Light Pollution Delusions


Edward Abbey: “Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once in a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.”

It’s time to stir some stew and end our light pollution delusions!

For more than 20 years astronomers have sought the solution to light pollution.

Oh, yes, I know, we’ve won a few bantam bouts ‘n battles here and there over the years, but… Tell me, what have we really accomplished? Is the night sky darker now than it was in the year 2006? 1996? 1986? Or are we just randomly poking sticks at bad nighttime lighting?

True, a few thousand dues-paying, dark-sky disciples belong to organizations; but is the sky darker? NO! Indeed, tonight, fewer people will see fewer stars in fewer places than 20 years ago, whilst celestial whitewashing accelerates, unaltered and unchallenged! In fact, light pollution provides an en-light-ening metaphor for the ever accelerating rate at which the universe expands.

I’m a lifelong astronomer and retired high school earth science teacher who passionately promised my students on my last day that I’d spend my last days on Earth doing more than sitting on my geezer keister bellyaching (as many astronomers do) about light pollution.

For more than a decade, now, I’ve been wondering why we’re not lessening light pollution, why current tactics and strategies are unsuccessful. Now, as blindness and other health issues close in on me, the future is suddenly crystal clear; and I’m not leaving without a fight, a battle the likes of which I can only hope will create intense controversy and confrontation about light pollution, dark skies, and many other issues!

Nothing else has worked!

I know what I write might sound bellicose and bombastic, but it’s time we astronomers get off our Isle of Denial and face the harsh reality that we have failed, miserably, to take back the night, to take back the starry night sky! Worse, we seem content to simply stay the course, to do nothing different, to remain complacent and confident that our dark sky organizations and astronomy magazines will get the job done!

Point-blank: Neither staying the course nor cutting and running are options.

At the current rate of celestial whitewashing using our present strategies and methods, the Milky Way will be extinct over all of America by 2020! I refuse to accept celestial extinction!

We must press forward with all possible dispatch with nothing short of a Dark Sky Rebellion and Revolution!

What will it take for you to step out of the crowd of complacent astronomers and stargazers and fight the light that desecrates the night?


*First posted on an earlier version of my website: 7-31-2007, almost half a decade ago! And light pollution continues to wax, not wane!


One comment

  1. Yep, we were deluded! Back in about 2000 the famous “dark sky” group invited certain members of the lighting industry to help write a model lighting ordinance. That’s when the great idea of reducing LP went to heck in the proverbial handbasket.

    The confusion that has followed from the MLO to now the IESNA Handbook 10 is enough to drive all light pollution activists away. The latest IESNA recommendations for outdoor lighting are so screwed up and confusing that it takes a “Lighting Expert” to decipher any and all numbers. The Recommended Practices manuals, RP-33, Lighting for Exterior Environments, and RP-20, Lighting for Parking Areas, have been discontinued, and they were the ones we could use to convince local leaders that responsible lighting was/is the way to go.

    Looks like the lighting industry – the fox in the henhouse – won the war. They beat us. Sadly, I see no way for us to reclaim the night sky.

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