Prescription For Light Pollution

by Tammy Plotner on June 19, 2009

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There’s good news ahead for dark sky supporters – a real prescription for light pollution. It’s called Resolution 516: Advocating and Support for Light Pollution Control Efforts and Glare Reduction for Both Public Safety and Energy Savings. What’s it all about and how did it turn out? Then step inside… Where it’s dark at last.

Resolution 516 asks our American Medical Association to: (1) advocate that all future outdoor lighting be of energy efficient designs to reduce waste of energy and production of greenhouse gasses that result from this wasted energy use; (2) support light pollution reduction efforts and glare reduction efforts at both the national and state levels; and (3) AMA support efforts to ensure all future streetlights be of a fully shielded design or similar non-glare design to improve the safety of our roadways for all, but especially vision impaired and older drivers.

Your Reference Committee heard unanimous testimony in support of this resolution. Excessive light pollution comprises an inefficient use of energy and is a public health hazard for drivers, as well as an environmental disruption for several species. .In addition, it was acknowledged that several states have light pollution measures currently enacted and that national legislation on this issues is pending. Your reference committee recognizes the important environmental and public health implications of this resolution.

The American Medical Association, AMA, has officially approved the following lighting resolutions on June 15, 2009. These resolutions are now official AMA Policy:

RESOLVED – That our AMA advocate that all future outdoor lighting be of energy efficient designs to reduce waste of energy and production of greenhouse gasses that result from this wasted energy use, and be it further

RESOLVED – That our AMA develop and enact a policy that supports light pollution reduction efforts and glare reduction efforts at both the national and state levels; and be it further

RESOLVED – That our AMA support that all future streetlights will be of a fully shielded design or similar non-glare design to improve the safety of our roadways for all, but especially vision impaired and older drivers.

When and where will these changes begin to take place? We don’t know yet – but what we do know is the world is finally beginning to take a step in the right direction. Thanks to efforts from folks like the New England Light Pollution Advisory Group (NELPAG) and the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), educating our leaders and people who can take action about the affects of light pollution seems to be “just what the doctor ordered”.

About 

Tammy is a professional astronomy author, President Emeritus of Warren Rupp Observatory and retired Astronomical League Executive Secretary. She’s received a vast number of astronomy achievement and observing awards, including the Great Lakes Astronomy Achievement Award, RG Wright Service Award and the first woman astronomer to achieve Comet Hunter's Gold Status.

Bariman43 June 19, 2009 at 8:42 PM

YES! FINALLY! Now I’ll be able to see more stars than ever before! I hope this takes effect soon, as I have especially bad light pollution near my house. At times, it looked like the Sun was coming up because of how bright the light pollution is.

VikramV June 20, 2009 at 5:02 AM

More stars and a lower energy bill..

These procedures are needed to be applied in a more broader sense across countries all across the world

there are a lot of governments which dont even know the meaning of light pollution

its a long way to go, but we”ll be there

Jon Hanford June 20, 2009 at 2:18 PM

Great, the AMA gets it ! Let’s hope that other large professional organizations also ‘see the light :)

mb June 21, 2009 at 4:16 AM

Billboards are a major cause of a lot of Light Pollution. The street light requirements are definitely a step in the right direction. The plan needs to consider the multitude of sources for Light Pollution and be certain to include all aspects of setting guidelines for controlling it.

I live in Vermont. There is a state-wide ban on billboards and excessive use of neon signage.

It’s noticeably darker here because there aren’t hundreds, or thousands of 60-100 feet wide, 20 feet tall, light reflecting surfaces throwing stray light up to the sky.

Not to mention, it just nice to not have to look at the silly things: Divorce lawyers, ambulance chasers, diamond and gold jewelry ads, etc …. ugh!

Jon Hanford June 21, 2009 at 7:16 AM

Tammy, many thanks for including links to two well-known ‘light pollution , light trespass’ websites with valuable material about other hazards of bright, nighttime light pollution . As a long-time supporter of the IDA, I can attest to the many other reasons mentioned on their website that have nothing do with astronomy specifically ! Energy consumption, fully-shielded light fixtures & wasteful advertising lighting are only a few things that immediately come to mind. We may not be able to turn the tide, hopefully some of those parks being designated National Darkness Preserves in some Western Parks. Again, check out the IDA site here: http://www.darksky.org/ .

Astrofiend June 23, 2009 at 6:12 PM

It is good that this issue is getting some ‘air-play’, but the whole modus operandi of the dark-sky movement sits uneasily with me, for reasons that I’m not entirely sure about.

Am I the only one that thinks that it is pretty weird to be persuading the AMA to take up our cause through, let’s face it, a pretty tenuous link? And, them having taken this up as official policy, how will this possibly translate into real-world benefits for LPR? How much clout is a medical association likely to have in political circles on the issue of light pollution?

I mean, I am passionate about dark skies and reduction of light pollution, but it seems like in sheer desperation we’re trying to get anyone on board whom we can persuade with even the most questionable arguments.

We talk about light trespass, driving safety, power savings, environmental disruption of various species, vague claims about ‘benefits for public health’ and so on. No doubt in a couple of years there will be more that we can add to that list once people have thought long and hard enough about it. Now, these I guess can be regarded as important issues, but it seems disingenuous. It seems as if we astronomers are drumming up support and dredging up any issue we can no matter how minor, while deliberately leaving astronomy or night sky preservation out of the debate entirely so as to not seem like a minority group with an agenda and pure self interest at heart. Ironically, it seems that the more we go in this direction, the more people seem to question why it is that people would be so passionate about a seemingly mundane issue such as light pollution, and then realising the answer, write us off completely with the ‘interest group’ label we studiously try to avoid.

I guess, in the end, we’ll take anything we can get, and we’ll have to keep pushing peripheral (as far as we’re concerned) arguments to advance our cause because most of the public just couldn’t care less (that’s if they don’t simply show outright hostility) about any sort of environmental issue if it inconveniences them in even the slightest way or there is the merest chance that even a single tax-payer dollar could be spent on it.

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