SAN DIEGO: Light pollution and the Milky Way Galaxy are at the
center of an ongoing debate in San Diego about the future of the city's
Weighing in on one side are the Palomer and Mount Laguna observatories
outside San Diego and the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA), a
coalition of 7,000 astronomers from 69 countries whose mission is to
"protect the nighttime environment and preserve the heritage of dark
The group has orchestrated a media initiative to inform the public about
a proposal by the city's council - the other side in the debate - to
change 25,000 streetlights from yellow to sodium bulbs. The new lights
would greatly limit the ability of the observatories, as well as alter
the night view in San Diego.
"We believe that there are better solutions for San Diego than getting
rid of yellow lights that make it easier for people to enjoy the night
time," said Robert Gent, PR counsel for the IDSA.
City officials however believe that brighter lights are needed for
aesthetic purposes and because the yellow bulbs make it difficult for
police to spot criminals in the darkness.
The IDSA claims that San Diego is falling prey to the US pattern of
"overlighting its cities." The group argues that the new lights will
waste energy, endanger nocturnal species and dazzle astronomers, making
them unable to observe the "beauty of the night."
To get its message directly to the citizens of San Diego, the IDSA has
started a light pollution education program. It is also handing out
brochures and economic information. (The light change would cost the
city a proposed $2.8 million dollars.) In addition, the IDSA is
talking to zoning committees and state legislatures about the issue and
has created an information sheet so that journalists and others
interested in the issue can have fast access to basic facts.
As a compromise, the group has suggested that the city intersperse some
high sodium lights among the yellow lights in areas around business
fronts or heavily-trafficked areas.
For its efforts, the group has been profiled in The San Diego Union
Tribune, Audubon magazine, ABC News and USA Today, among others.
The city council will vote later this month on whether or not to change