Living in a large metro area has economic advantages that I have relied on to survive, but one downside has been weighing on me more than most: light.
The level of light pollution near my home is heavy, and keeps me from enjoying the actual “night” part of nighttime. I used to live in an International Dark Sky city (Flagstaff, AZ, USA), and that 3-year experience was pure magic in altering my perception of space. Oceans of stars interrupted by the black voids of mountains and plateaus. It was bewitching, and my first week there I struggled to accept how I could have lived 30 years on Earth before actually seeing the sky.
During my time there as a college student, I cherished going for long walks after work and watching the common occurrence of meteor showers and falling stars. I could see the Milky Way, but not my hand in front of my face! Even the texture of the moon was crisp.
Now, being so preoccupied making the most of each day, I admit that sometimes I have taken darkness for granted. And living where I do now, without being able to experience nighttime, I fail to celebrate dusk the way I do the dawn.
But darkness is sacred and in urgent need of protection. As much as I want to travel back to dark skies whenever time and money permit, a better choice is to do all I can to encourage the restoration of darkness where I live. Tracing constellations on a computer screen or even through a telescope can’t compare to the immersive wonder of a full, panoramic nightscape that dissolves along the periphery of vision. It’s easy to be awestruck and inspired; I’m hardly an outlier in finding many of favorite speculative films and stories surround the mysteries of space.
If you’re curious what we can do as individuals and communities to protect the night, I recommend checking out more information at the official website of the International Dark-Sky Association. It has a lot of guides detailing how nature and people are affected by light pollution, and positive steps to take that have proven effective. Maps are also included to direct you towards your nearest Dark Sky location. I hope one is close to you.
(Not to sound too much like Snake Plissken, but I hope dark skies are close to all of us someday).