(IAAC) Re: Stellafane Imperiled

Quoted from New York Times article appearing 28 June 1999:

>As for the Stellafane's convention's contribution to the town's economy,
>which could be lost if light from the prison lights up the heavens, Mrs.
>Powden said, "The tourism dollars are great, but I'd like to add to that
>what the state gives us. I have to believe there's a compromise possible
>with Stellafane."

Ms. Powden, as an astronomer and a business person, I wanted to respond
directly to the above quote from you. The first priority in negotiating
a compromise is understanding the issues which motivate the other side.

In the case of Stellafane, the global astronomical community (and this
truly is an issue affecting thousands of people outside Vermont, indeed
many outside of North America) is primarily motivated by the need to be
able to see the night sky... Many of us have the weekly or even nightly
experience of having to drive hours from our homes to escape ever more
pervasive, invidious and UNNECESSARY effects from "Light Pollution".

If neither you nor any of your staff have ever attempted to escape the
pink-gray night-time signature of advancing suburbanization and poorly
lighted development, I guarantee you will NOT understand this issue...

Stellafane, and the site on which it occurs, represent a mecca to many
people around the globe: a place protected from the advance of time, a
place where the night sky which has inspired the poets, philosophers,
scientists and political visionaries of every generation of human beings
up to this Century, remains intact.

Certainly compromise *IS* possible: for example, it may be possible to
design properly shielded prison-security lighting, to properly screen any
exposed highly reflective areas of the prison grounds, and to ensure that
the true incremental impact of Light Pollution from the prison on the
Stellafane site IS being measured and controlled effectively.

To the extent that such compromise could be achieved, it would represent
a tremendous step forward in balancing the obvious economic benefits with
the more subtle COSTS of development in this country. However, are the
proponents of this prison project really willing to commit to such a
momentous and unprecented negotiation process around these issues?

If not, then in the end, you may best serve the long-term interests of
your communities (and of millions of people beyond your communities who
will be indirectly affected by the disappearance of the night sky), by
finding another community (or a location more distant from the current
site but near this same community) for this prison project.

Clear skies, and thank you for your consideration,

Lew Gramer
Boston, MA

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