RCA's IDA Conference Representatives Return with Fresh Ideas

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The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) hosted its Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Utah this year and Dawn Nilson, RCA’s Dark Sky Preservation Director, and Mike McKeag, RCA’s Youth Director, were in attendance. Dark-Sky researchers and advocates came from all over the world — China, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States — to network and share preservation success stories, improved lighting technologies, scientific impact analyses, and outreach ideas. RCA’s list of 2019 “to do’s” in support of dark-sky preservation has grown thanks to the inspiration gained from our attendance at the AGM. You can lend your support to the cause in many ways.

What Can I Do to Promote Dark Skies?

In 2019 RCA will start seeking state-level support for astrotourism. Utah has a larger number of IDA-designated Dark-Sky Parks than anywhere else in the world making it a great place for IDA’s 30th anniversary. Utah is fortunate to have state departments (e.g., State Parks, Community Development Office, State Tourism Office) and the University of Utah as its strongest dark-sky advocates. Economically successful “astrotourism” within the state has propelled Utah to be a leader in dark-sky preservation. Oregon, too, has exceptional dark skies that could generate astrotourism. These places are at risk as cities and towns grow and new lighting is installed without consideration of the potential, adverse effects.

Germans manage to safely drive 110 k/h on German highways with no street light. It’s only because of different perceptions that Americans don’t feel safe driving without street lights. There is little scientific evidence to support bright, uniform street lighting.

IDA will soon be making video footage and papers from the AGM available to members. If you aren’t already an IDA member, please consider membership to “the recognized authority on light pollution and the leading organization combating light pollution worldwide.” In December the RCA Board will be discussing the opportunity to become an official IDA-Affiliate. Such affiliation will further leverage the work we’ve been doing at RCA and the work that IDA is doing internationally.

As you engage with others at work, in your community, and elsewhere, please share these notable take-home messages from the AGM:

  • You can regularly and easily contribute to the research being done to determine the levels of light pollution in our skies through the Globe at Night Program. You can use the phone app “Loss of Night” to contribute or go online at https://www.globeatnight.org/. Take a reading at least once a year and make a difference.

  • Using a properly designed and fully shielded LED light only where needed, when needed, and as much as needed has many advantages over other lighting choices. The major issue with LED lights is that they generally emit more blue light than other options. More and more studies are revealing that this blue light at night interferes with the natural, biological rhythms of plants and animals. Additionally, blue light scatters more (ergo: blue skies by day) and thus causes glare.

  • Cities often claim that they must provide lighting or they will be sued. There is no legal legitimacy in that claim.

  • Germans manage to safely drive 110 k/h on German highways with no street light. It’s only because of different perceptions that Americans don’t feel safe driving without street lights. There is little scientific evidence to support bright, uniform street lighting.

  • Most studies on LED lighting exclude people over age 40 from the studies. Symptoms of an aging eye are normally revealed at 40. Such symptoms include increased sensitivity to glare, more time required to adjust to bright light and/or darkness, and reduced contrast sensitivity. These symptoms are aggravated from poorly designed and placed lights.

  • The IDA has developed model lighting ordinances for electronic billboards and community sports fields. Please bring these MLO’s to the attention of your local planning department and elected representatives.

Please contact Dawn Nilson at ida@rosecityastronomers.org to learn how you too can be an active dark-sky advocate.