Celebrating our night skies – a call to all to join our European friends in Switzerland for La Nuit est Belle!

On the evening of May 21st, public lighting in the City of Geneva and surrounding communities will be switched off in a show of support for our night skies.  People living in Geneva and surrounding rural districts will enjoy the wonder of natural darkness lit only by the Moon and stars. They will see the sky as it was before light pollution spread litter over its beauty.

In support of our European friends and in a bid to raise awareness of light pollution, Surrey-based project, Dark Skies Matter is calling on local communities and individuals right here in Surrey to join the cause and switch off external lights from sundown until midnight on May 21st.

Light pollution wastes valuable resources and contributes to climate change.  It endangers human health by disrupting natural bodily cycles. It harms the well-being of our fellow-creatures and degrades biodiversity. La Nuit est Belle! is more than a celebration of beauty, heritage and the power of Nature to inspire.  It is a window into a future that is necessary if we are to protect our world and the creatures in it.  It is a demonstration that, unlike most other kinds of pollution, light pollution and the damage that flows from it can be reduced, literally at the ‘flick of a switch’.

La Nuit et Belle! is the brain-child of Eric Achkar, engineer and Geneva Astronomy Society President, and Pascal Moeschler, curator and biologist at the Geneva Museum of Natural History.  The original 2019 event was a huge success and welcomed by residents. It reached nearly a million people in 152 communities and encompassed an area of 2,000 square kilometres. As a result, the importance of protecting the natural night is now widely recognised and reductions in light pollution are increasingly being demanded by all stakeholders.

This call for action in Surrey is led by Surrey-based project, Dark Skies Matter, and backed by a wide range of local organisations including CPRE Surrey, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Surrey Wildlife Trust and Guildford & District RSPB.

John Evans, founder of Dark Skies Matter and astronomer comments:

“For most people living in the UK, dark skies are under threat.  Because of light pollution, we are in danger of losing forever the beauty of the natural night and its power to heal and inspire – a heritage that has been ours from the earliest times. Our bodies need the restorative darkness of night as much as they need the bright light of day. But light pollution is destroying this crucial balance. It compromises our health and well-being and that of our fellow creatures. It wastes precious resources and contributes to climate change. Why are we allowing this to happen?  Light pollution is litter, harmful and wasteful. It does nothing useful at all. The good news is that we can reduce light pollution by adopting well-informed lighting practice and still do all the things we need to do. There are no downsides to doing so, only upsides.

By joining with La Nuit est Belle! We can take a stance on light pollution and work together to raise awareness and understanding of its many unwanted effects, while revisiting the beauty of natural night.  We hope this small act will get supported locally and build into an annual event”.

Heather Kerswell, Chair of the Surrey Hills AONB Board comments:

“La Nuit est Belle is a great way to unite with our European friends and raise awareness of the damage that light pollution causes. The best of Surrey’s dark skies are to be found in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in remote rural areas such as Leith Hill and the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a starry night sky is one of the most magical sights the countryside can offer. We call on Surrey residents to switch off their outdoor lighting on 21st May to celebrate our wonderful dark skies”.

You can read about La Nuit est Belle! 2021 on the French language website www.lanuitestbelle.org and for further information on Dark Skies Matter visit www.darkskiesmatter.org.uk.

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