Why a red zone dark sky park?
Over the past decade we have started waking up to the harm we are causing through excessive and wasteful night-time lighting. Creating a red zone dark sky park is not just about seeing the stars – although that is a wondrous thing. It’s also about being healthier, protecting our environment, and saving money.
It’s about intelligent lighting, not total darkness. It’s about planning the light so it shines where it needs to be, rather than ruining our night vision and our view of the stars.
It’s about ensuring the lights are the right kind of lights, so they don’t disrupt our natural rhythms, and our unique environment. You can read more about the technical requirements for lighting in a dark sky park.
Stars in Christchurch
Right now, in Christchurch, we can see around 500 stars. In the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve you can see around 4000.
A red zone dark sky park won’t achieve the night sky clarity of the Mackenzie Country – we are in a city, after all. But with intelligent lighting where it’s needed, around 1500 stars could be visible. That’s two to three times more than what we can see now.
Health benefits of a dark sky
Artificial night-time light harms our health – so much so that the American Medical Association recently adopted guidelines to minimise the impact of night-time lighting.
Light pollution, especially blue light from LEDs, is a risk factor for increased breast and prostate cancers.
Blue light at night disrupts our circadian rhythm and leads to changes in the way we metabolise many hormones, including melatonin (which we produce only at night in the absence of blue light). As a result we experience fatigue, stress, loss of alertness, and decreased well-being.
It’s also been implicated in serious ailments such as cancer, diabetes, and asthma.
Controlling the light within the red zone would have significant health benefits for red zone neighbours, leading to increased alertness and well-being, and decreased stress and depression.
It's not just human health that would beneft – plants and animals also need a time of darkness.
Like humans, many animals also have a circadian rhythm of alternating light and darkness, and they rely on this to lead a normal life. Artificial light at night can severely disrupt their lives, whether they are nocturnal or otherwise.
Even trees and plants thrive better if the nights are dark and the days are bright and sunny.
Not only has the way we light our cities blocked out our night skies, harmed our health, and harmed our environment, but it’s also been financially wasteful.
Between 30 and 40 per cent of the costs of electrical power for street lighting can be saved if street lights only shine down, not up.
By lighting the Avon River Red Zone intelligently, we can save ratepayers money!
On the next page: Red Zone Dark Sky Park committee