As an environmental not-for-profit IDA takes steps to educate everyone, everywhere on light pollution, its effects, and abatement practices. These education practices have included presentations before staffers and representatives of the United States Congress.
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For ways to take action on a federal level, please contact our office of Public Policy and Government Affairs in Washington, DC, you may also work on contacting your individual representatives, by visiting our public action page.
On Monday, 13 July and Tuesday, 14 July, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) conducted informational briefings for the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, respectively. Similar to briefings held last summer, these sessions were intended as a general introduction to the problems caused by light pollution and what can be done to reduce wasted outdoor lighting. This year, topics included the possible impacts of current legislation. Both briefings were well attended by legislators and Congressional aides. The House briefing was co-sponsored by Representatives Gabrielle Giffords (AZ 8), Raul Grijalva (AZ 7), and John Culberson (TX 7).
The co-host and keynote speaker at the Senate briefing was Senator Mark Begich of Alaska. Senator Begich implemented a major LED lighting installation when he was mayor of Anchorage, creating an estimated savings of 50 percent compared to other lighting systems. His presentation noted that 30 percent of the light coming from 35 million U.S. streetlights is wasted because it misses the target area – the street. This wasted light creates glare and sky glow.
Additional speakers included Bob Parks, Managing Director of IDA’s Washington Office, Terry McGowan, IDA Board Member and Director of IDA’s Technical Committee, and Chad Moore, Director of the National Parks Service Night Sky Program. In addition to delivering information on topics familiar to IDA members, they discussed the potential impact of developing energy efficient solid state lighting for outdoor lighting applications. Solid state lighting produces bluer light than most outdoor lighting currently in use. More research is needed to determine if the bluer, higher color temperature light will create more light pollution, and whether less of the new light is needed. IDA is pursuing funding for this research while continuing to educate Congress about the issue.
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IDA concluded its second congressional briefing Friday, July 25, 2008. Due to the tremendous success of the June 20th House briefing in the Science and Technology Committee’s Hearing room the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions agreed to host a similar briefing. Discussion covered a solutions based approach to light pollution.
J. Kelly Beatty, an IDA Board Director, provided the introduction to the hour-long presentation, touching on the overarching effects of light pollution. One of the most powerful images from Kelly’s talk included a light pollution cost estimate for Washington, DC. By using Isobe’s satellite calculations for estimated kWh lost for the Districts metro area and current cost per kWh in the District, Kelly along with fellow Board Director and lighting and energy specialist Terry McGowan, determined that the district wastes over five million dollars a year, alone. This calculation does not include outlaying areas.
Next, Dr. Mario Motta of the Massachusetts Medical Society, discussed Disability Glare and its effects on the human eye at multiple ages. In describing the eye and how it worked in layman’s terms, Mario was able to present a number of images highlighting poor lighting and contrasting it with quality lighting. The discussion of human eye advancement, paved the way for Marianne Moore’s talk on ecological consequences.
An associate professor at Wellesley College, Marianne specializes as an aquatic ecologist. As a contributing author to the Catherine Rich and Travis Longcore edited “Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting,” Marianne emphasized the importance of the night to all ecological species, including humans. She ended with a quote from the “Ecological Consequences” text that stated, “What if we woke up one morning to realize that all conservation planning of the last 30 years told only half the story –the daytime story? Our diurnal bias has caused us to ignore the obvious. The world is different at night.”
Dr. Richard Stevens, a professor and cancer epidemiologist at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, followed by speaking on his and others groundbreaking research on the ill-effects of light at night. The issue has recently seen a large amount of press from popular news sources such as The New Yorker (Aug. 20, 2007), U.S. News & World Report (March 24, 2008), and O The Oprah Magazine (August, 2008). Dr. Stevens was clear to outline the theory and the predictions (or hypotheses) behind the theory and then proceeded to describe the level of studies conducted on each prediction. (To review the theory and the hypotheses’’ make sure to view presentation at here).
President of the IDA Board of Directors, Chris Monrad, concluded the briefing by emphasizing the energy savings possibilities, showing examples of removal and replacement projects using dark sky friendly and energy-efficient technology. He also emphasized the current energy and building codes (LEED, ASHRAE, DOE, etc.) and the request for a more comprehensive and cohesive set of codes. Chris also relayed the importance of the loss of human heritage and the connection to the night sky.
In regards to the loss of human heritage and connection to the night sky, our IDA Chicago section, shared drawings done by children at the Taste of Chicago Event on July 4, 2008. They included requests such as “I want to see MORE Stars” or comparison images of “The sky in my backyard…The way the sky should be in my backyard.” These images added a personal touch to the registration and sign-in table. IDA representatives then delivered these images to the Illinois Senators because as Audrey Fischer of the IDA Chicago Section stated, “These kids, hundreds of them, realize they just wrote their very first message to their Senators…you can see it in their eyes.” (To see a sample of the images shared with the Illinois Senators and staffers attending the briefing please go here).
Following the briefing, Senate and House aides proceeded to individually speak with and ask questions of both the speakers and the IDA representatives.
IDA would like to thank all of those that wrote or called your Senators or Representatives offices; it made a difference. Some staffers explained that due to constituents calls, they were attending the briefing. Congratulations and thank you for being a part of the historic briefing.
Senate Offices Represented:
House Offices Represented:
Friday, June 20, 2008 the International Dark-Sky Association and fellow endorsing organizations hosted a congressional briefing at noon to show the U.S. government that light pollution is a national (and international) issue that should be considered at the federal level. IDA highlighted the consequences associated with improper night lighting. Over 50 legislative assistants in the fields of science, environment, energy and health attended this overbooked event.
Discussion topics included the consequences for human health, with Dr. David Blask, Senior Research Scientist and Head of Laboratory of Chrono-Neuroendocrine Oncology at Bassett Healthcare Institute (NY, USA); wasted energy of light pollution, with Lee Cooper, Manager of Emerging Technologies at Pacific Gas & Electric (CA, USA); and the ecological consequences of artificial night lighting, with Dr. Travis Longcore of the Urban Wildlands Group and co-editor of “Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting.”