By John Pickering 24/06/2019 3


Dark space, like green space, is essential for our well being. Dark space, like green space, is our past, our taonga, and our right.

Dark space, unlike green space, is not prioritised in our city plans, is not part of our conversation about Te Tiriti, nor is it where we go for relaxation and inspiration. But once it was. Dark space is accessible to us all, if only. If only we turned off the lights and looked up. Dark space is the night sky, the moon, the planets, the stars and galaxies. Once visible to every child, now lost in the haze of light pollution; once the source of wonder and joy; once the inspiration and the starting point for the personal journeys of countless scientists and philosophers, religious leaders and poets.

The week is Matariki. The new year celebrated at the first appearance of the stars known as Matariki – the pleiades. A time for friends and family and celebration. Sadly, even tragically and certainly scandalously most tamariki in Aotearoa will struggle to see any of the stars of Matariki, let alone the nine that are supposedly naked eye objects. This is because we have not acted as kaitiaki of our night sky. We have not guarded it from our modern obsession of pretending night is just an extension of day rather than a time to rest, recuperate, and, yes, gaze on the heavens in awe-filled wonder.

Matariki (Source: http://deography.com/m45-the-pleiades-seven-sisters/)

All is not lost, though. The solutions are in our own hands. As we have preciously defended the green spaces in our city, now we must do the same for dark space. We must insist that our city ordinances are such that lighting that spills light into the dark space is not permitted and that the kinds of lights we employ are not of the most polluting and disrupting kinds. As individuals we can turn down or off our outside lights that blaze away even when we are not there. We must be guardians of the night – protecting not just the taonga that is the view, but the darkness that enables our night loving insects and birds to survive. Matariki is also a time to reflect on our health and wellbeing. Perhaps this year we may reflect on the fact that the blue light emitted by our phones and tablets which we have been warned is detrimental to our health, is the same kind of light emitted by the LED street lights, which cities are rushing to pollute dark space with.

Let us together, all who call Aotearoa New Zealand home, reclaim our kaitiakitanga of Matariki.

(Featured Image by cafuego https://www.flickr.com/photos/cafuego/32719827268)

3 Responses to “Dark space”

  • Nice one. The new and much cheaper to run LEDs are polluting our skies. I am frustrated by folk putting bright floods on their buildings and pointing to the fence. The spillage and glare is appalling. The new LED street lights are fantastic. The lack of glare 200m down the road is minimal which means a driver can actually see! It is most noticable in Upper Hutt as the council have installed these through the streets. The yellow glare off low clouds has practically disappeared. A major bad example are the sodium lamps at the rail ferry terminal in Wellington. Pointing straight back along the motorway they are diabolical in the rain. These installations need to be regulated. I am collecting piccies of bad lights to hit some councils with them. Got to start somewhere.

  • Thanks Ross. I share your frustration with folk putting bright floods on their buildings. There are better solutions. As you say LEDs are a step forward if they are well shielded and point down. Unfortunately, most councils seem to put in the 4000K bulbs instead of 3000K or less. The problem with the 4000K is that there is a spike in the blue which doesn’t aid our seeing things on the road, but does contribute to light pollution and disturbing the night-time insect and bird life. NZTA know about this and allow 3000k, and less in dark sky areas like Tekapo. They could well go further and insist on 3000K or less.

  • If you want to have a look at the stars, don’t expect to in the city and please don’t complain about other peoples lights. Go camping (glamping), make a weekend of it. City people are so far disconnected from the natural world, that they seem to forget about things like the stars, tides etc.
    Matariki (AKA Pleiades) is a beautiful system and quite easy to see in a dark sky. The wonder of a starry night is pretty cool.