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SPIE Professional July 2013

International Year of Light

SPIE helps move global initiative forward

International Year of Light Logo

SPIE President-Elect H. Philip Stahl and SPIE members John Dudley and Anthony M. Johnson were part of a delegation of optics leaders from around the world who presented the goals and activities of the proposed International Year of Light (IYL) to representatives of the United Nations and UNESCO in May.

A declaration by the U.N. to celebrate an International Year of Light would highlight to the citizens of the world the importance of light and optical technologies in our lives and futures.

The meeting in New York was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Mexico to the U.N. and sets in place the procedure for adoption of an IYL by the U.N. General Assembly.

“The optics and photonics community certainly knows of the importance of light and light-based technology,” Stahl said. “Light underpins the world economy, enables a sustainable future, offers tremendous advances in human health and medicine, and inspires us to appreciate the beauty of our natural world and human culture.

“But these contributions are often invisible to the policy makers of the world and the general public. The UN declaring an International Year of Light will help make light more ‘visible’ and increase its appreciation.”

Back row, left to right: Stahl, Dudley, Johnson, and Chembo. Cetto is in foreground.

Global effort for International Year of Light

In addition to Stahl, of the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center (USA), the senior researchers who made the presentation in May included Ana María Cetto from the National Autonomous University of Mexico; Yanne Chembo representing the African Physical Society; Dudley, president of the European Physical Society and professor at Université de Franche-Comté (France); and Johnson, a past president of OSA and representative for the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics.

Mexico, along with Ghana, New Zealand, and the Russian Federation, submitted the IYL proposal in 2012 to the UNESCO executive board, which adopted the proposal with more than 30 countries as cosignatories.

At the May meeting, the optics leaders described the role that optics and photonics can play in addressing issues of sustainable development and in promoting science education. They also discussed the importance of ensuring that the IYL highlights both the science and the technological applications of light and emphasizes the key role of photonics as an enabling technology to solve problems of global concern.

“An International Year of Light is a tremendous opportunity to ensure that international policymakers and stakeholders are made aware of the problem-solving potential of light technology,” Dudley said. “Photonics provides practical and cost-effective solutions to challenges in so many different areas: energy, sustainable development, climate change, health, and agriculture.”

SPIE raises photonics awareness around the globe

SPIE Executive Director Eugene Arthurs said he was pleased that the United Nations is interested in advocacy of the profound importance of light in every facet of life.

“SPIE is continually working to raise awareness of photonics technology," he said, as well as "the many high-value jobs it creates, its numerous applications that already have revolutionized our world, and future applications that will solve pressing problems in communications, healthcare, food- and water-resource management, and other vital areas.”

Arthurs, Stahl, Dudley, and Johnson are among numerous SPIE members serving on advisory committees for the International Year of Light. Others include past SPIE presidents Eustace Dereniak (USA), Katarina Svanberg (Sweden), and María Yzuel (Spain); SPIE Fellows Maria Calvo (Spain) and Chris Dainty (Ireland); and SPIE member Angela Guzman (USA).

The groups supporting the IYL are optimistic that the proposal will be put before the full U.N. General Assembly by the end of the year and possibly as soon as September. A final proclamation isn't expected before January 2014. 

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

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DOI: 10.1117/2.4201307.12

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