Towards a trilateral dark sky program


dark sky by andreas haenelThe Waddensea World Heritage is one of the areas in Europe where darkness is still a distinctive value. The assets of a dark sky were addressed in the Ministerial Declaration of the 13th Trilateral Governmental Conference on 18 May 2018 in Leeuwarden. It says “We, the ministers (are) aware of the potential of light emissions to impact on the Wadden Sea Area as well as the unique core quality and the importance of darkness for the ecosystem as well as for humankind”.

There are already two officially registered dark sky parks and three islands are proceeding to reach this status. Recently a trilateral network has been formed, related to the before mentioned initiatives. A trilateral concept is believed to have severe added value in comparison with just a number of local concepts. Therefore the network aims to be broadened to get best support and to learn from each other and to create synergies with other local and regional initiatives. This might strengthen the political power and influence and finally improve the identity of the Region which can support opportunities for touristic and thus economic development.

This initiative should be a bottom-up approach to best involve the municipalities and the people living and working in the area. The trilateral concept does not aim at international certifications but more on contributions to reduce light emissions, improve the experience of dark nights and skies and to promote the quality of a dark Wadden Sea Region. Awareness rising and changing mind settings are the first steps. At a later stage, a project application under e.g. an EU program could be elaborated. 

This note proposes how to move forward.

The aim of the program

The aim of the program is not only to maintain but also to improve and explore one of the key values of the World Heritage Site the Wadden Sea, darkness. Conservation of values starts with awareness whereas possibilities to experience values leads to public support and finally policies to secure good practices.

Therefore the aim of the program should be threefold

  • Create more darkness and awareness accordingly;
  • Create more opportunities (places and moments) to experience and enjoy darkness;
  • Develop policies to incorporate the value of darkness in societal living.

The Strategy

Darkness is recently gaining more and more attention but initiatives are widely  scattered and we are all still in a learning process for sound collaboration. A bottom up approach is crucial in reaching acceptance and creating a sustainable result. Financial support is needed to allow for investments and to implement measures. In order to develop policies to better integrate the values of dark nights and skies in the assets of the Wadden Sea Region, political cooperation and support would be crucial.

The strategy of the dark sky program encompasses the following issues:

  • Exchange of knowledge and awareness raising;
  • Document the status of darkness in the region;
  • Identify best practice examples and action fields for improvements;
  • Enlarge the coalition of the willing;
  • Search for financial support;
  • Elaborate on mind settings (positive perceptions about darkness);
  • Implement measures to reduce light emissions;
  • Create places and moments to experience darkness;
  • Gain political support.
final report of the project dark skies above the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage - WSF 2019

Dark Skies Above the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage

Inventory of activities regarding the reduction of light emissions

Dark sky project proposal, final report

There are many local and regional initiatives to reduce light pollution and to raise awareness about dark skies. In 2015 a few government initiatives started along the Dutch Wadden Sea coast. Examples are “safe and illuminated” on Texel, “the stars nearer” in Noord-Holland, “Dark Sky Park Lauwersmeer” and “dimmable LED lights”. The idea was, to reach a dark landscape without additional policies by addressing innovation in light systems. This should stimulate entrepreneurs as well as municipalities to invest in advanced lighting systems and to reach positive effects on landscapes and well-being.

Download the full report