Dark Skies Part 2

Dark Skies Part 2

Posted on 07-02-2024 by Words & Story: Maria Covlea, Concepts: Chris Hudson

A Dark Sky Guide for British Outdoors

It's easy to grasp the devastating impact of wildfires. They rage hot and fierce, leaving nothing but destruction in their wake. Creatures of all kinds, from birds to insects, vanish into the flames, reduced to a sea of blackened ashes.

Yet, not all destruction of nature unfolds with such dramatic flair. Sometimes, it creeps upon us slowly and quietly, altering entire ecosystems. This is particularly evident in the case of light pollution stemming from artificial nighttime illumination, which silently alters and destroys entire ecosystems over time.

Artificial Light at Night (ALAN) has only become a common occurrence since the mid-20th century, and the negative effects it has on nature were observed soon after. The harsh glow disrupts the natural production of melatonin, essential for body repairs for both humans and wildlife. When ALAN is present, birds find it challenging to navigate during the night, bats retreat to their roosts, and newly hatched turtles on beaches perish as artificial light disorients their directions. Even plants, bathed in artificial light during the night, are more susceptible to disease.

ALAN doesn't just affect the ground; it reaches upward, reflecting atmospheric particles and creating skyglow, a layer of light which hides away the beauty of dark skies.

Did you know?

A study reveals that 60% of Europeans and almost 80% of North Americans cannot see the beautiful glow of the Milky Way because of the effects of artificial lighting.

In the last 20 years, the Dark Sky movement, the war of darkness against ALAN, has been slowly shifting towards the dark side, and for once, that is actually a good thing. Experts leading this charge have transformed areas like the South Downs National Park into protected Dark Sky zones. Dan Oakley, a pioneer in this initiative, emphasises the importance of "right light, right time, right place" for success, urging the lighting industry to champion this cause.

To do my part, I've put together a simple guide to aid in embracing darkness and preserving the beauty of our Dark Skies.

    1. Illuminate Only When Necessary.
    ALAN should serve a purpose; if it can't be justified, it's likely unnecessary.
    2. Define The Area To Be Lit Precisely.
    A specialist can strategically position light sources to target only the areas that need illumination effectively while minimising spillage into unwanted areas. Use glare guards to control the light.
    3. Ensure Lights Turn Off When Not in Use.
    Nighttime illumination not only wastes energy and contributes to carbon emissions but also disrupts local wildlife. Employ timers and motion controls to mitigate these effects.
    4. Choose Warm Lighting.
    Opt for warmer lights (less than 2700K, ideally less than 2200K) to minimise negative impacts on nature. Replace fluorescent lights (now banned in the UK) with alternative lighting.
    5. Direct Light - Only Downwards.
    Avoid upward-facing lights to reduce skyglow and negative effects on wildlife. If the light must be upwards consider the degree of the reflection to reduce light spillage.
    6. Maintain Buffer Zones.
    Keep areas near waterways, hedgerows, grassland (that is not maintained) and edges of woodland in complete darkness to protect wildlife habitats.
    7. Seek Professional Advice.
    Consult experts like DarkScape Consulting or Hudsons Lighting to make informed lighting choices amidst the many available options.

In our quest to reclaim the night, let's embrace the beauty of darkness and safeguard our Dark Skies for generations to come.

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