Join initiative to save Surrey's dark skies

A dark night sky

The night view from Leith Hill - Credit: Dark Skies Matter

Did you know that in Geneva, May 21 is a celebration of ‘La Nuit est Belle’ - translating literally as the night is beautiful. It is the night when people living in Geneva and surrounding rural districts will enjoy the wonder of natural darkness lit only by the moon and stars. And this year 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 across the county to join the cause and switch off external lights from sundown until midnight on May 21. 

‘Dark skies are under threat,’ says astronomer and founder of Dark Skies Matter, John Evans. ‘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.’ 

According to John, aside from spoiling our view of a starry night sky, light pollution brings with it a series of negative effects, that are threatening our environment. For example, leaving lights burning is wasteful. Resources are being consumed unnecessarily and contributing to climate change. Our busy, blazing skies also disrupt wildlife, impacting biodiversity. 

‘Light pollution is litter, harmful and wasteful. It does nothing useful at all,’ says John. 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.’ 

John says by joining Surrey’s La Nuit est Belle’ event we can make a positive change that will last beyond that one evening. 

'We hope this small act will get supported locally and build into an annual event,’ he says. ‘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.’ 

And it isn’t hard to do your bit – simply turn off your lights. As part of his campaign, John has garnered a wide range of support for the local event from organisations such as CPRE Surrey, the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Surrey Wildlife Trust and Guildford & District RSPB. 

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‘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,’ says Heather Kerswell, chair of the Surrey Hills AONB board. ‘We call on Surrey residents to switch off their outdoor lighting on May 21 to celebrate our wonderful dark skies.’ 

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