SOS: Save Our Skies

Con­cerned about light pol­lu­tion? Dark-skies cam­paigner Steve Owens says com­mu­ni­ties can make a dif­fer­ence

Sky at Night Magazine - - DARK-SKY LIGHTING -

There is al­ways value in get­ting peo­ple stargaz­ing. The more en­gage­ment you have with your com­mu­nity, the more you can make them recog­nise the value of dark skies and the more likely they are to ap­prove plan­ning poli­cies that pro­tect those skies.

The Isle of Coll in the In­ner He­brides is an In­ter­na­tional Dark Sky As­so­ci­a­tion (IDA) Dark Sky Com­mu­nity thanks to the work of the Coll Dark Skies Group. County Kerry in Ire­land now has an IDA In­ter­na­tional Dark Sky Re­serve as the re­sult of a cam­paign led by the lo­cal astron­omy so­ci­ety. In the case of Gal­loway For­est Dark Sky Park, at­tract­ing tourism was a huge drive in ar­gu­ing the case.

On a smaller scale, astron­omy so­ci­eties can help des­ig­nate Dark Sky Dis­cov­ery (DSD) sites by work­ing with their com­mu­nity. A word of warn­ing, though: I’ve found that when it’s just as­tronomers com­plain­ing about their hobby be­ing spoiled, it’s a hard sell; what has worked is at­tend­ing your lo­cal coun­cil meet­ings or talk­ing with friends and neigh­bours and let­ting them know the en­vi­ron­men­tal rea­sons why they wouldn’t want bad out­door light­ing in their area. It’s about find­ing the right route: a Dark Sky des­ig­na­tion can cre­ate pub­lic­ity and gen­er­ate lo­cal in­ter­est. If there’s a park in your com­mu­nity that you’ve al­ways used for stargaz­ing, but the coun­cil are plan­ning on build­ing houses near it, run pub­lic events there and get the com­mu­nity on board. This cre­ates more of a nar­ra­tive about why these sites are nec­es­sary. Make the point that it’s im­por­tant to peo­ple, and it won’t cost the coun­cil more money to in­stall good light­ing in­stead of bad light­ing; it’s just a case of think­ing about it in the first place.

Steve Owens is CEO of The Craw­ick Mul­ti­verse in Dum­fries and Gal­loway, and a Dark Skies cam­paigner who sits on the DSD steer­ing group.

In 2009, Gal­loway For­est Park be­came the UK’s first ever Dark Sky Park

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