Slovenian Light Pollution Conference Report

12 years 5 months ago #52080 by albertw
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From: Albert White - Irish Light Pollution Awareness Campaign <info@ilpac.eu>
Date: 8 Oct 2007 18:32
Subject: Brief report from the 7th European Symposium on the protection of the Night Sky
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Hi All,

As most of you know the 7th European Symposium on the protection of the Night Sky was held in Bled, Slovenia last week. www.darksky2007.si/

There were light pollution activists from most European countries there including activists where there are currently no dark sky organisations. Hopefully by this time next year there will be International Dark Sky Association (IDA) sections set up in these countries. A new section in Beijing bring the total IDA membership to over 11,000 members in over 70 countries.

The event was attended by Alojz Peterle, the first democratically elected President of Slovenia and a current MEP and also Miroslav Ouzky, MEP President of the EU Parliament Environmental Committee.

The morning session on Friday introduced the issues of light pollution showing what it was, why it was a problem and how much it was costing, financially & environmentally. Among the problems highlighted were the loss of Dark starlit skies, the effect of lights on insects leading to other issues of biodiversity, and how glare is a more serious issue as people get older.

Leaders of the European IDA sections met for lunch with our guests from the EU Parliament and they seemed impressed with our arguments for introducing an EU directive. Mr. Ouzky mentioned that he is not generally in favour of introducing legislation at EU level and would rather see things change at national level. However he was impressed to hear about the National Light Pollution Laws (e.g. Slovenia, UK), the Regional Laws (e.g. Lombardy) and regional planning regulations (e.g. Ireland!). Since the case has already been made at local and national levels in some countries and since there is such EU wide cooperation he is interested in pursuing an EU directive. I will be following up with this with the Irish MEP's.

Some speakers spoke about the legislative changes that have been made in their regions. Of particular interest were the talks from the Italian delegates who showed the very detailed work they undertake to develop the regional laws in Italy and the challenges they face.

Biodiversity played a major part in several talks, in particular in relation to insects and bats. This was clearly demonstrated during a nighttime excursion to Bled Castle where bats and insects could clearly be see in the strong upward floodlights. Four varieties of bats were visible and countless varieties of moths. The insects are particularly attracted to lights that emit at the blue end of the spectrum, which helps explain why you see so few insects near old orange low pressure sodium lights. However some moths can travel towards lights from up to 20km away, so strong floodlights can have a devastating effect. The bats seem to enjoy the lights however as researches from Tirglav National Park pointed out this only bring short term benefit - as more insects are attracted tot he lights the food sources for the bats diminishes ultimately resulting in a drastic decrease in the insect population and also a decrease in the bat population. There is also the direct effects of lights on bats whereby if a light is shining onto the exist of their resting places their feeding habits can be disrupted. This is especially of concern to maternity colonies.

There were also a couple of papers presented on the effects of light pollution on health. The most interesting of these was regarding Melatonin ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin ) production by Klemen Spaninger. Melatonin a chemical produced in the brain at night, and its production can be inhibited by even dim light. (0.2 lux). This chemical is reputed to have anti cancer properties and can prevent DNA damage and also acts as an anti oxidant. The practical aspect to this research is that it indicates that badly directed streetlights (particularly ones that emit towards the blue end of the spectrum) can have a very detrimental affect on health.

Of the sponsors talks I found the presentation by Piero Cecchini from Minos Systems particularly interesting. This company sells and installs management software for street lighting. An electrical device connects to the main power of the streetlight (inside the pole or inside the luminaire itself), and in each street box a device is placed which can communicate back to a central control station and can even be operated via the internet. All signals are sent via the electrical mains and the devices have the ability to detect specific faults and also to dim the lights. Where this has been installed Mr. Cecchini claims it has paid for itself in typically 3 years in savings from electricity and maintenance, where 56% of the cost of running streetlights came from energy with the remaining 44% being maintenance related costs. Other sponsors showed the improvements they had made in Full Cut Off (FCO) design. Following a question from the audience they admitted than only ~25% of the luminaries they sold were of FCO design. They were then reminded that 75% of their sales in Slovenia are now breaking the law!

A couple of speakers presented details of how fixtures affect skyglow. Dr. Chris Baddley presented a paper where he modeled skyglow based on several luminaire designs; a paper he presented to the Institute of Lighting Engineers in Dublin the previous week. They key point from this talk was that any light just above the horizon contributes greatly to skyglow. Full Cut Off lights are the only way to reduce this problem.

I met with several colleagues who presented about mapping light pollution in papers at the previous conference in Portsmouth. The Cinzano maps (e.g. front page of www.ilpac.eu ) that are commonly used to show light pollution are now 6 years old. Since that time light pollution has gotten worse according to those mapping light pollution across Europe. I will be trialling a couple of methods to map the night sky brightness in South Dublin over the next few months which hopefully will give a better picture of current night sky brightness. Pierantonio Cinzano received the IDA's Galileo award at the conference for his outstanding contribution to understanding light pollution.

It was a very good symposium with many delegates from across Europe and in particular it was good to see such high level European politicians there. It has certainly set a high bar for the 2009 Symposium in Ireland!

The presentations should be available in the near future (I've skipped a lot in this report!) , but in the mean time I have uploaded the brochure for the symposium that was delivered to all MEP's in September to the ILPAC website www.ilpac.eu/content/view/38/25/

Best Wishes,
~Albert
_________________
Albert White MSc FRAS
Chairperson, International Dark Sky Association - Irish Section
www.ilpac.eu

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

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