Letter to Minister Roche

13 years 8 months ago #31180 by Keith g
Letter to Minister Roche was created by Keith g
Hi all, I've spent a lot of the day getting this together, but I hope it will be worthwhile. Here is a copy of what I have sent to Minister Dick Roche. Please find some time to read it as not only is it an important issue for us, but my fingers are killing me :P
Keith..

Dear Minister Roche,
Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government

I am writing to you today on a matter of increasing concern which I believe should be brought to your attention, and within the confines of your Department, that is the matter which is now collectively known as 'Light Pollution' or Night time illumination by exterior lighting of buildings, roads and personal / industrial properties etc. As one of many Irish citizens engaging in the practice or 'hobby' known as Astronomy, this has indeed developed to be a major issue in recent years.

Whilst it is to be commended that issues such as Litter Pollution and Noise Pollution are addressed within your department, could I suggest that the issue of Light Pollution be addressed also? With Ireland's continued economic success over the last ten years or so (and that is a good thing), it is without doubt that the quality of our night sky has deteriorated significantly with more and more area's of Ireland suffering from orange 'skyglow' in out towns and cities. Indeed it would be ludicrous to suggest that all lights be turned off at night time, such as roadside lights and streetlights which are obviously necessary, I believe that this problem merits some attention. The Irish Light Pollution Awareness Campaign (ILPAC) has already asked the Irish government to take similar steps to ensure that intrusive or excessive lighting is recognised as a nuisance in law. irishastronomy.org/ilpac/ www.darksky.org/

First and foremost, this problem has become so bad in the UK, that recently (April 2006) a new bill called the "Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005" has come into effect, This bill deals with this issue, and it's main purpose is to protect people from issues arising from local Light Pollution. Members of the British public can now make a complaint to their local council against a situation which makes light nuisance subject to the same criminal law as noise and smells. It applies to "artificial light emitted from premises so as to be prejudicial to health or a nuisance". The details of that bill can be viewed here:
www.defra.gov.uk/Environment/localenv/le...ation/cnea/index.htm

Since we have no such legislation, would it not be possible in the simplest form to consider engaging in the exploration of the introduction of a similar bill here in Ireland? There are a number of issues arising from Light Pollution namely :

1. Security - The increasing use of very strong and widely available 500Watt exterior lighting bulbs within industrial, personal and public properties has led to the following observations:
a) that there is no significant reduction in rates of crime with excessive lighting at night, on the contuary, since more is now seen, more can be targetted by would-be criminals www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/prgpdfs/fcpu29.pdf
b) Conflict between Neighbours - Light intruding into neighbouring homes and properties keep people awake at night, destroying any sense of privacy, and increasing anxiety, also it has been medically proven that denying people a good night's sleep can result in various medical problems, Hence, complaints against "security" floodlights have increased dramatically in relation to this problem. Here is one such example:
www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml;sess...amp;_requestid=37231

2. Wildlife - Many birds and animals are affected by stray light intruding into their night world, confusing their natural patterns, deterring them from established foraging areas, and affecting their breeding cycles (causing premature breeding). Also trees provide entire ecosystems to many animal and insect species, and are detrimentally affected by light pollution. Trees need to adjust to seasonal variations, and artificial light prevents them from doing so - many trees are prevented from loosing their leaves by bad lighting. This has an effect on the wildlife that depend on the trees as their natural habitat. For example, many birds are unable to nest in trees due to the surrounding light pollution.
www.celfosc.org/biblio/bio/Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2(4)-2004.pdf

3. Stars and the Appreciation of the Night Sky - the light that is wasted upwards reflects off the atmosphere, causing the smog that hangs over all major cities at night (this smog is usually orange thanks to ill-designed sodium street-lights). The awe and wonder of the Universe is being lost to the younger generations. There are many amatueur astronomers, and some major observatories in Ireland alone that are affected by Light Pollution. Many people, including myself, have to now drive to an increasingly hard to find 'dark-site' for observation and night time photography, also our ever popular 'star-parties' are under threat. Preserving our deep astronomical and scientific heritage should not be put under threat from the Light Pollution 'nuisance'.
www.britastro.org/dark-skies/stars.html?7O#astronomy

4. Economic Cost - A combination of badly designed exterior lighting (non full cut-off lighting which wastes a lot of light up into the air instead of the ground, leading to a greater number of lights required) and widespread availability of household and industrial 500Watt lights has dramatically increased the costs in running these lights at night. The financial demand placed on running this type of lighting has led to some area's turning off or limiting the use of night time lighting to save money. With the increasing cost of energy today, this only adds to an already strained demand on Ireland's electricity supply grid. If water were leaking from a tap, it would be repaired promptly to avoid wasting money. Why isn't the same action taken for a leaking light? Some cities such as Calgary in Canada, and Oslo, Norway have taken some initiatives:
content.calgary.ca/CCA/City%20Hall/Busin...trofit%20Program.htm

Also Essex County Council in England has done some work: www.treehugger.com/files/2006/07/street_lights_o_1.php

If unchecked , Ireland will have to pay out large fines under the Kyoto protocol. Much of these fines would be related to energy production, and the cost of the fines would most likely be passed on to consumers via their utility bills.

I note optimistically, that both Kerry and Clare County Councils of late have have taken the initiative, and have undertaken a pledge to require that future developments 'will be required to demonstrate that the lighting scheme proposed is the minimum needed for security and working purposes', but legislation I believe, is required at a national level to ensure that light pollution can be treated as a nuisance and provide the public with the right to object to it.

There is now growing momentum regarding this issue, not only internationally, but also here at home. Some active participants are our own group: www.irishastronomy.org/boards/viewforum.php?f=20
and www.astronomy.ie/

In summary, I hope that I have outlined the major concerns we encounter today regarding this issue, both ILPAC and myself included would be delighted should you or any member of your staff wish to discuss this proposal further.

Yours Sincerely & Kind Regards,
Keith Geary,
Kingscourt,
Co.Cavan.

If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson

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13 years 8 months ago #31183 by mjs
Replied by mjs on topic Re: Letter to Minister Roche
Well done Keith, nicely written and to the point.
Thanks for taking the time and trouble to do what we should all be doing more of ..... :oops:

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13 years 8 months ago #31190 by dave_lillis
Replied by dave_lillis on topic Re: Letter to Minister Roche
Well done Keith,
Alas, the only item in your list (IMHO) that will make an impact on the government will be the financial argument, I dont think any other arguments will be listened to.
If you can say the country will save money in a world with dwindling oil reserves and reduce the need for a nuclear station, they'd listen.
As it happens, its not just words, its actually the truth !!

Dave L. on facebook , See my images in flickr
Chairman. Shannonside Astronomy Club (Limerick)

Carrying around my 20" obsession is going to kill me,
but what a way to go. :)
+ 12"LX200, MK67, Meade2045, 4"refractor

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13 years 8 months ago #31191 by Eirikg
Replied by Eirikg on topic Re: Letter to Minister Roche
verry well written, many good points ;) :D

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13 years 8 months ago #31194 by Keith g
Replied by Keith g on topic Re:

Alas, the only item in your list (IMHO) that will make an impact on the government will be the financial argument,


Agreed, that's why I left that until last, just so it would not be forgotten about easily.

Feel free to pass this around to various lists / forums that you see fit, if you wish. It's something that affects us all here, and it's time to address this issue that just won't go away.

Keith..

If a telescope can fit into your backyard it's too small. If you can't move it, it's too big." -- John Dobson

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13 years 8 months ago #31200 by Seanie_Morris
Replied by Seanie_Morris on topic Re: Letter to Minister Roche
That is a well-written letter Keith, fair dues to you for taking the initiative on this. Lets hope that notice will be taken of it, and not just brushed aside with the standard reply from his office of 'the minister has received your letter and is looking into it...' crap.

Seanie.

Midlands Astronomy Club.
Radio Presenter (Midlands 103), Space Enthusiast, Astronomy Outreach Co-ordinator.
Former IFAS Chairperson and Secretary.

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13 years 8 months ago #31258 by darren
Replied by darren on topic Re: Letter to Minister Roche
well done Kieth very well put
regards Darren

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13 years 8 months ago #31278 by albertw
Replied by albertw on topic Re: Letter to Minister Roche
Great Letter Keith. An example to everyone of the kind of letter to write to government and local authorities.

Cheers,
~Al
--
ILPAC - www.irishastronomy.org/ilpac/

Albert White MSc FRAS
Chairperson, International Dark Sky Association - Irish Section
www.darksky.ie/

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13 years 7 months ago #31383 by philiplardner
Replied by philiplardner on topic Re: Letter to Minister Roche
Well done on taking the initiative. I hope you'll keep us posted on any replies and progress.

Phil.

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