Losing More than the Milky Way

A while back for one of my poetry creative writing classes I decided to write about light pollution. This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart, especially since I am now employed by the amazing International Dark-Sky Association (warning: I will probably talk about light pollution and IDA a lot in this blog. However, my opinions are my own and not necessarily that of IDA).

You see, light pollution is not your typical type of pollution solved by setting a bottle into a blue bucket or driving a speciality “green” car. Light Pollution is actually easier to fix in some ways (surprisingly) and more difficult in others. It can be as easy as checking the lighting fixtures around your home and ensuring that all of them are completely covered and pointed directly down with no light spilling off and into unwanted directions (such as up). I can go into more details about this another time. That’s the easy part, the hard part is when it comes to big cities, legislation, and bureaucracy. That is when it gets really difficult because a lot of people don’t understand it and think that fixing light pollution means turning off all the lights and walking around in complete darkness. While that would be nice in some ways, it is definitely not feasible, but there are alternatives. If you want to learn more about it  you can visit the IDA’s website, they have lots of good advice and resources there (or just ask me if you are looking for something specific).

So now we come to the amazing statistics of light pollution and the doom and gloom that come with all pollution. In The First World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness there are just a few statistics that I want to include from the abstract.

  • About two-thirds of the World population and 99 per cent of the population in the United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) and European Union live in areas where the night sky is above the threshold set for polluted status.
  • one-fifth of the World population, more than two-thirds of the United States population and more than one half of the European Union population have already lost naked eye visibility of the Milky Way.
  • one-tenth of the World population, more than 40 per cent of the United States population and one sixth of the European Union population no longer view the heavens with the eye adapted to night vision, because of the sky brightness.

As you can see, we are continually losing our access to the night sky. This may not be a cause for panic to many, but it is something that we will certainly be experiencing the consequences of in future years. My main thought during this particular post, however, is actually the loss we experience through cutting off children from this resource. It is sad to think of children seeing the Milky Way for the f irst time and thinking it is something to be afraid of.

This poem was my attempt at writing in the style of Maurice Manning, see Defining Bucolics, and it is still being constantly revised (this is even a slight revision).

Losing Sky Candy

we took an eraser to the sky
smeared out the stars and left
an orangey glow that confused the world
Kid laughed when told about the candy
bar in the sky what a joke it’s all a lie
might as well eat it munch down
slobber on the left over white dots
bits of sugar shining through but blotted
out with a single light
midnight snack of car dealerships shouting we are
here hotels where guests can parachute
from planes to room balconies tuck in tight
and Kid learned safety in the glare rather
than fear in the squint that moths and birds
got baffled like everything else floating
not a mote in a sun beam but our beam
getting too close to fry on the heat
of an overly enthusiastic-Edison
invention sizzle and burn the stars
forgotten and pushed away no
foggy breath in the country flirting
with bashful twinklers shining in glory
of fire and fusion but lost in bright city lights
the new age the tech age of all knowledge all
but the milky way imagination of reality
one last connection blotted out


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