Tag Archives: BMP interviews

BMP Interviews #3: Clémentine Azam, France

This is the third of a series of interviews made by Andrea Giacomelli to experts in the field of artificial light at night and light pollution. The ideas was originally proposed in the context of the Loss of the Night Network, but it is open to anybody active in this field.

The interview to Clémentine Azam was made in August 2015 and is translated into Italian by Alessia Carrara.

AG: Clémentine, will you give us a brief introduction of yourself and of your organization?

CA: I am a PhD student working on the effect Artificial Light At Night on bats. More specifically, I am interested in how ALAN influences the spatial distribution and movements of bats at different spatial scales.
My lab, the Center for Ecology and Conservation Science of the National Natural History Museum in Paris is focused on biodiversity conservation issues, and aims at characterizing how anthropogenic disturbances such as intensive farming and urbanization affect biodiversity, and how public policies can impedes biodiversity erosion. We are a team of 7 people working on bats.

AG: Did you first become interested in research on ALAN, or on bats?

CA: I first got interested in bats, as they are really fascinating species, full of mystery! In particular, I worked on habitat selection patterns and how human activities could modify the availability of foraging patches for bats in the landscape. Quickly, the question of light pollution came out, if working on bats, landscape at night is of major importance.

AG: Is part-night lighting an effective measure to limit the impacts of artificial lighting on bats?

Photo_lampadaireCA: Yes, part-night lighting can be an efficient measure for bats; however, the way it is done in many localities (turning off streetlight from midnight to 05AM) is not optimal. These schemes have been set up by local authorities mostly to save energy and money, and also to achieve sustainable development goals by limiting CO2 emissions. They have not really been designed for biodiversity in the first place. Yet, with such lighting schemes, there could be a potential to meet economic, energetic and biodiversity goals.
Last year, we intended to characterize how 8 species of bats responded to such schemes in an area located 60 km south from Paris. Half of the localities were practicing part-night lighting for at least 2 years, and half had standard full-night lighting regimes. It appears that bats adapted their foraging behavior to part-night lighting schemes. Two light-sensitive taxa presented higher level of activity on part-night lighting sites compared to full-night lighting sites, suggesting they can exploit these sites once streetlights are turned off. Nevertheless, for one of them, the level of activity on part-night lighting sites was still much lower than on control unlit sites, suggesting that current part-night lighting schemes fail catching an important part of the range of the nightly activity of the genus.
This is consistent with another study made by Julie Day and collaborators in the UK, in which they simulated different part-night lighting scenarios on the activity of another light-sensitive bat species, and concluded that such schemes should start before 23h to catch more than 50% of its nightly activity. Therefore, part-night lighting schemes can become an efficient mitigation measure for light-sensitive species if implemented earlier at night.
Such a schedule would likely face resistance from the local inhabitants if implemented in an entire city, but this could be a valuable strategy along ecological corridors, such as urban parks and river banks, and would allow light-sensitive species to persist in urban and peri-urban environments.

AG: From your perspective as a PhD Student in France, where do you see yourself in five years?

CA: That is a hard question! I would like to keep working on light pollution and nightscape conservation issues and maybe broaden the perspective into urban ecology and sustainable land-use planning; probably as a post-doc in France or elsewhere…

AG: are you aware of the legislative development in France concerning light pollution mitigation, how are these working in the areas you live and work in?

CA: In France, since 2013, offices in buildings have to be switched off one hour after last occupation, and shops displays and public buildings front have to be switched off before 1AM (or 1 hour after last occupation of this occurs after 1AM). In Paris, officially, all buildings and monuments managed by the city have to be switched off at midnight during the week, 1AM during weekends and during summer (touristic season). However, there are a lot of buildings that are still illuminated after midnight, and it is hard to know if this is an infraction or if there was derogation for this particular building. However, we see a real mobilization from local administrations to change and ameliorate lighting management. This is likely due to the fact that ALAN represents an important part of localities electric bills; and also that lighting equipment is becoming old and has to be replaced in the coming decade. There is a real demand from people to set up sustainable lighting infrastructure that are energy-saving, and that also meets social needs, and health and environmental issues.

BMP interviews #2: Leopoldo Dalla Gassa

“…sometimes you need to be “harsh” to make sure that the law is applied” said Leopoldo dalla Gassa, the President of VenetoStellato, a non-profit association which has been active for years in the topic of light pollution in the region of Veneto, in the North-East of Italy.

by Andrea Giacomelli

AG: Leopoldo, tell us how VenetoStellato was born

LdG: In 1997 in Veneto we had our first regional law on light pollution. At that stage, several activists from the stargazing community decided to get together and evaluate the opportunities in terms of protection of their observatories. Following a series of annual meetings, in April 2000 a regional steering committee was created, and it was called Veneto Stellato (Starry Veneto).
To date we have around forty subscribers, including people from stargazing and environmental associations, are well as academic researchers and individual citizens. The average age of our members is between 35 and 40.

A Veneto Stellato meeting
A Veneto Stellato meeting

AG: What is your distribution in the region?

LdG: At present we have a prevaling number of members in the provinces of Verona, Vicenza, and Padova, while a smaller number comes from the Rovigo and Treviso areas. On the other hand, we are missing members in the provinces of Belluno and Venezia. Possibly the communities in Belluno are affected by the fact of being spread in mountain locations, far from the plain.

AG: This year VenetoStellato decided to support a peculiar initiative, i.e. the shut-off of lighting in Asiago, a small town in the Nothern part of the Region: tell us more about how this went.

LdG: On March 28, in the new moon phase we took part in the controlled switch-off of the city of Asiago.

[NOTE: Asiago is a town with a population around 7000, located in a highland area North of Vicenza]

The area hosts the telescopes of the Padua branch of the National Astrophysics Institute and of the Padua University.

The request for the switch-off was made by the Regional Environmental Protection Agency (ARPAV), in coordination with our permanent observatory on light pollution. This entity, which also includes VenetoStellato, has been established pursuant to the law, in order to verify the compliance to the regulations.

The initiative had the objective of raising awareness on the issue of the dispersion of light at night towards a broad audience, and to verify the impact of public lighting on night sky brightness.
Our current legislation allows the switch-off of public lighting for no more than three days per year, and always insuring safety conditions.

A report about the event (in Italian) including the recorded measurements may be downloaded from the ARPAV site.

AG: How long was the event?

LdG: The switch-off was for all of the night on March 28. In practice, all public lights were out, except for some critical roundabouts.

AG: How did the residents react?

LdG: I would like to emphasize that there were no negative reactions to the switch-off. Interestingly, some groups (ordinary citizens, not experts), arranged observation groups to look at the sky from gardens and from the city centre, in order to appreciate how the starry sky used to be years back.

AG: VenetoStellato also collaborates with ARPAV in non-compliance reports. What is the process?

LdG: As stated in the regional law, VenetoStellato, is one of the organizations acknowledged as a partner to local municipalities, providing support and suggestions in the application of the regulations.
The same organizations have the authority to report cases of non-compliance in the installation of new luminaires, and can request the adaptation of public and private installations. ARPAV receives a copy of each report and will confirm the validity of the information provided.

 Some of the reports by VenetoStellato for non-compliant lighting installations
Some of the reports by VenetoStellato for non-compliant lighting installations

AG: How many reports have you produced to date?

It is difficult to provide an accurate count. I would say over two thousand, as an under-estimate, considering both public and private installations.
You should consider that each report is referred to sites, so the actual number of luminaires that we contributed to bring to compliance will be in the range of several thousands.

AG: Which are the most frequent issues?

The types of luminaires which are normally on our radar are projectors and lighting towers, since these are very often in a condition of total violation of the law.
Last, but not least,we are verifying an increasing amount of billboards, especially around shopping malls, since these happen to be one of the major source of light pollution.

AG: VenetoStellato is now in its third year of participation to the CORDILIT network, with an array of SQM stations deployed in several of the amateur observatories managed by your affiliates. Have you noticed any trend in the data?

LdG: Indeed, we use the CORDILIT data to monitor sky night brightness, observing if our reports have some impact, and also for outreach purposes.
Concerning the actual detection of trends, in order to provide an appropriate feedback we are waiting for some cross-checks which are in the process of being made both by ARPAV and by the Padua University.
What we are noting is that there is a slight variation in the dark peaks in our data. Considering the Nove station, when we installed the SQM sensor in 2011 we were never exceeding 19.8 in terms of magnitude per square arc-second. In the last 6-8 months we are consistently exceeding 20, and made it to 20.21 as the darkest reading.
On average, we have gained 0.4 on the magnitude scale: who knows how many billions of lumen we have prevented from reaching the sky!

 The Nove observatory, close to  Vicenza
The Nove observatory, close to Vicenza

AG: What do you see as the main threat for the protection of the night sky in our area?

LdG: The main threat for us is the proliferation of LED installations. The regional law does not prohibit their use, nor does it provide a threshold for the color temperature of the diodes.
It is possible that, if LEDs with a relevant blue light component (i.e. the devices with a color temperature above 4000K) will be adopted, just considering the components due to reflection, the amount of light pollution will be much higher than the traditional sodium lamps.
For this reason we invite administrations to adopt LED lighting with color temperature not exceeding 3000K.

AG: Which are your expectations and your goals?

LdG: Our expectations in the North-East of Italy, and especially in Veneto, is that communities will finally appreciate the amount of energy wasted for improper lighting, and that citizens will decide to fully comply to the regulatory requirements.
It is not by accident that Italy happens to be, after Spain, one of the main consumers of elecrictiy for artificial lighting in Europe….this is a record that we would really love to lose.

AG: What’s your view on the scenario in the rest of Italy?

LdG: Sadly, in the rest of the Italian peninsula there are too few organizations that are actively engaging their administrations in order to apply the existing regulations, for those regions which decided to adopt laws on light pollution. In this condition, most of the actions are left to the good will of individuals, but this is too little to provide an impact in the short term.

AG: Is there a specific anecdote related to your activity that you would like to recall?

LdG: Well, sometimes you need to be “harsh” to make sure that the law is applied. We once had a case of a municipality refusing to apply the regulations in a case related to a private installation. At that point we had to escalate the issue to the public attorney, with the request to verify the possibility of negligence in the application of the law.

At that point, it took only a couple of days for the municipality to issue their request to bring the private installation into compliance. This case did have some local media coverage, and we then started using the articles which appeared in the press as a form of persuasion with counterparts which decide to take a
“tough” approach in the interaction with VenetoStellato. They should simply understand that acting against the law is useless, and will not pay.

All images are courtesy of VenetoStellato

BMP interviews #1: Estefanía Cañavate García

EDITORIAL NOTE: This is the first of a series of interviews by Andrea Giacomelli to experts in the field of artificial light at night. The idea of the interviews was initially proposed by Andrea as one of the dissemination actions in the context of the Loss of the Night Network. It is in any case open to any expert from any project or community.

Estefanía Cañavate García is an officer working for the Andalusian environmental agency.

AG: Estefanía, What is your role within the Agency?

ECG: I am a technician specializing in light pollution. I work in the Environmental Quality Data Center of Environmental and Water Agency of Andalusia. It is a public organization belonging to the Regional Government of Andalusia.
Since when have you been personally involved in light pollution?
I have been working on light pollution since 2006. One of my main projects, was when I worked on creating a regulation regarding the protection of the quality of the night sky against light pollution. Currently, I offer technical support and help with the implementation of regulation.

AG: How many staff are currently involved in the agency on light pollution?

ECG: We are a team consisting of four technical specialists in this field.

AG: Your Agency is involved in training courses directed to ligthing technicians in public administrations. Could you explain how this activity works, and what is its outcome?

ECG: One of the main objectives of the Regional Government is to guarantee the application of the Decree on light pollution. For this reason we are providing Andalusia´s city councils with the necessary technical support to implement it. Our work focuses on four aspects: zoning the territory of the municipalities, staff training, provision of guidelines regarding the regulation, and management of pilot experiences.
To give an idea of the scale of our operation, in 2011 we held eight sub-regional technical workshops aimed at technicians and municipal representatives. As a result of that we trained more than 1000 technicians, in a region composed by 771 municipalities.
_DSC0485_lo One of the most critical issues in training municipal representatives is related to light colour. Energy saving criteria in outdoor lighting, if considered indepedently, lean towards the use of lamps with maximum efficiency, that is, those emitting more light with a lower consumption of electricity. In this respect, LED technology may offer the main opportunity for energy saving. However, as of today, the most energy-efficient LEDs are those emitting larger quantities of blue light, and this -compared to other sources of artificial light- is more harmful from the environmental point of view.
The Andalusian regulation restricts white LEDs in the zones with a higher protection level (defined as E1 and E2 by the regulation).
One of our actions is, thus, to suggest alternatives to the municipal representatives, such as several technological solutions offering high energy efficiency as well as light with a colour respectful of the environment. The market already offers LEDs with yellow hues, giving both an acceptable energy efficiency -albeit lower than white LEDs or than other consolidated technologies- and a light which is more respectful towards the environment.

conferenceWhile the issues related to colour temperature are not always acknowledged by the technicians we meet, we also found cases in which the municipal representatives are very aware this item. An example is the municipality of Almeria, where the Calar Alto astronomical observatory is located. In this case we found that the Mayor has been testing lighting with monochromatic light with an adequate color temperature in a pilot neighbourhood, and is planning to extend the use of thi lighting setup to the wider parts of the municipality.
Another critical issue is concerned with light levels. In this respect I would like to mention the relationship of developed societies and energy waste. This is one of the trends that must be reversed, if we are to create more sustainable societies. When changing to more efficient lamps, the opportunity should be taken to lower the light levels, according to the needs of the community where the lights are installed. A higher energy saving can be accomplished in parallel to the creation of comfortable living spaces.

AG: One of the actions which the Andalusian government has been committing to is developing pilot projects to provide to municipalities cases of best practice. Could you tell us more about this activity?

ECG: The goal of the pilot projects is to help municipalities implement the regulations, and to promote the participation of environmentally-focused energy service companies as a solution for financing this effort. As a result, the government offers participating municipalities inventories for lighting systems, a plan to transition towards regulatory compliance, a financial analysis, and economical support.
To date we have conducted ten projects in our Region.

AG: What do you see as feasible objectives in relation to reduction of light pollution in Spain/Europe over the next 5-10 years?

campaignECG: I think the value of the night skies as our cultural heritage need to be emphasized. The same applies to the value of our astronomical observatories as scientific heritage. In order to achieve positive results, strategies for light pollution prevention should be supported by awareness-raising and information campaigns. A solution of the issue will be reached through coherence and consensus among manufacturers, Administrations, relevant economic sectors, and citizens. For this reason we need to involve all of the social and economic stakeholders in their roles, and in the use of the regulations.

Acting this way, I think it is possible to attain some significant general objectives, such as considering environmental criteria in the design of lighting systems. Achieving regulatory compliance will also reduce lighting levels.
Speaking about Andalusia, one of our main objectives for the next coming years is linking the protection of the night sky with economical progress through the promotion of astronomical tourism.
In order to pursue this task we are organizing a specific conference in Granada (Andalucía) at the end of April, so all of you are invited to attend.
Last but not least, I would like to say that one of our most promising and recent efforts is to promote the certification of the quality of the night skies in Andalusia, through the programs by IDA and the Starlight Initiative.

[The interview was conducted at the end of February 2014]