An Exploration of the Role that the Night Sky Plays in the Lives of the Dark Sky Island Community of Sark
Keywords:Dark Sky movement, darkness, nature, Sark, wellbeing
This paper is an exploration of the role the night sky plays in the lives of the Dark Sky Island community of Sark in the Channel Islands, using the qualitative method of intuitive inquiry. The fields of ecopsychology and environmental psychology consider how encounters with nature may be beneficial and transformative, but focus on “green”/grounded nature rather than encounters with the sky, while Dark Sky supporters claim dark skies enhance wellbeing but do not cite any supporting research. This paper explores the following themes: the human desire to see the night sky, the commercialisation of this desire through astronomical tourism, the nature of nature, fear of the dark, and nature and wellbeing. Data was gathered in March 2014 through a series of eight semi-structured interviews and a focus group on Sark, and email comments from three further participants. In addition, relevant entries from the researcher’s reflexive journal kept during the research process are included. Research findings show a high level of enjoyment and value placed on observing the night sky with others and that this facilitates family/community connections and the transmission of sky stories to others; at the same time, findings reveal the widespread belief that observing the night sky spontaneously or intentionally results in positive (and sometimes transformative) feelings, a common experience of the night sky evoking childhood sky memories, a universal fearlessness of the dark, and a sense that as there is often no visible horizon – that there is no differentiation between sky and land and that sky and land appear as one. The paper therefore begins to address the missing sky factor within the fields of ecopsychology, health psychology and environmental psychology. The findings can potentially be used to strengthen the Dark Skies movement’s claims that dark night skies can impact positively on wellbeing.
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