Now that I have a moment…

I have a moment!  I have a moment!  I have a so-called Spring Break!  With a tottering pile of papers and other work, including saving the world and discovering an inhabitable planet just in case, my euphoria doesn’t really seem justified.  But even a moment or three where I don’t have some pressing deadline (I have deadlines but there are none in the next five minutes) calls for a celebration. 

I am too tired to do much more than report on a movie I saw recently.  It was a documentary called A City Dark, about how street lighting and electric lights in general have changed humanity’s relationship with the night sky.  I got to see the sky in places like Arizona and New Mexico, (I’ve actually really seen the sky in NM years ago and never forgotten it).  There are so many stars!  And you can see the hazy veil of Akaash Ganga, the Milky Way.  There is something special about living under a sky like that.  I think it would make me feel connected to something larger, help me put my life in perspective.  Some of my fondest memories from childhood are of sleeping in cots on the rooftop terrace of my grandparent’s house.  The movie maker seems to be saying something similar — that the loss of that ages-old relationship with the night sky traps us in cocoons of light, where we only see ourselves and each other and all the “works of man.”  Which I imagine feeds our pathological solipsism as a species.

Other species are even less fortunate.  City lights distract turtle hatchlings in Florida.  The movie shows intrepid biologist heroes rescuing as many baby turtles as they can.  Similar heroes prowl the bright canyons of big cities, looking for disoriented migrating birds killed or injured by collisions with skyscrapers. There is even a potential connection between breast cancer and the absence of darkness.

The movie acknowledges that lighting makes us safe, decreases crime.  But it says that while we fear the dark, we (like other species) also need the dark.  The solution is actually relatively simple, and in this day where energy is getting ever costlier in more ways than one, it makes sense. Reduce all but essential lighting at night, and put a hat over all the lights so that we don’t have light pollution going up into the sky.  I wonder whether motion-sensing lights wouldn’t also be part of the solution.

I left the movie theater changed.  I kept thinking of the poem in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness.  Go see the movie.  It’s worth it. 

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3 Responses to “Now that I have a moment…”

  1. thetrissgutza Says:

    Interesting! I live in a (usually) very cloudy area and when even a few stars come out, I love to go outside and stare. The feeling of something so huge just fills me with joy. I saw the night sky in the desert once. It was either New Mexico or Arizona during a rest stop on a big trip. I just wanted to fall on my knees and stare forever, it was so beautiful. That memory will stay with me for the rest of my life.

    By the way, I emailed you awhile ago and got a lovely reply. So I just wanted to say thanks for that, because I don’t think I thanked you via email.

  2. Kurt Says:

    I’m lucky enough to live on a street/cul de sac where the position of the land and trees blocks most light cast upward (at least in relation to most neighborhoods), so our view of the night sky is more brilliant than most–especially from our rooftop. I love the idea of capping streetlights and other main lights, excepting those needed to warn air traffice.

  3. Ethan Robinson Says:

    Coming to this wonderful post late….

    It’s occurred to me recently to wonder if the urge to literally GO to the stars has something to do with their removal from our everyday life…haven’t pursued the thought any farther than that, and no doubt it’s overstated, but it seems interesting at any rate.

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