–Continuation from Part 2—
There’s little doubt we all need to work together to address light pollution. This has lead to some communities, notably ones in BC, setting responsible lighting guidelines. Not to be out done, the Nova Scotia government recently announced funding for ten municipalities to receive fixtures from LED Roadway Lighting (LRL). LRL’s fixtures are certified by the International Dark Sky Association and provide energy savings of up to 67% over other comparable fixtures. If you’re installing thousands of these fixtures, that will translate into savings of millions of dollars over their working lifetimes.
While the economic aspects of responsible lighting are compelling, let’s not forget the biological issues. Indeed an entire field of biology, called scotobiology, is dedicated to the study of the impact of darkness on animals and plants.Research has show that light pollution impacts feeding habits, navigation (everyone knows about moths being attracted to bright lights) and even reproductive cycles can be impaired. So when it comes to our nature reserves and parks, there are some genuine reasons for trying to keep the impact of light pollution to a minimum. In Nova Scotia, a first step was taken last July with the announcement that Kejimkujik National Park, or ‘Keji’ to Nova Scotians, was the 12th site to gain Dark Sky Preserve status in Canada.
Achieving this status requires that the park meet lighting guidelines, the overall amount of light pollution in the sky must be below a certain limit (surrounding towns can make this difficult), and also the park must put on interpretive programs about the night sky. Thanks to the efforts of Quinn Smith and David Chapman of Halifax Centre of the Royal Astronomical society and in collaboration with an enthusiastic park staff lead by Jonathan Sheppard, all of the criteria have now been met. The interpretative program even includes a section on aboriginal sky lore, a tribute to the Mi’kmaq people who lived in the Kejimkujik area for 2000 years.
The Keji story is really quite special. Just two hours from Halifax, Keji is known for its old-growth forests, white-tail deer and networks of lakes and rivers. Add to this its Dark Sky Preserve status, providing visitors a night sky that is unrivalled within the province, and you have truly special suite of mother nature’s attractions. While there have been a few grumblings about the “lights out at 11” regulations, most people seem to be really happy with the new designation. Perhaps Cape Breton Highlands National Park will achieve this status too, they’ve already made some polite enquiries.
Awareness of light pollution is definitely growing. While perhaps the economic aspects of responsible lighting are the biggest driver, it’s still important to appreciate the value of our skies, especially those clear dark ones in the country. Looking up at a sky full of stars is a humbling experience that gives you bearings in more ways than one. And if you turn down the lights, they get even brighter.
–Don’t miss the special celebration at Keji on Sat Aug 7th!