How “stars” are helping the French keep the night sky dark

Artificial lights are making it harder for us to see the stars. The effects of light pollution on plants and animals are described in a recent essay.

People are getting aware that darkness is not a long-term darkness. Jacques Falcn, research emeritus at the French Scientific Research Centre, says that this is one of the elements that is contributing to the decline in the species variety.

More communities are taking steps to limit light pollution thanks to a voluntary program in France.

It is necessary to organize for darkness.

Over the past few years, the use of artificial light has increased. The amount of area lit by artificial light around the world grew by 2.2 percent per year from 2012 to 2016 according to a study.

Light pollution is recognised in France, but the level of awareness about it among the public is not the same as for air or water pollution. The organization ANPCEN was created to encourage the fight against light pollution in France. Every two years, the association releases a list of French towns and villages that receive stars for their efforts in controlling artificial light.

We started the label in 2009. The association was founded 10 years ago. Anne-Marie Ducroux said that it is a great valuation exercise for the recipient communes but also an encouragement to progress for the neighboring towns and villages.

Over the past 12 years, the number of communes that have voluntarily participated in this initiative has increased. The first list published in 2009, had 39 communes, while the one published this year has 368.


ANPCEN favors a global approach to combat light pollution. To aim for consistency of choices, we deal with different aspects related to biodiversity, energy, health, climate, astronomy, and public expenditure all at the same time. We raise awareness at both the local and national levels. Light pollution got included in four laws and several regulations because of our advocacy.

A star is getting a star.

The questionnaires are about a dozen pages long and include measures taken to avoid intrusive lights and energy consumption. The number of stars awarded is determined by the sum of the scores on each item.

Veyrac gained three stars in southern France. The councilor in charge of sustainable development for the commune says that the key aspect of the'star village' initiative is that it motivates you to look into some aspects of administration such as energy consumption and to fix any problems you find.

He says getting these stars also gives credibility when it comes to requesting funds for the development. Dark nights give Selleter an opportunity to pursue his interest in astronomy.

All light sources contribute to light pollution, so it's important that a growing number of municipalities and private actors are involved.

Falcn says that the night sky in his village is poor because it is close to a big city. Even if small towns shut down lights at night, the big towns release a lot that can be seen miles away. It should be compulsory for big cities to implement measures against light pollution.

Falcn says that if the problem of light pollution is not addressed, it will have a dramatic impact on species.

A recent study has shown that artificial light is causing a decrease in the population of nocturnal pollinating insects. The pollination is not done correctly. The daytime active insects that rely on the plants are decreasing as they don't get enough food to survive. It affects plants and insects at night.

Artificial light is affecting mammals too. All the species are connected. The whole system feels the effect when one element is impacted. Even if the entire system doesn't collapse instantly, studies show that this is likely to be the issue for a long time.