CENTRAL ARKANSAS ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY
March 16, 2010
Mr. Hugh McDonald
President & CEO
Entergy Arkansas, Inc.
Dear Mr. McDonald:
We are writing in regards to the flier that were inserted in this month’s Entergy bills entitled “Light it Up!” which promote the sale by Entergy to your customers of unshielded, dawn-to-dusk, high wattage security lighting. The unshielded design of these light fixtures offers neither a chance to direct the light effectively or contain it from shining beyond property lines where it may be unwelcome. This type of light creates glare, light trespass and contributes to light pollution.
Your flier states that that these lights will give “peace of mind” for “just pennies a day” and “It’s a fact: You can deter intruders with our security lighting.” We strongly disagree that such irresponsible lighting is necessary to deter crime. Instead we strongly recommend that Entergy customers be made aware security lighting that carry the International-Dark Sky Association (IDA) Fixture Seal of Approval (FSA) as dark sky friendly fixtures, which are by far more environmentally responsible than the lighting being promoted in the “Light it Up!” promotion.
The Central Arkansas Astronomical Society (CAAS) is a non-profit organization that promotes astronomy education in Little Rock and through-out central Arkansas. Our primary mission is to promote the hobby of amateur astronomy and science education within Little Rock and through-out all of central Arkansas. For example, CAAS in conjunction with the Pinnacle Mountain and Woolly Hollow State Parks hosts seven public star parties each year. During these star parties, CAAS members using large aperture telescopes share views of the heavens with members of the public without charging admission. The star parties held in 2009 at these parks were attended by hundreds of people. The attendees included families, scouts, and high school and college students enrolled in science classes. Most of these star partiers enjoyed their very first view ever through a telescope with views of the moon, Jupiter, galaxies and nebulas as well as naked eye views of the Milky Way.
Astronomers world-wide decry the loss of the beauty of the night sky. In 1988 astronomers founded the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), a registered 501(c) (3) organization, with the mission to preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies. IDA promotes the use of “environmentally responsible outdoor lighting,” which provides safe and secure lighting for both business property and homes and combats light pollution. Dark skies are necessary not only for professional scientific research to learn more about our Universe but also for the family in central Arkansas to go into their backyard and look up and see the awesome beauty of the Milky Way.
Saving both the beauty and the science of the night sky should be reason enough to make a stand against light pollution. But recent studies strongly indicate that the damage to our environment by light pollution runs deeper than just disrupting recreational stargazers and astronomical research. The damage from light pollution is very real. It results in a huge waste of energy. Wasted outdoor lighting, lighting which shines upward and does not reach its intended target, is estimated by the IDA to amount to 22,000 gigawatt-hours per year. At an average of 10 cents per kilo-watt hours this equals $2.2 billion and translates to 3.6 million tons of coal or 12.9 million barrels of oil per year.
Light pollution has also been implicated in causing insomnia and disease in humans by interfering with circadian cycles. In June of just last year the American Medical Association House of Delegates issued a resolution, which advocates that all future outdoor lighting be of energy efficient designs to reduce waste of energy and production of greenhouse gasses that result from this wasted energy use. The resolution also noted that light trespass – unwanted light pollution that enters another’s home – “has been implicated in disruption of human and animal circadian rhythms, and strongly suspected as an etiology of suppressed melatonin production, depressed immune systems, and increased in cancer rates such as breast cancer.” Further, the AMA resolution reads that nighttime glare “causes decreased nighttime visibility by pupil constriction” thus actually reducing safety rather than promoting it.
Bright lights from urban areas and unshielded security lighting in rural areas also disrupt the ecosystems of both migratory birds and nocturnal animals.
Finally, we find the statements in your flier regarding lighting’s deterrence on crime to be disingenuous. According to a University of Maryland study presented to the U.S. Congress on behalf of the National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, it is inconclusive that street lighting is an effective approach in the reduction and deterrence of crime. Preventing Crime, What Works, What Doesn’t, What’s Promising, Sherman, et al, 1979.
This Saturday evening at 8 p.m. we are co-hosting a public star party with the staff of Woolly Hollow State Park, ay the park which is near Greenbrier. Please accept this as a warm invitation to you, your family, all Entergy employees and their families to be inspired by the beauty that inspired the Psalmist to pen “The Heavens declare the glory of God!”
If you need even further information about light pollution issues, please visit the IDA’s website which is at www.darksky.org
Central Arkansas Astronomical Society