Saturday, October 29, 2011

Let's see Northern Lights again in Whitehorse - help stop light pollution

Let's reduce light pollution in Whitehorse and be able to see the stars and northern lights again.

But what can we do?

Well the City is doing a zoning bylaw update and so this is the time to get light pollution prevention measures (aka Dark-Sky provisions) put into the bylaw.  Lots of other cites and towns have done it, so we can too.  In fact, the International Dark Sky Association has even produced an example ordinance to help communities implement light pollution measures.

Why?   It is summed up nicely in the introduction of IDS' Lighting Code Handbook:

"All of us live underneath the sky, and all of us need quality outdoor lighting. Careless use of outdoor lighting damages the night time environment in many ways for everyone, often decreasing security and safety or even creating hazards through glare and distraction where none would exist without the lighting. But the loss of the naturally dark star-filled sky is a tragic consequence for the environment and the human soul, akin to the loss of our forested landscapes or even the loss of fresh air we breathe. The night sky has been a canvas of our hopes and inspirations since we have been aware enough to raise our eyes from the ground. But our children are more and more growing up never seeing the stars, robbed of this inspiration of the ages. 

It need not happen. 

Careful and considerate use of lighting at night, using light only when it is really needed, where it is needed, and as much as is needed and no more, would unblanketed the stars in all but the largest cities. Compared to typical outdoor lighting practices, such "quality lighting" on average puts less than half the light into the sky, in some cases even less than one-tenth as much. Imagine it, in Whitehorse, a city of 20,000 residents, effective lighting could bring back the endless skyways and northern light filled skies of a village of 2000. The universe above could return to our towns and homes, to inspire the coming generations as it inspired the creators of Orion the Hunter with the Golden Fleece of stars tightly in his grip. 

Quality lighting brings other substantial benefits as well. Lack of glare and excessive contrast brings improved visibility, especially to the aging eye. Elimination of wasted light saves money, energy and resources, which in turn reduces air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions caused by energy production and resource extraction. Good lighting returns a sense of balance to the night, and gives a quality appearance to our town when the sun goes down. 

But poor lighting practice is rampant. Careless and excessive use of lighting in our outdoor environments causes extensive damage to the aesthetics of the night, at the same time that is compromises safety and utility, the very uses for which it is usually installed. Bad lighting hurts everyone. It starts a cascade of negative consequences--beginning with the loss of our views of the heavens, continuing through falling levels of safety and utility, irritation of our neighbour and wildlife, disturbance of the rhythms of day and night that are vital to many natural systems, damage the aesthetic appearance of our communities, wasted monetary and natural resources used to produce wasted light, and increased air pollution and carbon dioxide levels from wasted fossil fuels. There is nothing good that comes from bad lighting. Quality lighting costs less than bad lighting, in the long term and even usually in the short term. Everyone wins when lighting is done right. "
And the City supports this initiative, as stated in Sustainability portion of the Official Community Plan, which says:

"13.1.3 The reduction of light pollution and energy usage of light fixtures shall be examined." 
So let's turn this planning idea into reality.  Participate in the current zoning re-write process and support implementation of light pollution prevention measures in the bylaw.  Also let City staff and councillors know that you support seeing the stars and northern lights in Whitehorse.  

If you, or someone you know, is particularly interested in this topic and want to form an ad-hoc advocacy group, then please contact me. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Yukon's Reservoir Levels - Mid October Update

Reservoirs remain pretty close to full at 97%.  Normally by this time of year they'd be down to 92% full.  Perhaps because of the Mayo and Aishihik hydro plant shutdowns over the few weeks allowed those reservoirs not to be used.  I notice the diesels at Whitehorse are off now, so maybe Aishihik hydro plant got hooked back up?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

bicycle events & cycling advocacy links

At our Transition Whitehorse meeting tonight we discussed the ideas around doing a bicycle event and perhaps establishing a cycling coalition in Whitehorse.

On the topic of events, many cites are now doing Sunday street events were streets are closed to cars and they have community cycling and active recreation events.  The grandaddy of this in recent times is Bogota's Ciclovia:

Portland Oregon has something similar called "Sunday Parkways":

As for bicycle advocacy groups, here are a couple I know of:

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Yukon's Reservoir Levels - Sept. 30th Update - Plus New Feature!

Yukon's reservoirs remain petty much close to full.  We're at 97% full, with Marsh Lake slipping a little.  But I see we're still spilling at Whitehorse, so I'm sure Marsh Lake will be get "topped-up" before winter flows hit.

I've added a new feature to the energy battery graph - it is a little red marker on the side that shows where we are at normally for this time of year.  This is the average reservoir levels over the past 10 years.  So right now we are a bit ahead of where we are normally for this time of year. 

I also saw that Yukon Energy on thier blog have picked up on this ideas of an energy battery or gas tank in thier post on "Full Tanks".  This post has some nice graphs of the reservoir levels this year and a bit of interesting commentary, so check it out.