feierabend will present the astonishing facts about how lighting the night has become an issue not only to stargazers, but to animals, wasted energy, safety and even your health.
The free, public event is co-sponsored by the Friends of Steele Creek Nature Center and Park, and Bristol, Tennessee Department of Parks and Recreation.
“The vast majority of people are amazed that there is something called light pollution,” said Feierabend. “But light used improperly is a pollutant, just like industrial toxins in the air and waters.”
The big offenders are the auto centers, the “big box” stores and groceries, shopping malls, billboards and sporting stadiums.
Feierabend emphases that the time has come to hold light pollution to the same environmental concerns as pollution from industry to the air we breathe and waters we enjoy.
“We’re not a ‘lights out’ organization,” Feierabend told The Loafer. “IDA is about using outdoor lighting wisely and in an appropriate manner for everyone. We want to make people mindful of well-managed light for the right time, place and task it is intended.”
He has been executive director of the IDA for nearly three years after 35 years as a wildlife conservationist. Today his focus is public awareness of the serious problems confronting society and the ecosystem of animals from lighting the night.
Many of us have seen the incredibly beautiful images of the Earth at night from the International Space Station as zooms 250 miles above at 17,500 miles per hour. But looks are deceiving.
The outlines of continents and borders of countries, even the locations of famous cities around the world, may look pretty but there are serious problems about lighting the night. And they just don’t affect astronomers wanting to probe the Universe.
IDA’s Feierabend will outline five areas of concern caused by light pollution, and you won’t believe how serious this problem is to your health and wildlife. And a complete waste of money for city governments and businesses. Let alone the demise of starry art and science.
Here are the IDA’s five points of contention that need serious attention in today’s 21st Century light polluted world: Wildlife Ecosystems, Energy Savings, Human Safety, Artistic Heritage and Human Health.
WILDLIFE ECOSYSTEMS – “There is an amazing body of information on wildlife ecological impact of light pollution,” said Feierabend. “The hard science proves nearly every ecosystem is impacted by improper lighting.”
Encoded in DNA of all plants and animals—and humans—is the need for a dark night. This is disrupted by lighting the night and not only affects sleep but reproduction, nourishment and protection from predators.
Feierabend notes two classic examples, the confusion of newly hatching sea turtles and the annual migration of birds. Sea turtle hatchlings used to see the starlight of the Milky Way or the Moon to show the direction to the ocean from their sandy birthplace. But they are now confused by the nearby lights of beach condominiums, hotels and residences. And millions of migrating birds are killed each year crashing into urban buildings in their confusion about directions.
Whole ecosystems have been disrupted by lighting the night, affecting birds, amphibians, mammals, insects and even plant life. And not just on land, but ocean oil rigs and commercial fishing boats have negatively affected fish, plankton and more.
ENERGY SAVINGS – This gets the attention of municipalities when they realize that the hard science proves 40 per cent of light in the USA is totally wasted by being wrongly directed or inefficient. That amounts to more than $3 billion a year annually wasted of taxpayer’s money.
“That’s a lot of money for schools, pot holes and social services,” said Feierabend. “One thing that gets people’s attention is their pocket book.”
The solution is the same for all the light pollution problems: efficient LED lighting that is placed in the proper places with smart consumption times. Many cities are in the process of switching to the modern LED lights from the old “light bombs” of the past, and the savings pays for the change in a few years.
HUMAN SAFETY – Feierabend calls this “the 200 pound gorilla in the room.” It is the biggest and most challenging problem of the IDA.
First, there is no scientific evidence that more outdoor lighting makes us safer: one can recreate examples of streetlight glare disguising criminals standing right under the light pole. Studies repeatedly show no effect on crime whether lights on, off, dimmed or LED lamps substituted.
This is backed up by a 2001 Study in London; a 1997 National Institute of Justice study: and the law enforcement fact that most property crimes occur during the day with vandalism and graffiti actually thriving on night lighting. Add with that a 2012 American Medical Association report that says: “Glare from nighttime lighting can create hazards ranging from discomfort to frank visual disability.”
The solution is very scientific and involves the correct spectrum of light that is emitted in the temperature range around 3,000 Kelvin. Today’s traditional lighting is too blue, 4-5000 Kelvin, and that is not only too bright but disrupts the normal human DNA-laced nocturnal instincts and rhythms.
HUMAN HEALTH – Research suggests artificial light negatively affects us in obesity, depression, sleep disorders, diabetes, breast cancer and more. How?
“We humans are hardwired to sleep in the dark for more than 10,000 years,” said Feierabend. “The hormone melatonin is produced to put us to sleep, and this circadian rhythm is disrupted by not just outdoor lights but by our televisions, laptops and smart phones in use at night.”
This sleep deprivation snowballs to cause problems with cholesterol levels and as well as the thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testes and adrenal glands—all proven in science and medical studies.
Again warm, white sources of a color at a temperature of 3000 Kelvin or lower is the answer.
ARTISTIC HERITAGE – When was the last time you saw a night filled with stars? Or the Milky Way beautifully spanning across the night sky?
Skies brimming with stars have inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature: from Van Gogh’s paintings to Bible Psalms to Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets. The night sky is our common and universal heritage, yet it’s rapidly becoming unknown to the newest generations.
Vincent Van Gogh painted his famous “Starry Night” in Saint Remy, France in 1889. Now, the Milky Way can no longer be seen from there.
Ancient mariners navigated the globe by the stars; astronomers learned of our expanding Universe, and discovered humans are made of stardust; and the once backyard amateur astronomers has to drive an hour away from city lights to get a reasonable view of the galaxies, nebulae and star clusters they love.
IDA’s executive director Feierabend says the solutions to the light pollution issue can be simple and financially feasible if we insist on being smart and practical.
Learn more about the IDA’s pursuit to save our night sky at their website, www.darksky.org, or their Facebook page.