BMP Interview #5: Rod E. Mc Connell

Rod E. Mc Connell, Canadian, President of the Alberta Dark Sky Association, tells us about his experience, starting from the Edmonton area, and gradually reaching wider horizons.

Q: How did your involvement with the light pollution issue start?
A: My involvement with light pollution began over fifty years ago when I entered university.
At home in the country my beloved night skies were studded with brilliant stars but, in the city of Edmonton, their numbers were dramatically reduced. In 1963 or ’64, I wrote to city council complaining of the light pollution which blocked my view of the heavens.
However, 1960’s society was not ready for lessons in energy conservation or light waste,
trespass and pollution (Light-WTP). The curt letter I received emphasized the City knew
what it was doing and did not need the recommendations of some kid from the country.
There were even derogatory comments in the local newspaper regarding my concerns.
In November 2009, at my nature preserve 150 km northeast of Edmonton, I really
became aware of how light pollution from Edmonton and area had increased over the years.

An Edmonton taxpayer, I decided to take on the city. Determined to save my dark skies, reduce this waste and cut light pollution, I gathered information on light waste, its costs and its effects. I also formed a group and invited other interested people from
different backgrounds to join the “Alberta Dark Sky Association,” a loose association of
professionals who had similar objectives.
Realizing that we would never win the battle with the City over “light pollution,” I
strongly recommended that we create a program which would emphasize reduced
light/energy waste while reducing costs, improving city lighting, citizen and
environmental health, all items city council should find attractive. I proposed that we call
the initiative the “Light-Efficient Community” program (copyrighted.) This phrase
describing our goal could then be quickly, easily and positively understood by all and
greeted with approval rather than fear or anger.
Definition:
A Light-Efficient Community (LEC) is one that uses lighting intelligently and
responsibly. It uses the most effective, efficient artificial lighting available to minimize
energy waste, glare, light trespass and light pollution. A Light-Efficient Community
employs sound planning, designs, measures, legislation, fixtures, technologies and
good lighting practices to reduce its energy costs and carbon footprint while preserving
the natural environment and ensuring health, safety, security and a high quality of life
for all.
Prime Principle:
Light only what needs to be lit only when it needs to be lit with the most efficient light
source of appropriate intensity and colour without creating direct light trespass on
neighboring properties and the night sky. Keep your light to yourself!
This initiative eventually met with council approval and the Edmonton “Light-Efficient Community Policy” was adopted August 21st, 2013. We are in the process of making changes to streetlighting and will shortly begin work on “Phase 2 – Exterior Community Lighting” and a “LEC Educational Program.”
We have and continue to consult with other communities in creating and adopting the
LEC program throughout Alberta and elsewhere. Our work extends far beyond Edmonton
and encompasses communications and efforts to reduce Light-WTP on an international
basis. To assist in these efforts, I have created a web site
(www.Light-EfficientCommunities.com)
which offers a short course and many resources for the LEC advocate. I am also currently
producing a film (“Demons in the Light”) which will help educate all sectors of the
communities in which advocates work. (Useful modules from the film are now available
on Youtube.com. – Search for “Light-Efficient Communities)

Q: Is the Alberta Dark Sky Association (ADSA) affiliated to the International Dark Sky
Association, or is it an independent operation?

A: The ADSA is a completely separate organization from the International Dark Sky
Association though several of our members also carry IDA memberships.

Q: When was the ADSA created? How many members does it have?
A: The ADSA was created in 2009. Members: Our number of associates approximates 100
with anyone having an interest in Light-WTP welcome.