For most seaside towns light is a way of attracting and entertaining people. The first of these were the Blackpool illuminations in 1879 when they were described as Artificial sunshine, and consisted of just twelve arc lamps which bathed the Promenade (the original event preceded Thomas Edison’s patent of the electric light bulb by twelve months). What now though in an age when energy is precious and light pollution fills the skies? Could there be a sustainable amenity lighting system that uses existing streetlights ?
Light pollution, also known as photo-pollution or luminous pollution, is excessive or obtrusive artificial light. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA), defines light pollution as: “ Any adverse effect of artificial light including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste.” It obscures the stars in the night sky for city dwellers, interferes with astronomical observatories, and, like any other form of pollution, disrupts ecosystems and has adverse health effects. Light pollution can be divided into two main types: 1) annoying light that intrudes on an otherwise natural or low-light setting and 2) excessive light (generally indoors) that leads to discomfort and adverse health effects. The case against light pollution is strengthened by a range of studies on health effects, suggesting that excess light may induce loss in visual acuity, hypertension, headaches and increased incidence of carcinoma. Since the early 1980s, a global dark-sky movement has emerged, with concerned people campaigning to reduce the amount of light pollution. In Britain this is run by the Campaign for Dark Sky’s, part of the British Astronomical Association. The Campaign for the Protection of Rural England has also identified light pollution as one of the factors contributing to the loss of “tranquillity” in the countryside: “Darkness at night is one of the things that defines the countryside and makes it so different from towns and cities. But that darkness is disappearing, and with it our view of the stars and planets. It’s disappearing because we carelessly and wastefully beam outdoor light upwards into the sky. Collectively, these lights stop us from being able to see the night sky, with all its majesty and mystery. Instead, we see only a pinky orange glow, which only a few dozen of the brightest stars can penetrate. This glow spreads for miles outside towns and cities, making it much harder — or even impossible — to see the sight of thousands of stars and our own galaxy, the Milky Way.” Energy conservation advocates contend that light pollution must be addressed by changing the habits of society, so that lighting is used more efficiently, with less waste and less creation of unwanted or unneeded illumination. Lime Light is an art project which aims to make Lyme Regis into a planetarium, or map of the stars. In doing it also aims to highlight the relationship between reducing energy consumption and reducing light pollution in both countryside and towns, encouraging a greater awareness of environmental responsibility and appreciation of the beauty of the stars at the same time.
The project has been initiated by Turn Lyme Green, a grassroots environmental group from Lyme Regis, who aim to engage both residents and visitors to Lyme in thinking about environmental issues and sustainable living. They have already run a successful campaign in Lyme on reducing pollution from plastic bags and are now campaigning on reducing food waste. Turn Lyme Green recently were won the Pride of Place awards, run by the Dorset Design and Heritage Forum and supported by Public Art South West and Arts Council England. The Pride of Place project aims to enable: “creative thinking to be at the heart of rural regeneration and renewal. By empowering communities and providing a local voice for local change, it challenges conventional thinking on who shapes our environments….” Maggie Bolt, Public Art South West