This afternoon, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Starlight Declaration of La Palma, (recognized internationally for the quality of its sky) the organizers of the multidisciplinary conference "Preserving the Skies" will welcome the participants after the inauguration of several related exhibitions.
People interested in fields such as astronomy, biology, history, education, the lighting industry, or those simply worried about the night sky, will participate this week in the multidisciplinary conference "Preserving the Skies" organized from 19th to 21st of April in Santa Cruz de La Palma, in order to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Starlight Declaration and whose presidency of honour is His Majesty King Felipe VI, even though he will not be able to attend as he has previous engagements. The Cabildo Insular of La Palma, the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the Starlight Foundation, with the collaboration of the City Council of Santa Cruz de La Palma, are promoting this international conference which is one of a number of initiatives and activities related with this anniversary. It is patronised by the United Nations Organization for Education, Science and Culture (UNESCO), the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the Cabildo of La Palma, the Government of the Canaries, the La Palma Reserve of the Biosphere, STARS4ALL, the University of La Laguna (ULL), and the Starlight Foundation, which was created to manage the principles and values of this Declaration, as well as the IAC.
Protecting the night
We live on a planet surrounded by an immense universe, with which we can make contact only through the night sky. The dark sky is a window on our place in the Cosmos, the Solar System and our galaxy, the Milky Way. In fact the night sky has no limits, and tells us many stories about ourselves.
The night belongs to this planet, just like the day, and is full of life. Many living things, such as plants, birds, tortoises, and even plankton flourish during the night, and need the darkness to develop their various functions. If we human beings illuminate the night, we are affecting life cycles.
However our window on the night sky is becoming increasingly opaque, as we are steadily increasing the illumination of the sky. A recent report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA of the United States states that the Milky Way is no longer visible to 80% of the US population. And in places such as Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea light pollution completely blocks the night sky.
The internationa conference “Preserving the Skies: 10th Anniversary of the Starlight Declaration” deals with the darkness of the night sky, its protection and its preservation in several different fields: astronomy, the environment, culture etc. Ten years have passed since the International Conference in Defence of the Quality of the Night Sky and the Right to Observe the Stars" took place in 2007, where the Starlight Declaration of La Palma was bornh, which started a new era in our relation with thenight sky. This historic declaration was an important step in the preservation of the skies, and the defence of the cultural and environmental values associated with astronomical observation. Since then there have been major advances, but also setbacks. Now it is time to revise both, and to produce new ideas and strategies to move ahead in finding ways to preserve the dark sky.
"An inalienable right"
"With the international conference "Preserving the Skies" explains the IAC researcher and President of the Scientific Organizing Committee José Miguel Rodríguez Espinosa, we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Starlight Declaration of La Palma, which aimed at certifying access to the light from the stars for all humanity. In ten years we have advanced quite a lot, but really not much. Not much because the indiscriminate street lighting in the cities has continued to increase. Quite a lot because in specific places it has been possible to rationalize night time lighting. We have been accompanied in this rationalization by companies and governments. It is of course true that with new lighting technology (LED's and the like) a major saving in energy can be achieved. So it has been possible for many city councils to improve their lighting, will make important savings."
"However" adds Rodríguez Espinosa "this conference goes further. "We want people to realise that light pollution is harmful not only for astronomy, but also for the environment, for birds and plants, for tortoises, for our sleep rhythms, and to summarize, for culture. The right to dark nights is inalienable. It is important for human fulfilment and important for the preservation of life's fragile equilibrium on Earth".
"For this reason the conference will deal with four main themes 1) Dark skies and culture 2) Dark skies and biodiversity 3) New technology for illumination 4) Dark skies as a motor for development. These themes will be dealt with in detail, but at the same time there will be multiple activities for the general public in La Palma: blackouts of the street lighting, music, competitions... Of special interest is that secondary school students have been making measurements of the brightness of the sky in a few places in La Palma, and they will show their results during the conference. Finally " concludes Rodriguez Espinosa "conclusions will be presented which we expect will be recorded locally, and will also be issued in the form of a book which will be sent to the major international organizations such as UNESCO, the World Tourist Organization, and the International Astronomical Union".
Fireflies, stars, and city lights
The director of the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC), the astrophysicist Romano Corradi will, tomorrow Wednesday at 19.00h give a talk open to the general public, in the Circo de Marte Theatre titled "Fireflies, Stars, and City Lights" In the talk he will explain how light is produced in the universe and on Earth, and how it affects our metabolism, our health, and the environment. The director of the GTC will point out that La Palma has been a leader in this field for decades, and has the opportunity to remain a point of reference for a model of development which protects the darkness of the night sky, maintaining the equilibrium of the ecosystems, and the only access we have for studying the universe.