FRODO fighting for night skies 

Friends of the Dark Outdoors to present ideas to council, chamber, other community groups

Fifteen dollars worth of tin is usually enough to turn an outdoor light from a blight on the night sky to a blessing for energy conservationists and star gazers, but the public needs to be awakened to the fact, according to Whistler’s Friends of the Dark Outdoors, or FRODO.

Luckily waking people up shouldn’t be a problem – thanks to a growing light pollution problem we aren’t sleeping all that well to begin with.

"It’s a big difference for not an awful lot of cost," said Don Brett, one of the founding members of FRODO.

"We’re not suggesting that there should be no lights anywhere at night, but we could be doing more to put that light on the ground where it belongs, rather than into the sky."

FRODO addressed the monthly AWARE meeting at the Delta Whistler Resort on Thursday, March 4, using the environmental group as a test audience for a presentation on light pollution that they will give to the municipality, the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, the Sea to Sky Construction Association, and other stakeholders.

Brett first became aware of Whistler’s light pollution problem several years ago while he was attempting to do some stargazing with his telescope at Rainbow Park. The lights on the building that houses the public washrooms interfered with his view, and he moved to several locations in town in search of a truly dark night sky. He tried the fields behind the Meadow Park Sports Centre and Lost Lake, but everywhere he went there was too much light.

Back at home, Brett also became aware that a set of motion-activated floodlights belonging to a neighbour were on more than they were off. Passing cars, rain and snow all activated the floodlights, which shone into Brett’s windows.

After discussing the problem with neighbours and other night sky enthusiasts, including Whistler astronomer John Nemy, FRODO was formed. The goal is to educate the public and contractors on the real costs and impacts of light pollution, while nudging the municipality to adopt bylaws and policies to regulate outdoor lighting.

Although FRODO includes several astronomers, the group is adamant that their campaign to save the night sky is not completely self-interested, and can be beneficial to everybody.

One of the biggest problems with light pollution says Nemy is that it often amounts to wasted energy.

"The basic definition of light pollution is shining artificial light sources where it’s not needed or wanted," he said. "Excessive artificial light wastes costly energy, and the growth of energy use causes a burden on the environment.

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