The Pacific island of Niue, one of the least-populated countries in the world, was designated the world’s first “dark sky nation” by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) on March 7. The title recognizes the visibility and clarity of Niue’s starry nights, and the country’s commitment to protecting its nocturnal environment by mitigating artificial light pollution. The move provides additional protection to the country’s unique biodiversity.
For more than 80% of the world’s population, our nighttime light levels have been so altered by artificial light that they’re considered polluted, according to a 2016 study. One-third of us can’t see the Milky Way from where we live. And light pollution is growing: a 2017 study showed an increase in artificially lit areas of more than 2% per year between 2012 and 2016.