Turning down the lights! Everybody’s doing it. In Paris, France the “city of light,” all shops, offices and public buildings will extinguish their nightlights between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m., effective July 2013. Whether motivated by energy savings or the desire to reduce their need for nuclear and fossil fuel plants, Paris’ action will be dramatic.
Dramatic and simple – turning off night-time lights, reducing night wattage and shielding exterior lights are all easy ways to conserve energy and help the environment. With considerable studies showing the unintended adverse consequences of night-time lighting, the time to act is now. That’s why we are so excited about the updated Exterior Lighting Standards Ordinance coming up for vote at the Tuesday, January 22, 2013 Ojai City Council meeting, thanks to Coalition member, Gail Topping.
Gail has been addressing this issue since attending a valley-wide meeting on the environment in 2007, and has been working with the OVGC and the Ojai City Planning Department since October 2008 to redraft the existing lighting ordinance itself. Gail distilled ideas from the ordinances of several towns that have similar size, topography, rural character, and are tourist dependent. The California cities used were Santa Ynez, San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica along with Tucson, Arizona; Ketchum, Idaho; and Boulder, Colorado.
Gail has also worked tirelessly to educate the public, meeting with business owners, distributing literature, and writing articles. You may also remember the 2011 presentation, “Dark Skies & Starry Nights,” an event produced by then eighth grader Erin Rush, with Gail’s guidance.
As a side note, Erin recently received an award from the International Dark Sky Association in the ‘Rising Star’ category for planning and executing this event, which included the film “City Dark” (available in our lending library), Q&A with lighting advocates, and stargazing through massive telescopes provided by the Santa Barbara Astronomical Unit. Over 100 people came up to Meditation Mount for this great starry party.
If you are concerned about light pollution and reducing our lighting energy consumption in the valley, please come to a planning workgroup January 8, 5:15 p.m. at the OVGC Resource Center (327 E. Ojai Ave.). We will strategize on how to help get the updated lighting ordinance passed and discuss further outreach, including becoming a “Designated Dark Sky Community.”
The wasteful evening illumination of unused buildings, parking lots and streets obscures the stars in our night sky and disrupts the circadian rhythms of humans and wildlife, damaging our environment in ways we are only beginning to understand.
A study by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences has said that excess night light does more than waste energy; it interferes with natural chemical reactions that clean our atmosphere during the dark nighttime hours. Nitrate radicals (forms of nitrogen oxide) normally break down, or scavenge, the chemicals that become air pollution. Unfortunately, the pollution binding nitrate radicals are destroyed by any visible light, including manmade. The study found that the night lights of Los Angeles are cutting down the production of nitrate radicals by seven percent.
This is worth our time and attention. Please join us in requesting lights ‘down’. Attend the January 8 strategy planning at 5:15 p.m. and the January 22 Ojai city council meeting beginning at 7 p.m.