Protect the Environment,
Encourage Quality Tourism,
The night time environment is a precious natural resource for all life on Earth, but the glow of uncontrolled outdoor lighting has hidden the stars and changed our perception of the night.
Until recently, for all of human history, our ancestors experienced a sky brimming with stars – a night sky that inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature, including some of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets. The natural night sky is our common universal heritage and language, yet it’s rapidly becoming unknown to the newest generations.
Experiencing the night sky provides perspective, inspiration, and leads us to reflect on our humanity and place in the universe. The history of scientific discovery and even human curiosity itself is indebted to the natural night sky.
Definition of a Dark Sky Sanctuary
An IDA or Dark Sky Sanctuary (DSS) is public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage, and/or public enjoyment. A DSS differs from a Dark Sky Park or Reserve in that it is typically situated in a very remote location with few (if any) nearby threats to the quality of its dark night skies and does not otherwise meet the requirements for designation as a Park or Reserve. The typical geographic isolation of Sanctuaries significantly limits opportunities for public outreach, so a DSS designation is specifically designed to increase awareness of these fragile sites and promote their long-term conservation. – IDSS Guidelines
“Look out into the universe and contemplate the glory of God. Observe the stars, millions of them, twinkling in the night sky, all with a message of unity, part of the very nature of God.”
Goals for IDA Dark Sky Sanctuary Creation In Flores
- To recognize the UNESCO Biosphere of Flores as one of the greatest locations in the world for exceptional commitment to and success in local implementation of the ideals of dark sky preservation.
- To promote high value eco & starlight tourism.
- To further the protection of nocturnal habitats, public enjoyment of the night sky and its heritage, and identification of areas ideal for professional and/or amateur astronomy.
- To encourage landowners/administrators, surrounding communities and private interests to identify dark skies as a valuable resource in need of proactive conservation.
- To provide international recognition for Flores throughout Europe.
- To encourage other sites to become environmental leaders on dark sky issues by communicating the importance of dark skies and by providing an example of what is possible with proper stewardship.
- To achieve 100% sustainable / renewable energy usage.
Astronomical tourism goes back many centuries at sites as widely dispersed as Nabta Playa, Stonehenge, Chichen Itza, and in the United States, Cahokia, the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, Mesa Verde, and Chaco Canyon. (Malville, 2008; Williamson, 1984) Many of the above locations had specific purposes related to agriculture and other traditional practices. (Malville, 2008; McCoy, 1992; Richman, 2004; Shattuck and Cornucopia, 2001) Astronomical tourism in recent times includes traveling to a park to enjoy the beauty of the night sky.
For people living under light pollution, the night sky has only a few bright stars and planets, and a ubiquitous sky glow from artificial illumination. (Longcore and Rich, 2004; National Park Service, n.d. a, n.d. b; Nordgren, 2010) A survey questionnaire of United States National Park Service (NPS) units found that 94% of parks with overnight visitation considered dark night skies an important resource, 62% of these offered some form of night sky interpretation, and 80% of these undertook efforts to reduce artificial light pollution. (Simon and Babcock, 1999).
Astronomical observation activities offer the possibility that people marvel observing a Milky Way they had ever seen, to inculcate a respect for Nature. Rural star-tourism becomes an excellent resource to attract a very niche tourism sector: a client interested in taking full advantage of the natural environment to visit in all seasons throughout the year.
The night skies of Flores if protected against light pollution with an increase of community awareness of the stars could be amongst the world’s best for looking at the stars as the island is situated thousands of miles away from any major light pollution source. With viewpoints as high as 900 meters in such a pristine environment, tourists and locals can have unlimited access to the cosmos in the safest and most beautiful location in the world.
Flores possesses certain unique environmental features, which have won it the distinction of being named a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. Its landscape is the result of a dramatic formation process that took millions of years, and houses a multitude of microclimates, 300m waterfalls, and surprisingly contrasting vegetation. Under the Koppen climate classification, Flores Island has a humid subtropical climate that closely borders on an ocean climate. As a starlight sanctuary, Flores could offer its beautiful skies in a comfortable environment all year round.
In order to avoid excessive light pollution and become a Starlight Tourism Destination, the island cohesively must adopt a declaration where an unpolluted night sky that allows the enjoyment and contemplation of the firmament should be considered an inalienable right equivalent to all other socio-cultural and environmental rights. The progressive degradation of the night sky must be regarded as a fundamental loss thus promoting Flores as the first Starlight Sanctuary in Portugal, and being designated a Starlight Tourist Destination. Flores is an unrivalled location for stargazing and for learning about the environment, cultural, natural and landscape related values of the stars.
“An unpolluted night sky that allows the enjoyment and contemplation of the firmament should be considered an inalienable right equivalent to all other socio-cultural and environmental rights”
Starlight Cultural Heritage Flores
As far as history can support from maps of the Atlas Catalan, Medici Atlas, Corbitis Atlas, among others from antiquity identify Flores as the first point of call to Europe and the last leg to the Americas as nearly every recorded civilization contains stories of Flores and its iconic waterfall mountaintops.
Flores has been a hub of cultural exchange throughout Europe and the western world with the sky as the only source of navigation born from the stars. Those who could read the stars were the ones who were fortunate enough to call the treasure that is Flores, Home.
Understanding the UNESCO Biosphere of Flores is more rare than the Hope Diamond at 55 sq miles in a world of over 57,500,000 sq miles of land area and 139,691,761 of water area – Science Desk Reference American Scientific, New York: Wiley 1999: 180. The probability of discovering Flores in the world is 55 sq mi / 197,191,761 sq mi – .00000027%. Flores is impossible for most people to ever see such an environmental treasure of the world and has been written in books of antiquity over the last several thousand years.
Similar contributions to nature through aesthetic beauty and maintenance, Flores’ Star Sanctuary will be another component to economic demand as viewed collectively in the community space and showcased to the world. The Starlight initiative is supported by UNESCO, The International Astronomical Union, and the World Tourism Organization.
“The cheapest energy, the cleanest energy, the most secure energy is the energy that is not used at all.”
Miguel Arias Canete, European Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy
When the cultural relationship between man and nature is cooperative and supported for the benefit of all, economic prosperity will be realized and an inspiration shared from all who visit.
Promotion of High Value Niche Tourism in Flores
This proposal can be submitted to the International Dark Sky Sanctuary to formally recognize Flores as an international destination for stargazers. Along with submission, a website can be developed to help bring awareness on the importance of becoming a Star Sanctuary. (http://www.darksky.org/idsp/sanctuaries/)
Imagine a world without stars. To ponder the twinkling sky is a pleasure humans have had ever since we’ve been able to tilt our heads back and look towards the heavens. But it’s a pleasure we’re at risk of losing; and in fact, for many it’s already gone.
The problem of light pollution – as the man-made alteration of night lighting levels – is an obvious one. It’s a type of pollution notable not for the visible signs of what is left behind, but for what is taken away – in this case, the natural lights of the nighttime sky -the stars, the planets, the glimmering dome that has inspired wonder for countless generations of sky-gazers. Meanwhile, light pollution wreaks all kinds of havoc on the natural world, from affecting birds’ nighttime navigation to disorienting baby sea turtles to disrupting the mating patterns of insects.
Light pollution is one of the most pervasive forms of environmental alteration, but only recently has it been getting much attention from the scientific community. Demand for Star Sanctuaries as a tourism segment grows annually worldwide.
1. More than 80 percent of the world and more than 99 percent of the U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies.
2. The Milky Way is hidden from more than one-third of humankind, including 60 percent of Europeans and nearly 80 percent of North Americans.
3. Light pollution hurts otherwise pristine and deserted sites because it spreads hundreds of miles from its source. The sky glow of Los Angeles is visible from an airplane 200 miles away. Residents of L.A. haven’t been able to see the stars for decades. In fact some city dwellers didn’t even know what a natural night sky looks like.
“When a 1994 earthquake knocked out the city’s power, many anxious residents called local emergency centers to report a strange “giant, silvery cloud” in the dark sky. What they were seeing – for the first time – was the Milky Way, long obscured by light pollution. Imagine not knowing what a sky looks like, this is the majority of the world population.”
4. The most light-polluted country on the planet is Singapore, where the entire population lives under “skies so bright that the eye cannot fully dark-adapt to night vision.”
5. Inhabitants of San Marino, Kuwait, Qatar, and Malta can no longer see the Milky Way.
6. 99 percent of people living in the United Arab Emirates are unable to see the Milky Way, as are 98 percent of Israel and 97 percent of Egypt.
7. The largest swaths of land without Milky Way visibility include the Belgium/Netherlands/Germany transnational region, the Padana plain in northern Italy, and the Boston to Washington expanse. Other large areas where the Milky Way has been lost are the London to Liverpool/Leeds region in England, and regions surrounding Beijing and Hong Kong in China and Taiwan.
8. If you live in or near Paris, to find the closest place with a large area without light pollution you’d have to travel over 500 miles to Corsica, Central Scotland, or Cuenca province, Spain.
9. If you live in Neuchâtel, Switzerland you’d have to travel 845 miles to northwestern Scotland, Algeria, or Ukraine to find pristine nighttime skies.
Stars and a pristine night sky are one of the most threatened natural resources today and bring tremendous value to the island of Flores for those looking for this great resource in the form of high end niche tourism, community beauty, and personal inspiration.
Humanity has enveloped our planet in a luminous fog that prevents most of Earth’s population from having the opportunity to observe our galaxy. This has a consequent potential impact on culture that is of unprecedented magnitude. Tourist demand for pristine skies has never been greater in our history with over 5 billion unfamiliar with the night sky.
It would be an honor for Flores to be The First IDA Star Sanctuary, an Island wide Starlight Tourism Destination in Portugal and the Azores, while helping the community to save millions of Euros over the next decade and to help conserve Flores as the most beautiful location in the world for future generations increasing quality tourist demand annually leading to a greater, more prosperous economy.