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  • Writer's pictureThe Low Down

Don’t be afraid of the dark

The Editor,


Don’t be afraid of the dark, it’s beneficial for us all: humans, other animals, insects and plants. Darkness lets the sky shine bright on most nights. We can easily turn off unnecessary outdoor lighting and install fixtures that aim the right kind of light downward instead of spreading it far and wide, erasing the sky. Keeping lights low allows us to enjoy starlight and moonlight. To this end, concerned citizens from the Chelsea-Wakefield area have formed a group called Natural Light and Soundscapes, drawing some of our inspiration and knowledge from the international Dark Sky Organization that even certifies communities and parks to promote astronomy and eco-tourism.


People take melatonin to help them sleep, but melatonin is the sleep hormone our bodies produce naturally if we immerse ourselves in darkness. The animals and birds whose habitats we light up at night don’t have such options and can become too disoriented and disturbed to nest, mate and carry on with their lives. Joining many municipalities in Quebec and around the world, La Pêche has expressed commitment to uphold Dark Sky policies, and we hope that Chelsea will twin with them to reduce unnecessary and harmful lighting. 


Exterior lighting is polluting the sky at an alarming rate. The good news is that light pollution is the easiest kind to handle quickly; with the flick of a few switches, installation of timers and dimmers, each household can dramatically reduce their harm on the environment. People may unthinkingly feel safer with lights ablaze around their homes, but there is no evidence that diminished lighting increases the risk of robbery or other crimes. On the contrary, motion detectors scare off intruders and improve camera image success. Clear instructions on best lighting reductions can be found on the websites of darksky.org and Quebec’s own preeminent, certified park Mont-Mégantic (meganticdarksky.org), which also includes an observatory and a team of scientists who produce educational material for all concerned.


The activities of Earth Day [April 22] must change our ways year-round. So we’ll get ambitious and expand the traditional lights out 9 p.m. to dawn to all five Mondays of April, inviting people to delight in more sky gazing; seeing a change all year round would be a heartening success. Members of Natural Light and Soundscapes will update you on a special evening event of star gazing in Chelsea to share the natural night sky on Earth Day. Our hope is that others will join our team (just email us at natural.light.and.sound.scapes@gmail.com), and that many more will make a habit of this simple joy: looking up and being able to see an amazing sky. Can we come together on this? 


Martha Nandorfy

La Pêche, QC

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