“Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends.”

I never thought I would be quoting one of the most notorious villains in the unknown galaxies, albeit a far, far away galaxy, but I must say when it comes to future street lighting, Darth Vader has a point. If we consider our friends to be our wildlife neighbours, or the astronomers at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO), or even our neighbour down the road, then darker is better. Why? Because circadian rhythms depend on the natural dark and light ratios of day and night, and all those friends need regular circadian rhythms to be healthy individuals. I have taken the liberty of compiling a list of recommendations that I would like to think Darth Vader would approve of to achieve his goals of spreading the Dark Side across the galaxies including the future Calgary SW Ring Road.

  1. Use the right amount of light -  A luminaire Backlight, Uplight and Glare value of zero should be used. Shorter lamp posts also ensure the light only goes where it is needed.
  2. Use efficient and environmentally friendly lamps and bulbs - Of course the Empire cares about cutting costs. For those of you unfamiliar with the Death Star, let us just say it was really big, labour intensive, and an expensive project. Efficient environmentally friendly bulbs mean less energy used which turns into money saved for you, the taxpayer.
  3. Using flat lens cobra head fixtures - ensures all your light goes downwards where it is needed preventing Uplight. Less Uplight means more stars are visible which is great for migrating birds, astronomers and the Millennium Falcon’s hyperspace jumps.
  4. Consider adopting those nice red hues often seen in Sith lightsabers. Warm yellows are also acceptable. Lights with warm colours have a longer wavelength and appear to be less disruptive to our circadian rhythms and night vision.
  5. Follow the MD Foothills Dark Skies Bylaw*.
  6. Dimming capabilities. Having highway lights that can be dimmed during low traffic times can reduce energy costs by at least 30%. Recent technology has even made motion-sensor highway lighting available, which in addition to saving energy also helps to track movement of Rebel Alliance that may be passing through the area.

Darth Vader was a presence. When he walked on screen you took notice. However, he does not hold much sway in public policy. If we are to embrace the power of the Dark Side then it is up to us to contact our MLAs and Alberta Transportation to let them know that Canada’s first Nocturnal Preserve, the ASCCA, and one of Canada’s largest Astrophysical Observatories, the RAO, should be kept dark; and that they are worthy of a Special Geographical Area designation that would require lighting designs to be designed to minimize light pollution as outlined in IESNA RP-33 in the Alberta Transportation Highway Lighting Guide. And may the Force be with us. 

*For more information go to http://www.mdfoothills.com/residents/planning/environment/dark_sky_initiative/dark_sky_faqs.html

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