Robert Amick: Dark Sky designation for Dinosaur National Monument is commendable
It is unfortunate that the Moffat County Commissioners have taken a position suggesting that International Dark Sky Association Dark Sky Park designation of Dinosaur National Monument poses a threat to energy development. It simply does not. Most of the lighting technology used on drilling rigs and sites is a classic example of obsolete 20th century wasteful and poorly designed lighting technology that directs light outward and upward into the night sky causing light pollution and trespass.
Energy production and development companies should engage a qualified lighting design engineer to outfit their drilling apparatus with state-of-the-art non-polluting warm white LED cutoff luminaire technology. Consequently, light trespass and pollution could be virtually eliminated resulting in a win-win outcome for dark sky preservation while concurrently not posing any threat to energy development.
Obsolete, inefficient and light-polluting luminaries (light fixtures) direct light into the visual field of drivers and pedestrians causing loss of adaptive vision (similar to driving down the road while facing a setting sun). When the human eye perceives a bright light source, adaptive vision causes the pupil of the eye to constrict and limits the amount of light entering the eye causing a substantial reduction of visual acuity. This phenomenon may result in inability to see more dimly lit objects (e.g., oncoming vehicles, deer and elk, vehicles parked alongside the roadway), that could result in a collision or loss of control, with related injury, death and property damage.
The International Dark Sky Association in collaboration with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America has promoted and advocated for a reduction of light pollution and light trespass caused by poorly designed, obsolete and wasteful lighting technology.
More than half of the world’s population has never seen a pristine dark sky in which celestial bodies such as stars, comets, meteors, planets, satellites and the milky way galaxy are easily viewed. Most residents of urban areas only see a murky gray night sky where only the moon can only occasionally be seen at full brightness due to light pollution.
What the Dinosaur National Monument has achieved in being designated as a Dark Sky Park is highly commendable, and enhances the historic dark sky night appearance of the original area that was seen by the 19th century pioneers and Native Americans of Northwestern Colorado.
Prior to the early 20th century introduction of light-polluting outdoor high intensity street and highway lighting, buildings with light polluting floodlighting, sports lighting of athletic fields and many other inappropriate lighting technology applications, such issues were rarely present especially in rural areas.
The net effect of light pollution and light trespass is far more serious to human health and safety than most people realize.
Light pollution is associated with health risks to humans and animals as a result of the inappropriate proliferation of blue-white light that affects circadian rhythms (sleep cycles) and is caused directly by both outdoor and indoor blue-white lighting sources.
Current research has shown a verified connection as affirmed by the American Medical Association strongly advocates use of “dark sky-friendly” warm white cutoff outdoor illumination technology (and similar interior lighting technology) as a means helping prevent or reduce the incidence of serious and fatal metabolic diseases such as breast cancer. Moreover, sleep deprivation resulting from exposure to blue-white light through computer and television screens, as well as “daylight” color temperature (4,000 to 6,500 degrees Kelvin) fluorescent and LED lighting which is similar to sunlight should not be used after the sun sets.
All outdoor and indoor lighting should have a color temperature of 3,000 degrees Kelvin or less. Lamps will have a color temperature identification on their packaging indicating a color temperature scale ranging from “warm white” which is 3,000K to bright or cool white at 4,000K and daylight at 5,000K to 6,500K. Only lamps rated at 3,000K or less should be used at night.
Highly efficient LED lamps should have a Color Rendering Index of at least 80 and higher than 90 is preferable for optimal full spectrum reproduction of natural colors of skin tones, foliage, fabrics, paint, etc.
How does color temperature and intensity of light affect human neurophysiology?
When the human eye perceives the presence of blue-white light (produced by sunlight), it signals the brain to suppress the production of the neurohormone melatonin which induces sleep. Consequently, the brain is tricked into thinking that “it is now daytime,” and begins to stimulate a hunger response, increased mental alertness and wakefulness associated with daytime activity.
This phenomenon may result in inability to experience a full night’s sleep and may cause irregular sleep cycles and patterns at night. Infants and children are particularly adversely affected by blue-white light at night.
Variable Color Temperature LED technology permits changing from cool colors during daytime hours to warm colors at night with a dimmer-type control device. Such technology is utilized in offices, schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities to promote sleep as night approaches, and conversely to stimulate wakefulness as daylight approaches.
Computers, smart phones, televisions can reduce blue-white light intensity by shifting to yellow and lessen brightness for night applications in most devices.
Sleep deprivation has devastating impacts on productivity, long term memory, and overall cognitive functions.
Drowsy driving and microsleep are thought to cause as many deaths as alcohol and drug impairment.
Wildlife are similarly affected by such lighting causing similar effects and impaired ability to navigate and sleep during the night where such lighting sources are impacting their natural habitat.
For a full description of these and related issues, and the Model Lighting Ordinance, see the IDA website at darksky.org.
County Commissioners and Town Governments urged to collaborate on adopting a universal MLO and to consult with the International Dark Sky Association for guidance on adoption of a Model Lighting Ordinance which many Colorado communities and counties have implemented as a means of educating the public, local governments as well as lighting retailers designers/engineers and contractors on appropriate and effective dark sky friendly lighting technology and light sources.
Moreover, rural electric utilities and communities are replacing their inefficient blue-white street lighting luminaries with new 3,000K warm white LED cutoff luminaries that direct light downward and not into the visual field of drivers or pedestrians passing along a roadway or parking area..
Energy production companies can become better community partners through upgrading to dark sky friendly efficient lighting technology which provides far better and safer working conditions for their employees and at the same time preventing light trespass and light pollution negative impacts on the environment and landscapes.
Reputable lighting design consultants and engineers with IESNA and IDA affiliations are recommended for optimal dark sky friendly lighting design consultation.