Artificial light at night acts like a physical barrier to many living organisms and that it fragments their habitat, disrupts the foodchain, and results in loss of biodiversity This impact needs to be considered whenever introducing lighting into the environment, especially in urban spaces where biodiversity has to deal with many other man-made barriers such as roads, fences, housing, other structures, and energy facilities.
“Like the ecological fragility we are witnessing in the natural world, darkness stands as something to be preserved and restored with intention – both technically and culturally. In doing so, we are called to think (and design) beyond human centricity, acknowledging planetary needs as well as our own.” Maya Shapiro
As the use of artificial lighting is rapidly increasing, we need to understand why darkness must be protected and preserved. A philosophical, and especially moral investigation into the disappearance of darkness should be seen as a pragmatic endeavor. This is important because a better understanding of darkness today, will provide an important step towards establishing the conditions for morally desirable nighttime lighting infrastructure; it will help to establish how we should light our twenty first century nightscapes.
Dark Sky International, the world’s leading authority on light pollution defines light pollution simply as “any adverse effect of artificial light”.
The Critical Role of Nocturnal Placemaking
Public lighting must be reimagined so it’s both functional and safe, has less impact on human biology and ecological systems and allows for visibility of the stars again. Sustainability depends upon healthy biodiversity especially in the built environment, so it’s crucial to implement nocturnal placemaking. This involves deliberately keeping designated areas free from artificial light or having very low, subtle, well-controlled levels of illumination to create ecological safe havens and sanctuaries.
Our default should be to respect and protect darkness, and when we do introduce light to apply and use it in a thoughtful, restrained and carefully executed manner.
With the global increase in the use of LED lighting and the fact that this technology in particular has many unwanted adverse effects, it’s imperative we move away from lighting where vehicular (street lighting) takes priority - to a more sustainable, safer and healthier approach.
Instead of focusing on human-centered design, we should be aiming for environment-centered design that takes into consideration all living beings, ecosystems, and the environment.
“The introduction of bright, white LED light fixtures has made it simple and cheap to flood the world with more light than is needed – wasting energy and money at the same time.” Ruskin Hartley Executive Director of DarkSky International.
Steps at Plas Y Brenin National Outdoor Centre, Snowdonia, Wales.
Image Dylan Parry-Evans & Karl Midlane.
Helpful, practical and informative guidance for reducing and preventing light pollution.
Dark Source (linked below) developed the dark-sky-compliant lighting for the Plas Y Brenin National Outdoor Centre in collaboration with the Snowdonia National Park Authority & Prosiect NOS. Located in the heart of Snowdonia, the aim of this improvement project was to reduce the energy waste and impact on biodiversity whilst enhancing the night-time character of the site. Footage by © BBC Countryfile. Before & After images by ©Karl Midlane & Dylan Parry Evans. https://www.dark-source.com/
Red LED streetlights have been installed in Worcestershire, UK, to support bats. A less disruptive spectrum is important, as is, lowering the light intensity. This matters because most LED streetlights have exposed diodes which deliver harmful, concentrated beams of high-intensity light from a flat surface. To learn more about the drawbacks and differences of LED lighting click here.
More information about the benefits of red LED street lighting.
Signify helped the municipality of Nieuwkoop ensure that its bat population and wildlife are not disturbed by artificial lighting by installing specially designed street lighting.
The new amber LED streetlights are designed to reduce the adverse impact of artificial lighting at night, on sea turtle hatchlings trying to make their way to the water.
While this guide was created for Ireland the guidance can be applied elsewhere in the world.
Thanks to the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan National Biodiversity Data Centre for this new guide on protecting nocturnal pollinators. Nocturnal pollinators carry on their important work to pollinate crops and plants and keep our ecosystems healthy. Yet more and more are prevented from doing so due to unnecessary lights.
This guide provides an excellent series of actions that can be taken to help protect nature.