Bring Back Chicago's Starry Night With Responsible City Lighting

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Bring Back Chicago's Starry Night With Responsible City Lighting

This petition had 2,009 supporters
Chicago Astronomical Society started this petition to Rahm Emanuel

Dear Mayor Rahm Emanuel,

Given the recent advances and price decreases in LED lighting technology, Mayor Emanuel, you have tasked the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT) to seek out information on performing energy efficient upgrades to 270,000+ existing Chicago lights throughout the city. It’s important that we do NOT use bright white/ blue-rich spectrum lighting as it has serious negative effects on human health, the environment, and the ecosystem.

These upgrades will affect streetlights, park district, and lakefront lights. There still remains a well-enforced Chicago mandate for these lights to shine from the streetlights to the “keyhole of the front door” of the typical Chicago home. We need you to do away with this mandate, as it causes for light trespass on properties of those who wish not to have light shown on their private property, or worse, through their windows!

If this light swap is done correctly, by avoiding the bright white blue-rich color spectrum, shielding street lamps so light only shines downward, and using timers, dimming and “smart grid” technology, Chicago could once again have starlight! If done incorrectly, Chicago, which is already rated the number one most light-polluted city in the world, could become 5 times brighter than it already is! Please note, we are not advocating for no lights. We advocate for lighting that is responsible and no brighter than necessary, with a maximum correlated color temperature (CCT) of 3,000K and only pointing light on the ground where it is needed -- never sideways or upwards, which can cause unnecessary skyglow.

With current technology, research findings, and a plethora of resources, we can have both necessary street lighting AND starlight in Chicago. Please see what Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and its Office of Sustainability is doing with their De-Light Pittsburgh initiative to spread awareness of light pollution in their city and restoring starlight over the city.

We do not want to go through the same issues the citizens of Phoenix, Arizona went through early April, or the citizens of Davis, California did in 2014. There were many complaints by both Phoenix and Davis residents. Phoenix townspeople complained that the new bright white LEDs made their neighborhoods seem like a “prisoner of war camp” or “a sterile hospital waiting room.” Many residents of Davis believed that the new fixtures were “too bright, producing too much glare and light trespass, increasing skyglow and light pollution, and resulting in potential negative impact on human health and wildlife.” Chicago can learn from these case studies and avoid installing bright white, blue-rich spectrum LEDs before there is a demand from citizens to reinstall the lights with warmer LEDs.

Independent studies of various fields are arriving at the same conclusion: the increasing amount of light pollution, especially in regard to bright white, blue-rich spectrum light, has detrimental effects on human health. Please take this seriously. A study by Dr. David Blask, Ph.D, M.D., and team members at Tulane University School of Medicine shows that “exposure to light at night (including streetlight filtering through typical bedroom curtains), which shuts off nightime production of the hormone melatonin, renders breast cancer completely resistant to Tamoxifen, a widely used breast cancer drug.” Below is an excerpt from a study titled “The Effects of the Light at Night on Circadian Clocks and Metabolism" by Drs Laura K. Fonken and Randy J. Nelson Published by Endocrine Society, which explains the detrimental effect of blue light on the human circadian system at night:

"not all nocturnal illumination equally affects the circadian system. The intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells that project to the SCN are most responsive to the blue region of the visible spectrum (ranging from 450–485 nm) with longer wavelengths of lighting minimally influencing the circadian system (93, 94, 299)."

Along with these studies, as well as many others, the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), a non-profit organization advocating for the reduction of light pollution, headquartered in Tucson, Arizona, states that detrimental effects of light pollution include (*denotes additional information not taken from IDA's website):

Human Health:

  • Increased risk of cancers, metabolic disease, obesity, depression, sleep disorders, cognitive impairments, and other diseases.
  • Suppresses melatonin production, which helps induce sleep, boosts the immune system and helps the functioning of the thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, testes and adrenal glands.
  • *Light pollution affects firefly reproduction as well as circadian disruption among the Monarch butterfly, interfering with safe migration.

Wildlife and Ecosystems:

  • Nocturnal animals (animals that sleep during the day and are active at night) get confused about night in day when excessive manmade light trespasses their space, which affects their nocturnal activity, interfering with reproduction and reducing populations.
  • Many species of birds rely on seasonal cues to migrate or hunt at night. Manmade light can cause birds to wander off course, possibly leading them to migrate too early or too late, missing ideal climate conditions for nesting.
  • *According to the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), the estimated number of migrating birds killed annually in collisions with buildings ranges from 100 million to 1 billion birds.
  • Sea turtles hatch at night on the beach, and are guided by moonlight to the horizon over the ocean surface. Manmade lights draw them away from the water and to their demise. Unfortunately, millions of baby turtles die this way every year in Florida alone.
  • *Artificial lighting at night (ALAN) can disrupt an organisms natural sense of day and night, including trees and plants, causing the flowering, budding, and fruiting rhythms of the species to trigger at times not normally regulated by their natural cycles.

Crime and Safety:

  • Brighter does not necessarily mean safer. While outdoor lighting is intended to increase safety at night, too much lighting can have the opposite effect. Glare from bright lighting constricts our pupils, which makes it harder for our eyes to adjust to low-light conditions.

Light pollution wastes taxpayer money and natural resources, and puts Chicago citizens at risk. Please choose Chicago lighting carefully, banning the blue-rich bright-white spectrum.  

Chicago is at a major crossroad. We can choose the path to claim historical, epic legacy for our dear Chicago that this generation can gift our citizens and future generations. Chicago, a city of starlight. It has never been possible before, but with visionary leadership challenging the best minds, using creative and demanding combinations of the latest technological advances, responsible choices will restore significant levels of starlight over our beautiful city, and allow the Milky Way to be seen with greater intensity to our neighbors, including our nearest national park, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.

Why is it important to restore starlight over cities? Loss of starlight is a proof of light pollution. It is in the cities, all over the world, where light pollution is creating the most harm for the largest segment of the population. Why is it important that Chicago becomes the City of Starlight? Because “Chicago CAN!”, and when Chicago switches on starlight, and shows the rest of the world how it is done, there is hope for people living in other cities around the globe. With Chicago’s decision to switch over it’s lighting, this is our best & last chance to restore starlight within our lifetime.

We must:

  • Ban blue-rich bright white light and CCT over 3000K for most outdoor applications. Blue emitting light is not a safe option for our citizens
  • Use adaptive controls allowing the use of timers, dimmers, and light-on-demand motion activation
  • Eliminate light trespass and skyglow by not allowing luminaires to send any light directly at or above the horizontal
  • Forever ban the "streetlight-to-keyhole" lighting mandate
  • Use minimal lumens required for the job
  • Aim for a decrease of total installed flux (in the same manner as other pollutants are being reduced)
  • Consider whether a particular light is even needed at all

Please help make this happen! You know how to get it done. We’re counting on you!

Cheers+stars to you.

Respectfully submitted,

Request for Action: Please sign the petition urging Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to not install blue-rich spectrum LED lights, nor CCT greater than 3000K, and to remove the mandate requiring streetlights to shine into “the keyhole of the front door” of the typical Chicago home. Instead, we need to push for the installation of LEDs that produce light closer to the yellow spectrum (2700-3000 Kelvins) as well as consider safe lighting practices that put light where it is needed, making sure that outdoor light at night (LAN) is pointed towards the ground, reducing the amount of skyglow in Chicago.

Please contact your Alderman or the Mayor's office.

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