by Julia Kampelman Stevenson
I hope you will join me and other equally concerned individuals and families for Lights-Out Hour DC on Saturday, March 25th, at 8:30 p.m.
This is intended as a high-profile voluntary event throughout the DC metropolitan area, in which residents, building managers, and custodians of public monuments dim or extinguish non-essential indoor and outdoor lights for one hour – 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.
Lights-Out Hour DC coincides with Earth Hour, which is observed in dozens of cities around the world. Iconic landmarks such as the Empire State Building, the Eiffel Tower, the Acropolis and the Nelson Mandela Bridge have gone dark during Earth Hour.
As residents of the nation’s capital, let us join with peoples around the world in a gesture of solidarity for climate action by “switching off” for one hour.
The quantity of artificial light that spills out at night endangers both humans and wildlife and it is increasingly true that all ecosystems are vulnerable. Light pollution is growing at an astonishing rate. It is now estimated that the brightness of the Earth at night is doubling every eight years.
There are many reasons to support Lights-Out Hour DC:
- Building energy use, which includes lighting, accounts for nearly 75 percent of the District’s greenhouse gas emissions.
- DC has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. Reducing light pollution helps establish us as a national leader in the vanguard of climate action.
- The DC Comprehensive Plan identifies light pollution as an environmental hazard.
- The American Medical Association has warned that bright lighting during the night disrupts our sleep-wake cycle, suppresses our immune system, and “creates potentially harmful health effects” associated with insomnia, obesity, mood and anxiety disorders in adolescents; and in women, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.
- Every single species studied to date – both fauna and flora – is seriously impacted by light pollution. Species sensitively attuned to circadian rhythms (which we all respond to) react to stimuli that is now mistimed, as the seasonal cues and triggers are prompted too early or too late – so missing ideal climate conditions for any given species’ nesting and foraging needs. The synergistic interplay between species gets disrupted, whether actions primarily integral to survival (reproductive or predator/prey interactions) or those actions having secondary consequences (as between plant crops and pollinators).
- Fifty percent of our bird population is in decline, and light pollution is implicated. Migrating birds become disoriented by bright lights below, go off course and find themselves in unfamiliar areas when they are both fatigued and famished; many die of exhaustion or starvation.
- The declining insect population, due to a plethora of causes including light pollution, is referred to by some entomologists as an “insect apocalypse.” In one study, exposure to light at night reduced by 62 percent the number of visits to flora from moths and beetles, common nocturnal pollinators.
Your participation in Lights-Out Hour DC will help draw attention to climate change. And our attention is essential if we are to reverse the growing harms that artificial night lighting inflicts upon the climate, wildlife and the health of DC residents.
For further information or to volunteer, please contact me, Julia Kampelman Stevenson, at email@example.com or look to the Facebook page of the DC chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association. And please help spread the word about Lights-Out Hour DC.
Lights-Out Hour DC has the support of several organizations, including the following: Brookland Neighborhood Community Association; Capital Nature; Capitol Hill Restoration Society; Casey Trees; Chesapeake Climate Action Network; City Wildlife; DC Audubon Society; DC Environmental Network; DC Voters for Animals; Friends of Anacostia Park; Green Neighbors DC; National Capital Astronomers; Nature Forward; Restore Mass Ave; Rock Creek Conservancy; Rock Creek Songbirds Habitat Restoration; Sunrise Movement DC-School Without Walls hub; Trees for Capitol Hill; Ward 8 Woods; Council member Matthew Frumin; ANC 3D and ANC 3/4G.
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