Why protecting our darkness is so important

By Keith Muir, Business Manager at Forestry and Land Scotland, South Region.

From the first-time man discovered fire - darkness was under threat! A bold statement, but true. The first humans were probably very adept at living in a world that had true darkness, but modern humans have no such luxury. Many have never appreciated what true darkness is and the vast majority of humans have no idea of the implications of not having it.

The immortal words of Captain James Tiberius Kirk of the science fiction TV series Star Trek still ring true today – “to boldly go where no man has gone before”. Only now we are far more aware of where we live in the universe and how special & fragile we really are. This is in part due to the creation in November 2009 of the first European Dark Sky Park, right here in Scotland.

Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park has become synonymous with quiet, dark exploration. Not because its unique but because it went where no one had dreamt before. It took an already popular summer destination and flipped it to become an amazing winter destination without adding huge infrastructure. It took one of its key assets – darkness – and turned it into a place of learning and exploration. It took the imagination and inquisitive behaviour of humans and allowed them to go and look in wonder. What’s more it did it with ease. That’s not to say it was easy but rather to state that taking what was there for granted was no longer the case and appreciating darkness for what it really is - is just beginning.

Image: Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park © Lewis Parry

It was a decision that was initially looked at in bewilderment and cost the tax payer around twelve thousand pounds. It now generates upwards of seven hundred thousand pounds annually. It’s opened up the doors to other initiatives. The creative sector has used it to create events, pictures, furniture & poems. The business sector has added value through hospitality, products, services and premises. The education sector is using it as a laboratory, a classroom and an example. But the biggest contribution is that to our very existence.

By protecting darkness, we improve all living things in existence. We reduce the chances of diseases by boosting the immune systems of humans, by allowing wildlife to forage in the dark as they were designed to do, we allow migratory birds to find their way and we reduce our carbon footprint on this our very own special blue dot in the vastness of space. Darkness is a healing entity not fully appreciated by the developed world and something that can be regained or retained with work. At a time where our very existence through the effects of climate change is being questioned by the next generation, Dark Sky Places have answered the call. By encouraging visitors to explore, they learn. By being informed they question and by questioning they change.

Image: Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park © Lewis Parry

Galloway Dark Sky Park changed how dark sky places worked and ever since others have followed. More can be done, more can be learnt, and far more can be discovered. The big question is – are we ready to learn more and appreciate what we really have?

With thanks to Keith Muir and everyone at Forestry and Land Scotland, South Region.

Visit the Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park 

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