2020 / 01 / 31
The importance of the dark sky for its environmental value and as a tool for generating development was the main theme addressed from different perspectives at the "1st Conference on Sky Protection and Employment Opportunities", held on Tuesday, January 28th in La Laguna. This meeting was organized by the Starlight Foundation, with the collaboration of the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute (IAC) and the STARS4ALL Foundation, a collective awareness platform to promote the darkness of the night sky.
"People of future generations have the right to an unharmed and unpolluted Earth, including the right to a pure sky". This is stated in the UNESCO Declaration of the Rights of Future Generations. A message that José Domingo Fernández Herrera, Director General for the Fight against Climate Change and Environment of the Government of the Canary Islands, recalled at the opening of the meeting.
This astrophysicist by training also explained in his presentation "Light Pollution and Climate Change" the intimate relationship between both concepts, as well as their serious repercussions for all living beings, including the human species. He also pointed out that the reflection and diffusion of the particles of the escaping light are detrimental to astronomical observation: they cause nighttime brightness to increase and stars to disappear. Hence the need to regulate this problem at a global level, but especially in areas privileged for their skies, such as the Canary Islands, which since 1988 has had a Law for the Protection of the Quality of the Sky of the Canary Observatories.
In her presentation on the "Economic and Scientific Impact of the Canary Observatories", Casiana Muñoz-Tuñón, deputy director of the IAC, spoke of the importance and role of this center in promoting knowledge, the creation of highly skilled jobs and internationalization in the Canary Islands. She reviewed the studies that, led by the University of La Laguna, have been done on the economic and social impact of astronomy in the Canary Islands. He also emphasized the "niches for the creation and development of companies" related to astrophysics.
Miquel Serra Ricart, administrator of the Teide Observatory and member of STARS4ALL, focused on the technological development around the measures and control of light pollution. In his talk he reported on the main activities to be carried out in the new EELabs project. "The objective -he pointed out- is to maximize the energy efficiency of new lighting technologies -mainly LED- while minimizing their effect in the form of light pollution in natural ecosystems of the Macaronesia.
Javier Díaz Castro, as head of the IAC's Technical Office for Sky Protection (OTPC), spoke about Intelligent Lighting and Innovation. "Light pollution is an environmental, economic and social problem of great impact that must be addressed from the Public Administrations, but it is also an opportunity for the development of specific jobs and development of professional activities, such as specialized technicians in the design of lighting installations in protected areas advising engineering, architecture and manufacturers".
The conference ended with the intervention of Antonia M. Varela, managing director of the Starlight Foundation, and her presentation "Dark Sky as a Driver of Sustainable Economy: Astrotourism". According to this IAC researcher, star tourism or astrotourism promoted by the Starlight Foundation is an innovative form of sustainable and responsible tourism that combines observation of the sky with activities related to this natural resource, the stars, and the dissemination of astronomy. Its goals," he explained, "are the application of measures for the protection of the night sky (legislation, intelligent lighting and innovation, energy and economic savings) and the symbiosis of the rich landscape, geological, environmental, biodiversity, cultural and scientific (archeology, paleontology, etc.) with the dark sky, being necessary for each territory to singularize, diversify and particularly manage the offer." And he added that the growing interest in astrotourism (200-400 %), its direct and indirect benefits and the opportunities for the environment, especially the rural, have led the Starlight Foundation to recently receive the FiturNext Award, in which international recognition has been given to its work, as a sustainable and replicable practice, which favors the development of the local economy.
Dark Sky and Employment Conference La laguna Exhibition by Antonia Varela/ Director of the Starlight Foundation/ Author: M. C. Barreto