If you’ve never been to the Netherlands, the color of the night sky can come as a bit of a shock when you see it for the first time. In many places, it’s a hazy, bright orange color, the result of all the lights being used within cities and for the country’s vast amount of indoor farms. This unnatural sky has become the norm in the Netherlands, but the people are starting to push back in order to get their dark skies back.
Last month, a national campaign organized an event called Nacht van de Nacht (Night of the Night) in which local governments and companies turned off their lights and people gathered in towns and woods to savor the absence of artificial light.
This year, around 45,000 people took part in some 550 activities, including night walks in forests, star viewings, and candlelit dinners. And while it was a big success, getting the darkness back for one night isn’t the campaign’s end goal. Rather, it’s advising governments, municipalities, and companies to adopt a policy of “Dark where possible, light where necessary.”
Some companies take that advice to heart. Interbest, one of the country’s major billboard companies, conducted a study and found that only 2 percent of its target group saw its highway advertisements at night. The company began turning off the lights between 1 and 5 a.m. every night.
The Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management has also begun turning off lights along sections of highway where fewer than 50 cars pass per hour. And after a century of constantly increasing night lighting, many municipalities are now adopting smarter lighting that is directed downwards, dimmed, and often has a warmer tint.
As a result, satellite data from the six years to 2018 shows that several Dutch provinces, including Flevoland and Gelderland, have become darker. The Netherlands isn’t alone in having light-polluted skies. In fact, nearly 80 percent of Americans and 60 percent of Europeans cannot see the Milky Way at all.