Starry Night?

We’ve had a little fracas going on in the condo complex for a couple of years now.  Maybe five years back or so, one of the residents got out of her car and on the way to her condo was attacked, knocked down that is, and had her purse taken.  This was a terrible experience of course.  So she decided to sue the condo association for insufficient lighting since the attack was at night.

She must have won something I guess because the condo association was pressured by the insurance people to do something about the lighting.  So they did and now we have these poles stuck up everywhere with huge bulbs stuck on top of them, so you could sit outside, in the dark, supposedly, if you wanted, read without too much trouble.  Nobody liked these lights much and a couple of the eco-new-age freaks in the complex complained because they said it was no longer possible to see the stars.

That was true and the eco-freaks are onto something because according to an article in the New Yorker, one can now find only a few places on this earth where one can see the night time sky the way, say, any old ancient Roman, or most people living even in the 19th century could have seen it.  Human beings are producing way too much light, and it gets refracted, or something to that effect, and blocks the stars from our vision.

 I realized reading this that it’s been a long time since I have really looked at the night time sky since there really is no point in doing so.  It’s just black—sort of—with nothing floating around in it.  I remember too as a kid out camping in the mountains with Boy Scouts and being astonished at the number of stars visible out in the woods.

 I think human beings are direct products of their environs.  Once the stars were, at least for quite a few people, a source of wonder.  Wow!  Look at that!  What the hell is that!  And even when we came to know what that was, it remained a source of wonder, suggesting the vastness of time and space.  No stars, no wonder.  Gone, a source, since the start of humanity, for idle star gazing and profound pondering.  A whole source of spiritual stuff or of contemplating humanity’s relation to all that is out there is disappearing right before our eyes so that our eyes may see at night.

Now there’s an organization working to preserve the night time sky.  They have gone around the globe ranking night time star visibility.  Only a few places on the globe are as dark now at night as the whole globe was a 100 years ago. No doubt these few places will become, if they have not already become, tourist attractions. Even the night time sky will become commercialized.

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