The Need for Dark Skies

Sark, a small island between England and France, is the world’s first “Dark Sky” island. It has no vehicles—the 650 people who live there travel by bike or foot—and there are no street lamps. When night falls the only thing to illuminate the island of Sark is starlight.

Intrigued as to how living under the light of the stars impacts health and behavior, psychotherapist Ada Blair decided to interview Sark’s residents. She uncovered that the people who lived on Sark truly felt that being in touch with the night sky benefited their well-being. Writing of her findings for The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), Blair says that the shared night sky gave Sark’s residents a deep sense of community. That residents made comments such as:

“last summer we were lying on the field outside the Island Hall with everybody looking up during the meteor shower … people had sleeping bags, thermoses, and hot chocolate.”

And while small talk elsewhere may involve the weather, Blair says on Sark it those casual back-and-forths start with the sky: “Did you see the Milky Way above the Seignurie last night. Wasn’t it amazing?”

Not only do the stars bring Sark’s community together, but the residents observing the night sky results in positive (and sometimes transformative) feelings. 

Sadly the experience of turning our gaze to look up at the skies is one that is increasingly lost on our generation. While Sark may have dark skies, much of the world has become illuminated by unnatural light. Journalist, Ron Judd, in an article for The Seattle Times, says that 99% of Americans never routinely see a true dark sky – and that’s if they even step outside…

It’s a stark contrast to how humanity used to interact with the stars, where constellations were our guides, our friends, our gods.

By failing to look up above, we miss the prompt to ask ourselves deep questions. David Ingram, who heads a Seattle-based group of dedicated dark-sky advocates underscores what we miss when we stop looking up: “The sad truth is that the current bunch of us will be the first in the history of the planet to go most or all the way through life failing to grasp our place in the universe. Because we simply have never seen it. You can put anybody—I don’t care who they are—out under the stars for 30 minutes, and they start asking the big questions. Where else does that happen? You don’t ask big questions in a restaurant.”

 

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