Why the Azores should become a Dark Sky Preserve

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Night sky as seen from Sao Miguel Azores 2018

Light pollution is the presence of manmade, artificial light in the night environment. It has been intensified by excessive, misdirected uses of light which has been argued by scientists, that it alters natural earth cycle conditions. As a side-effect of urbanization, light pollution has been associated with compromising health, disrupting ecosystems and spoiling aesthetic environments. Light pollution poses a serious threat in particular to nocturnal wildlife, having negative impacts on plant and animal physiology. It has been said that it can “confuse animal navigation, alter competitive interactions, change predator-prey relations, and cause physiological harm to species.”The rhythm of life is orchestrated by the natural patterns of light and dark, so a disruption to these patterns impacts the ecological dynamics which many people overlook.

Nocturnal animals can be harmed by light pollution because they are biologically evolved to be dependent on an environment with a certain number of hours of uninterrupted daytime and nighttime. The over-illumination of the night sky is affecting these organisms, especially birds; disrupting their natural migratory patterns. One of the leading international organizations on the cause is the “International Dark-Sky Association” or IDA for short. IDA’s principal approach is
“to raise awareness about the value of dark, star-filled night skies and encourage their protection and restoration through education about the problems and solutions, including outdoor lighting practices that create less light pollution.”

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In 2011, the organization had about 5,000 members in 70 countries with the Azores islands not being on any of those lists. The importance of preserving the unique Dark-Sky in the Azores, and the beauty of the night sky for future generations that is something that can no longer be taken for granted, and must be preserved. A local group has chosen to do just that and have launched their initial campaign for government and citizen awareness of the issue and methods of preservation. Their website is Dark Sky Azores.

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An IDA International Dark Sky Community is a town, city, municipality or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies. Dark Sky Communities excel in their efforts to promote responsible lighting and dark sky stewardship, and set good examples for surrounding communities.

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