Preserving the Nocturnal Environment at The Red Sea
By Dr. Rusty Brainard, Chief Environmental Sustainability Officer at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)
The Red Sea Project is home to some of the world’s most unique marine species and endangered wildlife, and we are acutely aware that the region’s biodiversity is an important part of what makes it such a special destination. It is essential that we maintain and, in some places, create the conditions that will allow biodiversity to continue to thrive. Artificial light generated through human presence can pose a significant risk to the lives of these creatures, from impacting the nesting cycles of sea turtles to affecting how certain animals hunt for prey at night. This is why it is so important that we put plans in place to protect the integrity of the nocturnal environment and why we are working with experts to inform our development plans and help us address the challenges of light pollution effectively.
As we look to safeguard the natural habitats of some of the region’s most endangered species, one key initiative underway is our plan to become the world’s largest international accredited Dark Skies Reserve. Accredited through the International Dark Skies Association (IDA), an official Dark Skies Reserve is an area of land that is protected to ensure exceptional quality starry nights and the security of the nocturnal environment. We are partnering with international engineering experts, Cundall, to implement a destination lighting plan which will allow us to achieve this international standard and preserve the night sky at The Red Sea Project.
Reclaiming the Night Sky around The Red Sea
Another reason why the protection of the nocturnal environment is so important to us is its intimate connection to the history and culture of Saudi Arabia and the wider region. Our goal is to provide visitors with an authentic experience and preserving the unique relationship between the region’s inhabitants and the night sky is crucial. For centuries, Bedouins and pilgrims have relied on the night sky to light their path through the desert, and we want to ensure that our guests and future generations have access to this special experience too.
According to a study for Science Advances, it is estimated that the Milky Way is no longer fully visible to one-third of humanity — including 60 percent of Europeans and 80 percent of Americans. Artificial light from cities has created a permanent "skyglow" at night, obscuring our view of the stars. By offering night-time stargazing trips and excursions, we want to give visitors something that is no longer easy to find – intimate access to the beauty of a clear night sky.
Safeguarding the nocturnal environment at The Red Sea Project is no small task, but it is one that could not be more important. From the survival of the region’s native wildlife, to the preservation of cultural heritage and identity, committing to set new international standards like becoming Dark Skies certified, will help us ensure the beauty of The Red Sea Project is there for generations to come.
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