Illuminating a dark subject at Coupeville talk

Audubon Society hosts discussion on better ways to light the night

Switch off the porch light at home.

Adopt LED technology to illuminate roads and parking lots.

But make sure the change is helpful, not harmful to humans and wildlife.

These points on light are likely to be discussed Thursday evening during a Whidbey Audubon Society presentation called “Shedding Light on the Role of Dark.” Doors open at 7 p.m. The free program begins at 7:30 p.m. at Coupeville Recreation Hall.

Open to the public, the talk will address “the possible negative consequences of too much and incorrect outdoor lighting and what is being done both locally and globally to address these issues,” said Susan Prescott, Whidbey Audubon publicity chair.

Artificial light and its myriad of consequences on migratory birds, insects, nesting sea turtles and other wildlife has been recognized for years. More recently the dark sky movement addresses the over-illumination of cities and the fading opportunity to view a panoramic black night sky of twinkling stars and planets.

Useless Bay residents Joe and Joann Quintana, members of the International Dark Sky Association, will be presenters along with Jay Adams, an avid Coupeville bird watcher.

The Quintanas’ digital presentation will illustrate the effects of light pollution and show examples of dark sky lighting that minimize the harm of light pollution.

“Eighty percent of people in the U.S. can’t see the Milky Way and will never see the Milky Way,” said Joe Quintana.

Over the past decade, some resort areas and communities across the country, including Coupeville, switched from conventional to light emitting diodes, or LED, to lower energy costs and reduce reliance on fossil-based fuels.

Currently, Langley is gauging public opinion of different levels of LED lights it has installed at one intersection.

But the LED solution may be causing adverse consequences. In 2016, the American Medical Association recognized that high-intensity LED lighting emits a large amount of blue light that appears white to the naked eye and creates worse nighttime glare than conventional lighting.

The AMA adopted guidelines for communities that recommend installing the lowest emission of blue light to “minimize glare and detrimental human health and environmental effects.”

That strategy now has a Nobel Prize to back it up.

Earlier this month, the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was awarded jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young “for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm.”

The award is seen as an affirmation of the importance of understanding how organisms, including humans, respond biochemically to changes in the intensity of light in their surroundings.

Adams plans to discuss how Coupeville’s new lamps only address part of the light-at-night problem. He’ll suggest other steps that might be taken to reduce stray and unnecessary night lighting, according to a press release.

Steps Langley could take to become a certified dark sky city may also be discussed. While Island County adopted new lighting standards in 2000 — such as requiring outdoor private resident and business lights in unincorporated areas be pointed toward the ground and not the night sky — enforcement has been lacking, advocates said.

Turning to groups such as the Audubon Society to get more involved in the dark sky movement seems natural, remarked Joann Quintana. “Birds use stars to navigate at night. The sky is their habitat,” she said. “Environmental groups have made huge strides on various issues. They know what it takes.”

• “Shedding Light on the Role of Dark,” will be presented by Whidbey Audubon Society, 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12. Free and open to the public. Doors open at 7 p.m. Coupeville Recreation Hall, 901 N. Alexander Street.

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