Review of Light Pollution Handbook
[View excerpts of Light Pollution Handbook at excerpts.htm.]
Light Pollution Handbook Review by Chuck
To be an effective advocate of dark skies, one requires more than passion, for the technical aspects of lighting are daunting. Enter Light Pollution Handbook, a wing unto itself of any light pollution library. Kohei Narisada and Duco Schreuder, veterans of the lighting profession, have thankfully compiled two careers’ worth of insight into this pricey yet valuable tome, volume 322 in the Astrophysics and Space Science Library Series.
The authors challenge bad lighting through better engineering, seeking “practical and economic solutions for problems stated in scientific terms.” Sometimes their recommendations chafe against conventional dark sky wisdom. The cold numbers of a cost-benefit analysis, for example, often trump gut feelings.
Beholden neither to the astronomers nor to the lighting designers, who both polarize the arguments, Narisada and Schreuder seek respect rather than bickering between the two parties. Both camps have much to gain, including financially, by working together.
In distilling the accumulated research and literature of the lighting profession, Narisada and Schreuder are quick to challenge the scientific validity of widely cited studies and to sound the caveat that “authors base their work on the same sources that are only small in number.”
Indeed, many of the cited works are by Narisada and Schreuder themselves.
“Beware of the experts,” they warn. “Not all things said by The Masters make sense.”
More and better research is clearly needed, for the stakes are high. “If humanity loses contact with the cosmos, it may lose contact with some of its most profound fundaments…The conservation of the starry night is essential for the development of the human consciousness.”
Enthusiasm alone will not serve the sky-minded well. “Any unscientific attempt intending to eliminate the light pollution without proper technical knowledge or engineering experience may lead to unexpected adverse results or sometimes serious economic loss.”
A pragmatic strategy in the opening pages notes there is a long battle ahead. Darkness serves all, not just astronomers. The authors urge dark-sky crusaders to include regional solutions, “leave the barricades,” and ally with people who recognize “the many threats to a healthy natural environment.”
Light Pollution Handbook (really a two-hand book at 945 pages) is one-stop shopping for nearly every issue related to light pollution. Whether it’s the physiology of the human eye, the engineering of a luminaire, the testing methods of manufacturers, the interpretation of satellite imagery, or the psychology of the juvenile delinquent, the authors address varied topics with abundant references, thoroughness, and impartiality.
One annoyance of Light Pollution Handbook is the large number of typographical errors in the text. The editing miscues detract from a welcomed resource book. I also wish there were pictures or visual cues to help identify luminaire types and features by visual inspection, if it’s even possible. After reading this book, I could probably recite five functions of a ballast, but I wouldn’t recognize a ballast if one fell from a lamp post onto my head.
That said, the authors conclude that the greatest challenge falls in the laps of educators. “A lack of awareness, rather than specific resistance, is generally the biggest problem in controlling light pollution.” The best means to improve the situation is not political pressure, but education outreach. The path to darker skies is “more a matter of improving priorities, rather than of inventing new tools.”
Light Pollution Handbook is a valuable source book. Expensive, but well worth the investment.
Reprinted from September 2006 issue of Planetarian. Copyright 2006 by the International Planearium Society.
Copyright ©2009 Chuck Bueter. All rights reserved.