When you look up into the night sky, what do you see?
Smog? Eerie light reflecting off clouds? City skylines? A handful of stars? Or not as many stars as you used to?
Oh. Better yet. Do you even look up into the sky anymore? Or do you just go about your day and night, doing what you have to do, without taking the time to admire what and where we come from?
Sadly, even if you do, what you see in the heavens isn’t what it used to be and shame on us, humans who inhabit this wonderful Earth, for making it that way.
I read somewhere that 80 percent of people today have never seen the Milky Way. Eighty percent. I’m one of them. In fact, back in the 1990s when Los Angeles was hit with a blackout, folks called 911 to report strange things overhead. Yeah. Guess what they were seeing for the first time. The Milky Way — and they had no idea what it was.
I think this is sad. There is so much to our world, and outside of it, that’s breathtaking and beautiful and that serves as a reminder of our place in this universe. It seems to me that we’ve become so immersed in ourselves that we’ve forgotten where we come from. Maybe even why we’re here.
On many levels, this isn’t a good thing. Not just because we’re more human-focused now than we ever have been before, but because artificial light and light at night (also known as light pollution) disrupts our normal body cycles. All this stuff that we’ve created to light our way, to showcased advertising, to make things more visible is, well, unhealthy. It suppresses our body’s ability to produce melatonin, a powerful anti-inflammatory that we need so that important things can happen on the cellular level. And that makes us get sick more frequently. Light pollution also disrupts our sleep, our behavior, our health. And, it disrupts all the other life on our planet, too.
City skylines, like NYC, are amazing to look at. But they come with a precious cost. So what can you do? Believe it or not, even the small things will help. Think about it. Do you really need to leave your lights on all night? How about motion-activated ones instead? And, do you need to leave them on full blast? How about using lower wattage bulbs or a timer instead? In other words, instead of being wasteful be mindful, because if each of us did those things we could have an impact.
You know, I’ve always had a passion for the skies but only recently discovered this light pollution phenomena. And it kinda scares me. Maybe if it scared more of us, we’d truly make an effort to do more about it.
So, the next time you look upward at night, think about what you don’t and can’t see and why it’s that way. Then think about the small ways you can make a difference.
Want to learn more? Read here:
International Dark-Sky Organization
Or check out the website Seeing in the Dark.
Or watch The City Dark for a real eye opener!
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Terri, thoughtful post. When there are meteor showers, we often drive to the mountains looking for a place dark enough to see them. I realized just how much we’re missing when I drove through a desert in Mexico. I can’t describe the number of stars and the brilliance I saw that night. It was spellbinding. I turn out lights at night, but streetlights are so bright it hardly matters.
So envious Ellis!
And the Northern Lights! I lived in Newfoundland when I was young and we saw them often. Night skies in Flagstaff were also spectacular. Now I live in North Carolina, and I look forward to (short) winter power outages so I can see the sky. It’s wonderful to have the bright sky and silence — until the generators cut in.
Good points Susan. During our power outages the night sky was breathtaking. I was sad when the power came back on for that very reason — I no longer had that beautiful view.
If it would stop bloody raining, I’d see the Milky Way every night. But no, not to be. Just black and wet skies at night now. Grumble.
At least you get to see it!
Excellent post, Terri. I am very lucky in that the Pacific Northwest still has areas with very little light pollution. When looking at the Milky Way (or beyond, because I have seen the Andromeda galaxy), my mind is free to wander among the stars and wonder what is out there – and who is looking back.
I often wonder who’s looking back, too. Thank you for stopping by, Deborah. Like minds!!!