Green Lighting – Dark Sky – $1.7 Billion Government Secret Ops Program?


Dark Sky: $1.7 billion program
Government Secret Ops Program?


WARNING: The following involves a private organization steamrolling their agenda with the support of congressional members, a very revealing and detailed graphic image, and may not be suitable for young children. We suggest you also secure your pets and lock your front door.

Program Objectives: Helpful or Sinister?

Dark Sky is the project codename of The International Dark Sky Association (IDA), a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation whose mission is to “preserve and protect the nighttime environment and our heritage of dark skies through quality outdoor lighting.”

Sounds sinister. But wait, it gets scarier. Read on:

The IDA is no nerdy high school astronomy club trying to get better views of the Milky Way. With offices in Tucson, Belgium, and Australia, and 11,000 members in 79 countries paying up to $10,000 each, a robust educational initiative, and a public relations machine that has national media spotlighting them and congressional members writing letters to support them, IDA has been a rising star in responsible and energy-efficient lighting.

True, all the IDA wants is to return nighttime skies to their natural state for the sake of astronomy buffs and moonlit lovers. They have found a number of ways to appeal to a wider audience through environmental benefits (reducing 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide from 6 million tons of coal or 23 million tons of oil, and more robust animal populations) and financial benefits ($1.7 billion of wasted money can be reclaimed through efficiency). And through their well-orchestrated public relations momentum, we may get 2009 ENERGY STAR specifications for outdoor lighting.

They certainly sound like a private sector fancy, fat cat, pork-barreling special interest group manipulating everyone through public relations in order to serve five or ten core members at the expense of the rest to us. Except we are all served by their efforts; there is no “rest of us.”

Who’s Funding The $1.7 Billion To Light Up the United States Sky?

The answer is you and me. This is IDA’s estimate of the cost of the lighting that goes directly into the U.S. nighttime sky. Add billions of dollars more to get the global total.

Revealing NASA Photo Catches Everyone in the Act

A NASA composite photo of the entire Earth shows lights visible from space, including the global hotspots such as the United States ($1.7 billion wasted to generate US lights), Western Europe, Japan, and Western China.

The White House, Pentagon, and Congress . . .

IDA is becoming an unstoppable juggernaut, and increasingly successful in gaining wider media coverage and federal government support.

Study and learn from this sequence carefully – it shows a well-orchestrated public relations strategy to get changes enacted at the national level. (I omitted a lot of their local and regional media coverage and their successes in penetrating scientific communities and professional and trade organizations. You can see more on their home page.)

And whatever you do, we strongly warn you to not get in their way.

Some recent events and coverage:

  • August 30, 2008 – The New York Times publishes an essay, “Helping the Stars Take Back the Night”
  • August 20, 2008 – ENERGY STAR releases pending 2009 guidelines for specifications calling for full shielding of solid state lighting (LED) luminaire street lights.
  • August 4, 2008 – Eleven members of Congress write a letter to the EPA, requesting it to begin to define light pollution; list its effects on health, safety, and the environment; incorporate these into ENERGY STAR standards, and expand education about light pollution.
  • July 25, 2008 – The Wall Street Journal publishes “It’s All About the Lighting: City Lights Are Obscuring Our Starry Nights”
  • June 20, 2008 — IDA and fellow endorsing organizations host a congressional briefing, showing the U.S. government that light pollution is a national (and international) issue that should be considered at the federal level. IDA highlighted the consequences associated with improper night lighting.
  • June 12, 2008 – The Daily Star, a newspaper serving “the Heartland of New York”, publishes a health-related article, “Doctor speaks out on artificial light”
  • March 14, 2008 – US News and World Report publishes, “Turning Out the Lights”
  • August 20, 2007 – The New Yorker publishes “The Dark Side”

The White House and the Pentagon aren’t directly involved yet. (The White House is connected, since ENERGY STAR is a joint program of the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Energy. Their department heads report to the President.)

But with a bit of creative thinking backed by research, I feel confident the IDA can find ways to make light pollution reduction very appealing to military and strategic national interests.

Is There Anything You Can You Do To Shrink This Waste?

Yes. The IDA offer this overall suggestion:

“Do the best possible professional lighting design for the task. Include all relevant factors such as glare, light trespass, and light pollution.”

Specifically, they give four solutions minimize light pollution without compromising in any way nighttime safety, security, or utility:

  1. Use night lighting only when necessary. Turn off lights when they are not needed. Timers can be very effective. Use the correct amount of light for the need; more is not better.
  2. Direct the light downward, where it is needed. The use and effective placement of well-designed fixtures will achieve excellent lighting control. When possible, retrofit or replace all existing fixtures of poor quality. In all cases, the goal is to use fixtures that control the light well, minimizing glare, light trespass, light pollution, and energy usage.
  3. Use low pressure sodium (LPS) light sources whenever possible. This is the best possible light source to minimize adverse effects on astronomical activities. LPS lamps are also the most energy-efficient light sources that exist. Areas where LPS is especially good include street lighting, parking lot lighting, security lighting, and any application where color rendering is not critical.
  4. Avoid development near existing observatories, and apply rigid controls on outdoor lighting when development is unavoidable. Such controls do not compromise safety, security, or utility. Outdoor lighting ordinances and codes have been enacted by many communities to enforce quality and effective nighttime lighting.


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