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article imageFrance aims to restore dark skies, turning night into night

By Robert Myles     Sep 10, 2014 in Environment
Paris - As this year’s autumnal equinox approaches, hundreds of towns and cities across France will switch off their lights in an event designed to show off the night skies, free of light pollution.
French population centres large and small are participating in La Jour de la Nuit — The Day of the Night — organized by environmental campaigning group Agir pour l’Environnement. The event is scheduled for the night of Saturday, September 20, the weekend closest to 2014’s autumnal equinox falling on September 23. At the equinox, the Sun shines directly overhead on the Equator. In both the northern and southern hemispheres, the days and nights are of equal length. In the northern hemisphere the autumnal equinox marks the start of autumn, while on the other side of the Equator, spring officially gets underway.
In 2013, over 400 events were organized in France to mark La Jour de la Nuit. For 2014, these numbers are expected to increase with growing public awareness of the impact of light pollution.
Light pollution not only dilutes the numbers of stars to be observed in night skies but also affects the rhythm of nature, destabilizing ecosystems and impacting on species like deer, bats and moths that prefer the more discreet light of dusk.
France, with almost 9 million bright spots, is also guilty of engaging in a colossal waste of energy, according to Agir pour l’Environnement. But, extrapolating that worldwide, night-time energy use is a major contributory factor to global warming and the latter's impact on the environment.
Agir pour l’Environnement refers to a study from Australia’s University of New South Wales that found global average night-time temperatures showed an average increase of 3°C over the last 60 years. That appeared to indicate nights were more affected by climate change than daytime with knock-on effects for night-time biodiversity. Scientists observed a correlation between warmer nights and alterations in the biological cycles of plants and both warm-blooded animals and cold-blooded animals. Warm-blooded animals became more active while their cold-blooded cousins suffered enhanced levels of sleep disturbance.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), lighting accounts for 15 percent of global electricity consumption and 5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. UNEP’s “en.lighten” initiative aims to encourage nations to introduce concrete measures to move to more efficient lighting, with an ambitious target date of end-2016 set for phasing out all inefficient lighting.
If such measures aren’t put in place, says UNEP, overall energy consumption for lighting alone would grow by between 60 and 70 percent by 2030, with massive consequences for climate change.
France has already taken some steps to reduce light pollution and, with it, energy consumption. In July 2013, legislation came into force restricting the hours during which owners of non-residential buildings could use interior lighting or illuminate their shop windows and storefronts.
In addition, villages and communes in France are actively encouraged to reduce light pollution under the Villes et Villages Etoilés (Starlit Towns and Villages) scheme. Similar to France’s long-established Villes et Villages Fleuris (France in Bloom) scheme for floral displays, towns and villages earn stars for reducing light pollution and restoring starlit dark skies.
But much more requires to be done, say Agir pour l’Environnement whose figures point to the number of “bright spots” in France having increased by 30 percent during the past decade such that they now number 8.7 million points of light needlessly illuminating the heavens.
More about La Jour de La Nuit, France day of the night, environmental campaigns, dark skies, light pollution
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