I would be very grateful if you could consider the possibility of running a TV program addressing the theme "Light Pollution" in the near future. Light Pollution has made the front page of the Toronto Globe and Mail, and this generated dozens of other stories in major newspapers like the Boston Globe and the New York Times. Last March, USA Today carried a story that was sent to millions of readers internationally. This, in turn, generated dozens of other stories, and there was even a live radio broadcast about light pollution on BBC. Several magazines carried stories about the problems of light pollution including, Country Living, Outside, Backpacker, National Geographic Traveler, and others. However, we haven't seen anything about it on the Discovery Channel yet.
How long mankind has stood in awe at the splendor, the majesty and the mystery of the star filled night sky. In just the last 70 years this has been erased from the view of 90% of American citizens today, because of the misguided and excessive outdoor night lighting we have. The universe is going away, gone already for many. The universe is an important part of the environment, to astronomy and to the general public. For most people on earth, the dark skies our ancestors had have disappeared. The problem is light pollution, due mostly to improperly designed street and parking lot lighting which spills the light to the side and upwards to the sky. Additional light pollution is caused by lit signs, commercial building lights, sports facilities, and outdoor residential lights. Light pollution was noticed first by astronomers. The glow interferes with their ability to see the stars and galaxies. In a broader context, light pollution deprives everyone of the joys of seeing a sparkling night sky. The glare that results from light shining sideways or upwards can be annoying and potentially hazardous to both car drivers and airline pilots. Glare can be avoided by using properly designed light fixtures. Good design incorporates shielding that minimizes sideways and upward light leakage. Unwelcome Light "Trespass" is caused by situations such as streetlights that distribute light out to the sides and into people's windows. Light trespass is not only a bother and an inconvenience, it can actually interfere with other people's activities and use and enjoyment of property. It is possible to have outdoor night lighting, improved safety, AND stars. With good lighting, we help preserve the dark skies, we see better, we are safer and more secure, we have a more pleasant and comfortable nighttime environment, and we save a great deal of energy and money doing so. Neither astronomers nor the public need any of the adverse environmental effects of poor lighting.
Light Pollution has also been a major problem in underdeveloped countries that don't have a Light Pollution Control Bill. We waste an astronomical amount of energy and money by all this bad lighting, shining it where it is not needed or wanted (into the sky) and by using energy inefficient light sources and lighting designs. There is no benefit from lighting up the sky. Depending on the specific type of street light fixture, as much as 25% of its light may be wasted. Consider the energy costs in dollars when municipalities and townships in an average State spend over $40 million per year on street lighting. Better to use such money for improving our world, not mucking it up. One of the worst examples here in Brazil is ironically been sponsored by municipality in the city of Uberlandia, right across the Uberlandia Astronomical Observatory, where you can contact Mr. Roberto F. Silvestre through e-mail for further details. It would be interesting to add some footage from this location.
The International Dark-Sky Association (http://www.darksky.org) based in Tucson, Arizona, is fighting the problem of light pollution with a membership of nearly 4,000 members from 70 countries. IDA was incorporated in 1988 as a tax-exempt non-profit organization, exclusively for educational and scientific purposes. IDA's goals are to be effective in stopping the adverse environmental impact on dark skies by building awareness of the problem of light pollution and of the solutions, and to educate everyone about the value and effectiveness of quality nighttime lighting. Much has been accomplished in some locations, but much more needs to be done everywhere. Quality outdoor lighting means better visibility at night, freedom from glare, and very significant energy savings. Urban light glow destroys the beauty of our night skies and wastes an enormous amount of energy. Excessive or poorly designed security lights create an illusory sensation of safety for property-owners, but in reality it helps thieves hide in heavier shade and see their victims easier. A trashy looking confusing nighttime environment. We should be striving for a good-looking nighttime environment, just as we should be doing in the daytime. Such poor environments are part of the stress of today's life. The night is part of the environment too. Most existing astronomical observatories are suffering from light pollution. Amateurs and professionals alike are adversely affected by this environmental problem. Observatories are increasingly being threatened by these problems. The profoundly human experience of the inspiring beauty of the night sky is at risk for all people, not just scientists, as light pollution destroys our view of the cosmos.
I look forward to hearing from you soon.