Sample Letters/SCRIPTS for Fighting Light Pollution
WHY WRITE OR SPEAK TO YOUR TOWN?
Many cities are quickly replacing traditional, amber (orange) streetlights with white LEDs rich in the blue light we’ve all heard the warnings about to stay away from at night because of the bad health effects. Not only do these white lights hide the stars, but they can create dangerous *disability glare* for drivers, and are also harmful to wildlife and to people!
Please see the beginning of the video below, as it shows why white LEDs will greatly increase light pollution to the night sky and why we need amber dark-sky lighting. Learn more about white vs. amber LEDs under Amber LED Sources.
The majority of light pollution comes from streetlights (see 1:45 min mark of "Losing the Dark"). Make sure your streetlights are replaced with warm (yellow/amber colored) LEDs, before it's too late! The new lights will likely remain for 10 or 20+ years, unless your town fights back, as Davis, CA did.
Please email one of the four sample letters below about light pollution to either your mayor, city or county manager (please google to find them). Send them as is or feel free to add your own words and change them up.
If your city doesn't respond, you can forward your original letter back to them with a brief, polite follow up. Be persistent. If your voice isn't heard, don't give up! You can rally up support from those in your community, such as from local astronomy, beautification, health and environmental groups, (or a University's Landscape Architecture or Urban and Regional Planning departments), your neighbors (consider using the NextDoor app), or start an online petition if needed, like Houston, TX is doing, and Phoenix, AZ, who got their city to listen.
To further understand the different types of streetlights, please read about them here. Definitely address the many important reasons for stopping white LEDs, listed below, as energy efficiency, safety and health concerns to people and wildlife are also very important, and sadly, not all cities will be concerned about the stars. The safety and money aspects of lighting are what tend to get towns to listen the most. If you're in an area with fairly dark skies already, protecting them further could lead to an increase in tourism, especially if your town becomes a dark-sky community. This would mean more money for your town, and money talks! However, if the other reasons don't get their attention, perhaps preserving the beauty of the sky will (see last sample letter).
Thank you for helping in this era of light pollution and making the world a safer, healthier, more beautiful, wondrous place!
INVITED TO SPEAK?
If you get invited to speak or meet with your town, congratulations! If you'd like assistance with what to talk about, here is a helpful outline.
SAMPLE LETTERS. These can be used world-wide.
(The samples letters below are based on information gathered from The International Dark-Sky Association, Flagstaff Dark Skies Coalition, and the American Medical Association, as well as various news articles and lighting manufacturers. They are updated as new information comes in. Last Updated: February 2019).
SAMPLE LETTER (SUPER BRIEF UNDER 510 CHARACTERS--NOT RECOMMENDED UNLESS AN EMAIL FORM REQUIRES IT. PLEASE FOLLOW-UP WITH MORE INFORMATION AFTER YOU HEAR BACK).
I am writing to express my concern about the replacement of our streetlights to the new, white LEDs. There are many recent news reports about the new blue-rich white LEDs being harmful to our eyes, health, road safety, and wildlife, as well as having high levels of light pollution.
The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging all cities to use lighting with the least amount of blue light possible.
Please let me know what we are planning, thank you!
BRIEF SAMPLE LETTER (Recommended to send first).
Dear [name of your official]
I am writing to express my concern about the possible replacement of our streetlights to the new, blue-rich, white LEDs. There are many recent news reports about blue-rich white LEDs being harmful to our eyes, health, road safety, and wildlife, as well as having high levels of light pollution.
The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging all cities to shield the lights on the top and sides, have the ability to reduce their brightness, and to use the lowest emission of blue light possible. While amber LEDs are best, and are now on par with white LEDs as far as cost and efficiency, if our city must switch to white LEDs, 2700K or less is better (the lower the Kelvins, the less blue light). Many cities, like New York City, have switched to more yellow LEDs after the bad experience some of them had with bright white LEDs. Monterey, CA lost a lawsuit, and thousands of dollars, after being sued for installing white LEDs. If white LEDs must be chosen, 3000K (or less) LEDs have now become the new standard and have been adopted by many cities. However, I encourage our city to wait, as LEDs are quickly improving in efficiency, cost and color rendition.
In England and Wales, an extensive study analyzing over 14 years of data from 62 authorities found little evidence of an increase in traffic accidents or crime after reduced lighting, but they did find an increase in the amount of money saved.
I am taking this issue on to make sure we protect our citizens, and our wildlife, from blue-rich white LEDs, as well as surrounding communities from additional light pollution to our night sky. Are we currently planning to use white LEDs? Who do I need to talk to at the city to make sure this change has been thoughtfully addressed?
Thank you for your time!
MAIN SAMPLE LETTER (THIS ONE IS MORE THOROUGH--YOU CAN SEND IT FIRST, OR, USE PARTS OF IT TO GIVE MORE CLARIFICATION WHEN YOUR CITY WRITES BACK).
Dear [name of your official]
Thank you for all you do for our community! I am writing to express my concern about the possible replacement of our streetlights to the new, blue-rich, white LEDs. There are many recent news reports about blue-rich white LEDs being harmful to our eyes, health, road safety, and wildlife, as well as having high levels of light pollution.
THE DANGERS OF BLUE LIGHT AT NIGHT
The American Medical Association (AMA) is urging all cities to shield the lights on the top and sides, have the ability to reduce their brightness, and to use the lowest emission of blue light possible. Many cities, like New York City, have switched to more yellow LEDs after the bad experience some of them had with bright white LEDs. Having to replace white LEDs with yellow LEDs has been very costly for some cities, like Davis and Monterey, CA, after citizen complaints and even costly lawsuits. The following video further explains: LED City Street Lights: A Glowing Danger. Instead of white LEDs, I am asking our city to please consider amber LEDs. Even further, I'm asking our city to wait, as LEDs are quickly improving in efficiency, cost and color rendition.
In regards to safety, streetlights have not been proven to equal less crime. In fact, just the opposite may be true, and it's important for citizens to realize this. In England and Wales, an extensive study analyzing over 14 years of data from 62 authorities found little evidence of an increase in traffic accidents or crime after reduced lighting (but they did find an increase in the amount of money saved!). Overly bright lights constrict our pupils, create glare and make it harder for motorists and pedestrians to see, which can lead to automobile accidents and a decreased awareness of our surroundings. While I see their importance at turns in the road, I don't find streetlights necessary on a highway going straight ahead, which my and other drivers' headlights easily illuminate.
CCT, BRIGHTNESS & LIGHT POLLUTION
Blue-rich white LEDs create substantially more light pollution than do HPS (2200K) lights, whereas carefully dimmed, 3000K warm white LEDs can create less light pollution than HPS but only if their brightness/lumen output is reduced to 58%. Phoenix, AZ and Lake Worth, FL have chosen 2700K (such as by Leotek), which ensures a CCT of 3000K or less, because many lightbulbs are +/- 300K of whatever CCT they are listed as. In general, 3000K has been better received by citizens than higher CCTs. The lower the kelvin, the less blue light there is, with an amber colored light being the best. However, 3000K still gives a white looking light. Please see this video showing how much more light pollution is produced from white LEDs.
As far as energy efficiency, because of rapid improvements due to their recent popularity, 3000K white LEDs are now highly efficient, and amber LEDs are now on par with white as far as cost and efficiency. In fact, 3000K (or less) LEDs have now become the new standard and have been adopted by many cities. Blue light can also be reduced in brightness while saving energy and still giving good visibility. Some cities choose to even turn streetlights off late at night.
TYPES OF LEDS
A PC Amber LED is better then a low CCT white LED, and this is what I would like for our city. Next best would be a FLED, a dimmed 3000K (or less) LED with a filter cutting blue light down to 2% or less, as Hawaii has done. These also produce less glare, harsh shadows, and are safer in general. NBA LEDs are the best, as they have no blue light, but they are still expensive due to current low production and less efficiency. Again, waiting may be the best current option. Please see this document explaining the different light sources.
IMPROVED LIGHTING FOR THE FUTURE
It is my hope that we protect our citizens, and our wildlife, from blue-rich white LEDs, as well as ours and surrounding communities from additional light pollution to our starry night sky. It’s very important to me that moving forward, our community chooses lighting that is even better than what we currently have in regards to public safety, health, wildlife, beauty, energy consumption, and light pollution to our night skies.
We have a great opportunity right now to choose better lighting. Who do I need to talk to at the city to make sure this change has been thoughtfully addressed?
Thank you so much for your time!
A SAMPLE LETTER APPEALING MORE TO PROTECTING DARK SKIES (MAY BE BEST MODIFIED AS A FOLLOW-UP LETTER)--PLEASE ADJUST THIS TO YOUR PERSONAL VIEWS AND SITUATION.
Dear [name of your official]
I am writing with concerns about the new blue-rich white LEDs that many cities are currently installing. Sadly, many cities are choosing a CCT of 4000K, which is high in blue light. Did you know blue light at night is harmful to wildlife, people, and our view of the night sky? Please see the recent American Medical Association report: AMA Report The AMA recommends minimizing blue light, fully shielding lights, reducing their brightness, and only using light when necessary. In England and Wales, an extensive study analyzing over 14 years of data from 62 authorities found little evidence of an increase in traffic accidents or crime after reduced lighting (but they did find an increase in the amount of money saved!).
Did you know that a CCT of 3000K (less blue) has recently become the new standard? LED: Why 3000K or Less The lower the CCT, the better, as there is less blue. However, amber LEDs are best.
BETTER LIGHTING FOR ALL
If there’s a light that is energy efficient, saves money, provides sufficient lighting with less glare (especially to the elderly), is safer and more comfortable for drivers and pedestrians, safer for wildlife and people, and doesn’t create as much light pollution, is this something we would want?
Might I get you to take a six-minute break and watch this beautifully done video on light pollution? It’s like watching a short IMAX film. :) "Losing the Dark."
The video above doesn’t address the colors of streetlights, but you can understand more of that here: New IDA LED Lighting Practical Guide, and especially here, as you can see the impact of different lights on the amount of skyglow they produce: Lamp Spectrum and Light Pollution. While 2700K, and even 3000K can greatly increase light pollution, as they still contain quite a bit of blue light, they can give less light pollution than our current HPS (orange) lights, so long as they're fully shielded, and the brightness/lumens are reduced to 58% or less, while still being bright enough as necessary. However, an amber light, such as PCA or NBA LEDs by Kim Lighting, would be the best choice, followed by a filtered LED, like those by C&W Energy, as these lights all have no, or much less, blue light.
LIGHT POLLUTION MAP & THOUSANDS OF STARS
Here is a light pollution map: http://darksitefinder.com/map/ If you’ve never seen the Milky Way or the thousands of stars under truly dark skies, I encourage you and your family/friends to find a dark place on this map, or an IDA Dark Sky Park, on a clear, moonless night (find a moon app or calendar). The sky alone will amaze you, but for added fun, use an astronomy app, like Sky Guide or Star Walk, and take a cheap pair of 10X50 binoculars. Point them at anything fuzzy you see in the sky—you’ll be amazed and entertained for hours. You can even see the shape of Andromeda Galaxy with binoculars!
These are the precious skies I’m trying to protect (as well as the skies of our community!). :) If cities keep expanding and installing bright, blue-rich white LEDs, its skyglow will travel even further. Your kids and grandkids may one day no longer have places where they can see the sky in all its glory. Light pollution can travel over 200 miles. Please don’t set in motion something that can make invisible one of the most awe inspiring gifts God has given us. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1 For me personally, I feel we are covering up part of God’s glory, and a view that inspires imagination, wonder and an inquisitive mind.
A GREAT OPPORTUNITY!
There is a great opportunity right now to change lighting for the better in every way. However, the best option would be to simply pause for another year or so, as LED technology is changing very quickly, and you’ll wind up with a much, much better product if you wait.
Thank you so much for your time in reading and considering this!
Thank you to the following for your suggestions!
Sharon & Cary