January 24 2012

Why the Night Sky Matters: The Ramifications of Light Pollution

By Mark Sisson
150 Comments

Carrie and I are lucky enough to have a hot tub in our back yard, overlooking a pretty spectacular ocean and mountain view. We often soak for a while and talk about the day’s activities just before retiring to bed (I sometimes alternate with a quick plunge or two into our unheated pool). Last night we were taking advantage of the break between winter storms to “jacuze” when I noticed that the cloud cover had so dispersed the city lights of L.A. and Santa Monica that it lit up the sky even 20 miles out into Malibu. On an otherwise moonless night, it had become light enough to simulate dusk all over L.A.. Can you imagine the amount of manmade light it takes to have that effect? Of course, that got me thinking about all the ways in which light permeates our lives in ways both good and bad.

These days, mentioning the words “pollution” or “environment” raises hackles in some, perhaps most people. Political blinders go up, knee-jerk responses engage. Support for classically green renewables like wind or solar power usually comes with unequivocal and emotional disdain for any and all variations of nuclear. On the same token, those who question the legitimacy of anthropogenic global warming often display a lack of concern for the effects of fracking, industrial pollution, or rampant use of agricultural pesticides. Now, I’m not wading into that morass, mind you. This isn’t the place for that. I am, however, calling to attention the fact that both (albeit amorphous, roughly defined) groups have a major blind spot: light pollution. And it’s not that they reject it as a problem. It’s that they are simply unaware it even exists (maybe it’s all the bright lights).

So what exactly is light pollution?

Well, it’s not light as in mild, harmless, or barely-there. It’s not gentle pollution, and it’s nothing like “light to moderate drinking.” Light pollution is characterized by excessive amounts of artificial light. Light that shouldn’t be there, light that you can’t escape from. It’s light that fills city streets at night – all night – and extends upward to obscure our view of the stars. It’s the blinding white and blue light streaming from big screen TVs, laptops, and lamps, and it’s the little niggling lights that pepper the interiors of our homes, winking at us from Blu-ray players and gaming consoles and clock radios even as we (try to) sleep.

In other words, light pollution exists inside and outside our homes. It affects both the environment at large and the individual inhabitants within. It is micro and macro. In the modern world it is, for the most part, inescapable.

I won’t delve too deeply into the negative effects of artificial light on human health as it relates to circadian rhythm, because I’ve already covered those. Quickly, though, some of the research:

Night time exposure to blue (artificial) light can suppress melatonin production, thereby disrupting sleep, reducing quality of sleep, throwing off circadian rhythm, and even promoting certain cancers.

Computer light exposure at night affects circadian rhythm and cognitive performance.

Continuous light exposure might hamper our ability to process carbohydrates, particularly in the liver.

According to a large review titled “The Dark Side of Light at Night,” (PDF) shift workers (a proxy for night time light exposure) get more cancer, heart disease, and are more likely to be obese. They also experience great oxidative stress loads and have compromised immune systems. Shift workers might represent the extreme end of nighttime light exposure, but they show the potential negative ramifications of even constant low-level exposure for everyone else.

But besides all the measurable, objective, physiologically-harmful effects of too much artificial light, there are the intangibles. That’s what this post is really about. Who else was lucky enough to spend their childhood summer nights on the roof or in the open field, gazing up at the millions of stars set against the backdrop of eternity? I was, and it’s what I still look forward to most of all about camping. When I sneak away from the fire and catch a break in the canopy, I stop and stare up above at the stars, those same heavenly mysteries that got our ancestors thinking, poking, prodding, and striving for more. Though today I know that they represent far flung galaxies of eons past and that that bluish “star” is actually Venus, a planet covered by volcanoes and rocky deserts – while thirty thousand years ago mankind looked up and concocted wondrous tales of gods and celestial beasts – that knowledge is suddenly meaningless once I begin to gaze. I’m caught up, emotional, dare-I-say “spiritual” – a lot like how our ancestors must have felt when they looked up at night. I’m lost in the limitlessness. I’m a kid again, suddenly struck with the realization of just how small I am and of the extrinsic meaninglessness of it all. Nature, remember, is neutral, and it becomes evident that we create our own meaning – it’s actually intrinsic, it comes from within – and set our own path. It’s all on us, and I’m reminded of this essential fact because of that brief brilliant moment with the stars.

If we allow light pollution to progress unabated, we lose that relationship. Many of us have, for all intents and purposes, already lost it – if we ever had it at all. But at least the opportunity remains. I mean, the stars are still there, if you get the heck out of Dodge. And if you can drag your kid outside city limits to shift his gaze from smart phone upward toward the relatively untouched sky, he might learn something about what it means to be human. Strip away all the luxuries and technology and just stick a modern city dweller in an open meadow in the middle of nowhere in the black of night and direct his or her attention skyward. If only for a moment, he’ll be like Luke Skywalker staring out at the night sky in “A New Hope” (with fewer suns) and thinking of rebel fleets and hyperspace travel.

That brings me to my final beef with light pollution: the extinguishing of a potent source of inspiration for greatness. From the ancients using astronomy to align their superstructures, to Newton drawing on the movement of celestial bodies to formulate basic theories of physics, to poets and authors and other artists (“Starry Night,” anyone?) creating work after a night spent stargazing, we do and have done great things with regular access to unfiltered night skies. I tend to think we have a lot ahead of us, too, if we’d give ourselves the chance. Misappropriation or lack of funding is the oft-cited cause of the US space program’s sorry state, but I feel like a lack of public fervor for all things stellar is at the root of it. People just don’t – or can’t – look up and marvel at the amazing ocular feast residing above anymore, and so they don’t dream of visiting it. Public officials don’t feel pressured to support it (besides, there are far more lucrative things to be doing with our tax money, like subsidizing their friends). Kids don’t seem to dream about becoming astronauts. I dunno about you, but that’s sad to me. The childhood version of Mark Sisson figured there’d be interstellar commercial travel and permanent bases on Mars by 2012. Adult version of Mark Sisson is highly disappointed that there is neither (but he hasn’t quite lost hope).

But we can’t go out and bust street lights with slingshots; we’re not extreme Luddite/Dennis the Menace hybrids. We can, however, make changes to the immediate environment. Our homes and our habits can change. So, if there’s an action item to be derived from this post, I guess it’s this: turn off the lights, go outside, preferably somewhere remote, look up, and take it all in. Take your kids with you. Foster the innate human obsession with the stars. Watch young eyes light up and mind-expanding thoughts of eternity and possibility germinate in growing brains. Then, set them loose and see where they go and what they do. I bet it’ll be pretty good.

Who else loves – nay, needs – the stars? Who else imagines how great things would be if we could actually step outside our living quarters, look up, and see the galaxies laid out before us in excruciating detail? Who else wishes that stargazing was no longer the strict province of campers and hunters and country-living? I realize that progress is inevitable and civilization butts heads with nature, but there’s got to be a better way.

Right?

Chime in the comment section. Let everyone hear about your love for the stars. And if your relationship with the cosmos has grown stale (or you’re a stargazing virgin), then get out and see them (so you know what we’re all blabbering about)!

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150 thoughts on “Why the Night Sky Matters: The Ramifications of Light Pollution”

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  1. Ah Mark, you have the ability to read my mind. Just signed a lease for a home about thirty minutes away from my work because I was tired of not seeing the stars. City life (and that train that goes by my house at five am with the horn blaring) is not for me.

    1. A year and-a-half ago I moved to a more rural area of Marin County, CA and am astounded and awed by the night sky~ The Milky Way is visible on a clear night and I love watching the stars appear. I love how dark it is and quiet too. Feeling very lucky. 🙂 Great post!

      1. Jealous! I live in a very light-polluted city while I attend school… it will be a while til’ I can escape it

        1. I too am in the process of buying a house outside of the city so that I can see the stars. I have spent the last year in a Condo downtown with street lamps outside my window and neighbors yelling all manner of things at all times in the night. It’s not worth the money I save.

        2. Think outside the box Becky. Surely there’s somewhere away from the light(further out)you could live. I left the city lights for a tiny community without street lights outside the city where I attended college. What a relief. I grew up in a very small town that was, in my view, destroyed when street lights went in. I was lucky and lived right on the very edge and corner so I regularly chunked a rock into the street light in front of our house. Since the whole family and neighbors like to sit outside at night, I think everyone was secretly grateful that my friends and I kept this light off. The local company man whose job it was to fix this light finally quit fixing it. Every once in a great while he’d put in a new light and I’d go out and pick up a good chunking rock and knock it out. I would rather have not destroyed it but there’s no reasoning with “company policy”. After living in a dorm for 2 semesters, I was done, no mas. Then I lived in an apartment and that was little better. I lived in various houses but always the light. I finally just drove around out in the country and found an old mobile home that was virtually worthless a farmer let me rent for very little. Life was good again even if it was so cold I had to move out(really bad winter). Then I found another place(actually, some friend did)so immediately after getting married my wife and I were once again back where I belonged, in a cotton field with no lights that as a city girl she immediately loved because of no lights, traffic, etc. I got a job in a small town and lived in the country for a while but the landlord couldn’t stand the thought of my wife living next to a house that was all men(friends of ours)so he took our house away(Bible thumping blues) and we moved to the edge of the nearest town we stayed a few months. Then we moved to another town when I started trucking but it was the same small town I regularly broke lights in so we moved to a town that no longer existed and neither did the lights. Out next move was to another abandoned town with one house, ours, and no light. After that it was the middle of a ranch in an old house that was great and once again, no lights. We finally moved to a farm I inherited and after 27 years we still have no outside lights and love it. When city folk visit us their kids ask why they don’t have the Milky Way where they live. In our younger days friends would come to visit just to lie around outside at night and listen to music(before the big tv craze with satellite dishes was in full bloom although we could have had one if we’d wanted to waste the money but that was back when there was only HBO and local networks plus a few big city cable shows being broadcast). We’re still there and still have no lights although we have powerful lights on the barn and other places we can turn on if we have to. Now the only light that disturbs my sleep is the full moon and I can cut it off if I want with a room darkening shade but I always have that option of not blocking it. I have a new cell phone and the charger has a light, a very bright green light, and I hate it so I’m going to move it to another room and take back my natural light room back from the cell phone crowd. Good luck. Living out by yourself is a great way to live and if you’re scared, just get a shotgun and learn to use it. I have never had any problem living in the country, only in town.

    2. Yeah, isn’t it interesting how Mark posts on seemingly ‘random’ topics that happen to be timely for other people here (me, included) in personal ways. Well, it really is true that we are all connected, IMO.

    3. Please Everybody! Don’t just accept the loss of the stars. Become activists for better lighting in your community. Insist on ordinances that require well-designed lights. If you are lucky enough to live in a dark sky area, help get legislation passed to protect what you have. See the International Dark Sky Association – http://www.darksky.org – to learn how.

    4. A nice way to end day 16 of going primal.
      Just read the Daily after coming in from the tub.
      The beautiful “starscapes” of Southwestern Colorado obscured by winter clouds suspended above my head; snow teasing, but holding back.

      Back inside now to candles, low light and a fire.
      Fully present in the moment.
      A timely post, as many are.

  2. Man, seeing the stars from the middle of the ocean, or the middle of the mountains/nowhere is something special. It’s a shame that we can’t see that all the time.

    1. Well said. I grew up in the middle of nowhere in New Hampshire and the first thing I notice when I get back is the smell of fresh air. You actually NOTICE how good the air smells. And while they’re usually smothered out and ignored in the city, you can’t help but be affected by the incredible depth and sheer vastness the stars. We should all ditch the city more often.

      1. One of the nicest memories I have of my dad is standing out in the barnyard one night at our farm in Central Illinois nearly 50 years ago and the Milky Way blazed above us. He explained just how far that was from us and gave me some idea of just how awesomely big it was and WE were part of it. Farmers have a closer relationship to the night. He would stand in the field sometimes and just listen to the corn leaves rustle and spring always thrilled him when bits of green shot out of the ground. I miss him and the blazing Milky Way.

        1. I agree, that is beautiful!

          One of my own special star gazing memories also involves my father – nearly 60 years ago when the city skies were not so light polluted. My very first memory is of being held in my father’s arms while he showed me the night sky. While he did talk to me, I don’t know that I understood all of his words – or more to the point that I even needed to.

        2. Janet, that was a wonderful story. My father took me out on our roof in 1959 and we looked at the constellations with a book and a flashlight. It was winter and we lived away from town so we could see everything.

          Thank you for reminding me of it!

          I miss him like you miss your dad………..

    2. City people (like me) need to see the stars, if for no other reason than as a reminder that we are not really that important.

      I was able to see the stars in all their glory from an isolated beach in Central America recently, complete with shooting stars. I felt wonderfully small.

  3. Oh, this post resonated with me, and made me a bit sad, mostly because I can barely remember the last time I saw more than the brightest stars in the sky, and I suspect that some of those are satellites. Most definitely, there has got to be a better way.

  4. I love gazing up at the night sky. Makes you really wonder what else is out there. Are there more planets like Earth? If so, are they inhabited by humans, or human-like creatures, or something completely different? Do they suffer the ramifications of light pollution too?

    I was extremely grateful when we moved out of the big city, and into a small town. Now every night when I take my dog outside, I can see the beautiful stars, proving there’s no cloud cover! I really do wish there were less light pollution from the city lights!

  5. Great post, Mark. My wife and I should begin construction of our new “out in the country” home this fall. I can’t wait to get away from the 4 lane highway in my front yard so we can slow down our lives, get a dog (finally), and a telescope so my sons and I can explore this beautiful universe.

  6. For a while now I’ve had this grand fantasy that somehow my city would be able to get everyone to shut off all the lights at the same time, and in that moment, it would switch on the lights in the sky. How grand and epic that would be.

  7. I grew up in the country so I spent alot of time staring at the stars. I still try to get out in August to see the Perseid meteor showers, flat on my back in the middle of a grassy field somewhere. It usually occurs close to my birthday, so it’s the perfect birthday treat!

    I know, too, that city light definitely affects my sleep. I wish I could use blackout curtains at night, but then the lack of access to the sunrise totally screws up my ability to get out of bed. I wake up groggy and utterly disoriented. Maybe a light on a timer? Anybody got any Primal DIY hacks for that?

    1. Get a sunrise simulator (aka dawn simulator) alarm clock. And not a super cheap one…They essentially simulate sunrise by gradually turning a light on over about 30 minutes. It does not need to be more than about 60W to give you the desired effect. You will wake up easily and more naturally.

    2. There are lamps that gradually turn light on in the am, plus timers that will do the same thing. There is even an alarm clock that has that kind of wake up light in it. I bought a little timer thingy that plugs into a regular light and then into an outlet and the regular lightbulb gradually goes on in AM. You set it for a certain time back from when you want to get up. I rarely need an alarm. I will try and get back with the brand, as I am not at home.

  8. I grew up in the rural Midwest. At night I could go out and see a billion stars shining down on me. Sometimes I would lay down in the grass and feel the coolness of the grass and the warmth of the wind as I stared up at the stars. Sometimes I could swear I was so in tune with the earth that I could feel its rotation. Now that I live in the city, I don’t see them anymore. On a good night I might be able to pick out five or six stars. It’s not the same. Oh, and working a night shift about 7 years ago totally screwed me over. I would do ok until about 3 or 4am then I would be nodding off. To ward off some of the tiredness, I would find myself eating something horribly unhealthy. I have a hard time sleeping during the day because of the brightness in the room and noise outside, so I was always tired. I stopped working out because I didn’t have the energy. I didn’t last very long at that job, only about 7 months, but in that time I had piled on about 10 pounds.

    1. I spent several of my childhood years in the Midwest and share your experiences. Also, I miss the small flying, twinkling, “stars” – the fireflies – that were so abundant then but not so much these days.

      1. So true about the lightening bugs. I still live in a rural area and I watch for the first night there are light’nin bugs in the summer. Same with the peeper frogs where I walk in the spring. Luckily, I can get out into the country easily, but the Chicago/Milwaukee lights cause some light pollution.

        1. You know, even being old enough to remember times when we had abundant lightening bugs, peeper frogs, butterflies, and so on – their absence has still somehow almost normalized for me. THAT makes me almost as sad as their decline.

          I’m re-landscaping my home in the city – SE Michigan – and even though the city has had recent butterfly releases and I have planted many butterfly attracting plants, I have yet to see more than a very few and only of one species.

  9. I made a New Year resolution to try to ignore the differences from me that I see in others and focus on how much we are alike. I was thinking about that the other night and noticed the full moon. I realized that every person who has ever lived on this planet has looked at that same moon for millions of years, including grandfather Grok. I felt connected as a thought from the Christian Scriptures, even though I am not religious, popped into my mind to love my neighbors as I do myself. At that moment I thought I can do that. Then my cell phone rang and the moment was broken. But I do remember the thought and the feeling. Maybe I can get them again the next full moon.

  10. great topic Mark! There’s truly nothing like stargazing in pitch blackness… there’s so much more up there than people realize

  11. When I was ten I received a telescope for Christmas. I remember seeing four of Jupitor’s moons with my trusty telescope from the front yard of my childhood home in suburban Nebraska. Even then, the lights of Omaha were encroaching on my stargazing. I also studied Greek and Roman mythology, so I would know the stories behind the constellations my Dad would point out.

    Now I live ouside of San Francisco, and it’s rare that there’s a break in the fog to see the night sky. When such an even occurs, I can barely make out Orion’s belt with all of the surrounding lights. I relish any time we’re away from “civilization” and I can actually make out the Milky Way, something I struggle with even in Omaha.

    There’s a lot to be said for how the cosmos inspire us. I always feel that sense of awe and inspiration when I can see a great celestial night sky. I feel like I can do anything, like I’m destined for greatness, or something like that.

  12. “Kids don’t seem to dream about becoming astronauts” I would wager that in a few years kids won’t even know what an astronaut is. It’s really sad. Great post. There is NOTHING quite like star-gazing in the country.

    1. I agree with both of you, totally. A respect for grandiosity and an urge to explore and, then, to impose one’s intelligence upon it (in a constructive rather than destructive way) is the root of man’s greatness and civilization as a whole. The men who look beyond the current and see what can be studied, understood, and utilized are the reason we’re not all freezing, starving, or disease-ridden right now, in my opinion.

      But while boys no longer dream of being Neal Armstrong or Thomas Edison, I recently read that now American boys ages 14 to 18 have as their dream occupation….sniper. Not to build, explore, or create, but to put bullets in the heads of unsuspecting and defenseless peasants. (The book, ‘Microtrends’, was written by a neocon and so of course it encouraged this evil and said it will save us from all the super-powered Arabs.)

      Thank you for your wonder-inducing column, Mark!

    2. I work at a library, and one summer night we had a group of star-gazers bring their telescopes and one really big one you had to climb a ladder to gaze into. It was awesome, and some kids couldn’t get enough of climbing that ladder and seeing Jupiter and galaxies and Mars. It was a magical evening and I had a real sense of community also.

  13. I had the good fortune to live in Tucson, AZ, where there are actual light pollution ordinances due to the proximity of the Kitts Peak National Observatory. The only place I have seen a night sky that comes close to the beautiful starlit displays of Tucson would be out on a boat doing deep sea fishing.
    I had toured Kitts Peak a couple of times (its an obligatory stop for any friends who came to visit) and they have a great poster in the visitor’s center that contrasts how light pollution has increased over the last 50 or so years. Where you could barely see any lights in the surrounding areas back then, now you have light pollution from Phoenix (some 90 miles distant) interfering with the observations and research going on there. I do miss my Arizona night skies…

    1. When did you live there? Because while it’s still better than Phoenix, Tucson’s got plenty of light pollution now. It’s grown a lot in the past couple of decades. If you want a city with a good night sky in AZ now, you need to go to Flagstaff, where the lighting ordinances are much stricter. Of just go out in the desert somewhere.

      I moved to Phoenix this summer (because it was the only place I could find a job, not entirely by choice), and the light pollution here is HORRIBLE. Just awful. It’s never dark.

    2. The last time I was in Tucson was 1969. I just happen to remember the exact year because it was the same year as Woodstock and I was traveling in the Southwest that same summer.

      One of my favorite night sky experiences happened just outside of Tucson while I was staying at a private compound. I was tripping on acid (LSD) and spending some quiet time alone watching the night sky when I was joined by the resident Borzoi (Russian wolfhound). We silently communed together in what had to be a primal connection under the stars.

      Also in the summer of ’69, I was camping in the Colorado Rockies during the first lunar landing. At night I’d squint my eyes at the moon fantasizing about seeing those “first footstep(s)”.

      I never aspired to be an astronaut myself, but I was delighted later in life to have opportunities to collaborate with NASA scientists in the realm of both basic and applied research. I also did basic research that provided a basis for subsequent applied research that benefitted (among others) the NASA space program. These memories are also some of my most cherished, cosmos inspired – even if the lab can be so very remote from the night sky.

  14. Got to say on this I disagree with you Mark. I just had the discussion this morning about how I cannot wait for the opportunity to move to a city big enough that it is always light. After having been far North (northern Finland) in both summer with 24 hour daylight and winter with the opposite, I am ready to live someplace that it will never be dark again. Seeing stars just reminds me of how little there is to do here.

  15. One night I saw a very bright star in the sky. The next day it was still there. I was at a friend’s in the countryside, and suggested we set up his telescope to get a better look. Turns out it was Jupiter… and with the telescope, we could clearly see its moons. Standing in a friend’s garden, I could see Jupiter. Ju-pi-effing-ter! Blew my mind.

  16. I’m torn on this one, because while I do love to see the stars, I also wish there were better lighting on the streets I walk the mile home (alone) at night.

    1. You can have both. The problem with the light pollution is the light sources are shining *out* and *up*. If the lights could be focused mostly down, light pollution would not be such a problem. They do make “dark sky friendly” lights.

      1. Well now maybe this is what Mark is saying about a “better way”.

  17. It’s also really good exercise and relaxation for your eyes for us to use them (without strain) in the dark. Our eyes are designed to do this – not to the level that nocturnal animals can, but more than we are utilizing them. Ambient city light and indoor lights make this level of darkess hard to achieve.

  18. That was the one bit of the aftermath of Hurrican Irene that I enjoyed. My town was only without power for at most one night (some areas only a few hours, we have a town utility company), and that Sunday night the sky was just amazing

  19. Remember the blackout in Central Canada and the US about a decade ago? We actually drove up into the country to experience the blackness in all its glory. Figures we happened upon one patch where the power still flowed and the light from that small town was enough to put a damper on our experience.
    I still have fond memories of sitting with friends in Northern Ontario for hours watching shooting stars and making wishes. Best of all? We were all in our twenties and thirties. 🙂

  20. I’ve been in what I thought to be Middle-of-Nowhere, USA and seen countless stars. However, I didn’t realize how far the effects of light pollution stretched until I was in Middle-of-Nowhere, Iraq. My military brethren can attest that there are way more stars to be seen from deserts in the Middle East.

    1. You need to try the middle of the bushveld in Rural Africa to realise just how prolific the stars are.

      Nothing beats the Milky Way on a moonless night in Africa

      1. Every winter when I was a child, our family would go to the Drakensberg.

        When I went back after five years away I was totally astonished, and relished in just lying outside in the freezing cold, looking up at the stars. And only a flashlight to get me back to my hut.

  21. When we drive somewhere we are often in areas without any cities and if the sky is clear (not often in Washington) then we always stop and gaze up with our kids. Now my daughter, a 13 year old, asks if we will be able to see the stars whenever we take a trip somewhere. The night sky we saw once so impressed her that she wants to see it again, but it is SO hard to find….

  22. Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?
    Would you like to go up on ‘A’ Deck and look at them with me?
    Have You Seen The Stars Tonight?
    Would you like to go up for a stroll and keep me company?

    PAUL KANTNER

  23. Ah, yes, when hurricane Fran hit NC some years ago, I totally enjoyed the experience. Not only could you see the stars fabously for days (we had no power in most parts of NC that were hit hard for 3 to 10 days), but the quietness was beautiful. No ambient background noise, at least at night. Chainsaws could be heard during the day. But, with so many trees and powerlines down across the roads, traffic was halted for days. The darkess and quietness at night was truly wonderful.

  24. I did a stargazing tour in Sedona over Christmas – husband and I drove out via Vegas with our dog. It was wonderful. We met the guide in an unlit empty parking lot on the outskirts of town. Couldn’t see a dang thing when we got out of the car, but within minutes our eyes did what they naturally do and we saw – everything! The guide pointed out the constellations with a laser pointer and had a telescope set up to view distant galaxies. It was magical and fun. Felt like a kid again.

    Living in coastal L. A. County, it takes us hours to get out of the mega metro area into the sticks. We aim to change that soon.

  25. Reminds me of the summer of 2003 when the whole eastern seaboard blacked out in August. I was at a relatives house in Toronto. The neighborhood children spilled into the street after dark and were mesmerized by the night sky, some of them were in their teens and had never seen anything like it. I was amazed, as I live in Northwestern Ontario, other than Thunder Bay, there are no lights for 100’s of miles. I’ve known the night sky my whole life!

    Looking forward to a good dose of Northern Lights over the next year as the solar maximum approaches, there’s been a few good displays already since last fall.

    1. Yes, we’ve even had some display here in SE Michigan, even with the light pollution.

  26. I’ve been reading this for a few months now, never chimed in, and actually haven’t been able to get rid of a lot of it. It’s impossible to do so while in the Navy. But I will say this, I love being out to sea on a ship, everything is dark, and you can see amazing things out there. It’s so lovely.

  27. Who here can remember what they learned in school? I don’t recall stars ever being addressed and I think the only earth science class I had that I remember was in 5th grade. Certainly I had no real astronomy exposure (I get super jealous everytime I read Harry Potter and they get to go out at midnight to chart constellations). What did other people experience as far as astronomy education in school? BTW, I’m 20 so my highschool education was relatively recent.

    1. In my experience (age 59), the education in the US (you don’t say where you live) has declined in several areas since I was in primary/secondary school. One of the many areas that is now less covered is astronomy, and related mythology. Even so, I envy a LOT about Harry’s Hogwarts experience!

  28. Sorry, just read what I wrote before, I meant, “never been able to get STARTED on it.” My mind was elsewhere for a second.

  29. There is nothing better than seeing a sky packed with stars. I love to watch the night sky, shooting stars, the milky way all of it. We are lucky in that we can do that from our yard, and we go go camping in Utah’s back country, mind blowing stars.

  30. We are so lucky to live in the countryside, with little light pollution. Going outside on a clear night is bliss – being able to see all the stars and the velvety skies, and watch the waxing and waning of the moon in great clarity. My children often take the dogs for an extra walk at night just so they can enjoy the nighttime and the night skies … last night I even caught a glimpse of the aurora borealis when putting the dogs out before bed!

  31. It overtakes me.

    and I’m there
    looking up at the sky
    and I’m scared
    thinking ’bout the way that I,
    I don’t understand
    anything at all
    and how it overtakes me
    and I’m just so small

    do I stand a chance?

  32. Here, in New Zealand, we have a night sky reserve. In the small town with in this reserve all outside lights must have a cover over the light bulb to make it shine down. When you get out of this small town there are no lights for miles. The night sky is fantastic.

  33. While all these other sentiments are valid, I can’t believe no one has mentioned the probable havoc light pollution causes with some animals, birds, and insects.

    1. And plants. Many plants are photo sensitive, especially to day length. Green houses control day length and light intensity to control blooming cycles for several commercially popular plants. Even home gardens can be affected by light pollution.

      I once had a garden in a rural area where the only light pollution was a security light that the former residents had installed near where I located my small orchard and canning garden. It had to go.

  34. One thing the people of North Korea must be enjoying is the night sky. At night, very few lights are visible from outer space in the entire country.

    I wonder if the night sky is inspiring any of them?

  35. Once I slept outside on the ground in far west texas, in the Big Bend. I think it was fall of 2005. I was having menopausal night sweats, and I kept waking up and throwing off the sleeping bag top cover. I woke up about every hour or two. Whenever this happened, I could see that the stars had moved: they were wheeling in the sky, all night long. It was so mysterious and wonderful.

  36. I lived in Breckenridge Colorado for three years, which is at 10,000 feet, and the first thing I remember is looking up at the night sky – it was SO bright – like nothing I have ever seen. I felt like I could reach up and touch the stars they looked so close….. Just awesome.

    1. Most mountain cities in the Rockies have spectacular night skies

      1. Yes, but you should see Denver from many miles away camping under the open night skies. Its a bowl of light with a dome of light.

    2. Crested Butte…nothing more awesome than a cold winter night sky in the mountains. Gotta get there soon.

  37. More and more people are choosing to live full-time in recreational vehicles traveling around this great country of ours. Even whole families are doing this while homeschooling their kids. Living this way makes you very aware of all those little lights using up your limited energy plus it makes stargazing and forest bathing MUCH easier. Find a way to do this, people.

    1. That’s what I’m talking about! Waiting for the kids to be off on their own & then we’ll be hitting the road full-time.

    2. You’ve got my vote! Now, if I can only convince my husband after he retires, too…..

      Meanwhile, he lives in our rural home year round in the midst of a 10,000 acre forest. No lights. No near neighbors. Lots of wild life. All the stars he cares to see. I am only there part of the year and in the very light polluted city the rest of the year. So, he tends to take the stars for granted and I don’t.

  38. Many songbirds migrate at night and all the excess light messes them up.

  39. I moved out of a large metropolitan area last June to a small town of 7,000 in Western North Carolina. One of the biggest, most delightful surprises is how many stars I can see on a clear night — and I live in town!

    I completely agree with Mark’s sentiments. Seeing the stars at night, at will, is bringing me closer to the nature I moved here to meet again.

  40. The most brilliant night sky I have ever seen was in northern Wisconsin in the fall. It was so bitterly cold camping by the lake, but the total lack of any artificial light, the crystal clear night sky, and the reflection of the stars on the lake, honestly it was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I thank God every night for his generosity in sharing his awesome creation with us.

  41. my sister and I used to fantasize about how we could break this night lamp that stood outside and across the street from our bedroom window. It was a very annoying bright orange light with a buzz sound and I didn’t get a good night’s sleep until I moved to the front room of the house…

    I loved living in Utah later when you could look up at the night sky and see the milky way, and my Internet boyfriend at one time didn’t believe me that you could see the milky way with the naked eye – as he had never seen it in his homeland, he later became my husband and boy did he have to eat his words when he came to Utah for the first time and saw the beautiful night sky there… I really miss it, and I miss the meteor showers they have every year in August… besides my family, i miss the stars the most.

    (expat living in the netherlands)

  42. It’s been more than a few months since I have looked up at the sky at night and just thought and talked about the stars and how amazing life is. That was on Lake Michigan back in the late summer.

    It would be such a privilege to be able to enjoy the stars on a near nightly basis when the clouds don’t cover them.

    I may be living in Chicago for the Summer… depending on where I am it may be possible to look up at the stars at night over Lake Michigan. Oh how kick ass that would be!

  43. My 18 year-old daughter just pointed out Orion’s belt a couple of nights ago; could just barely make it out from all the street lights. Then she said “We didn’t go camping in our favorite campground in Vermont last year where we can see all the stars & the Milky Way”. Definitely going back in August – love to watch the Perseid meteor shower from there – no lights around for miles. What a thrilling sight!

  44. I live in San Diego. Several months ago, we can a black out that shut off power to the entire area for most of the night.

    It was incredible! We felt more connected to nature and the universe. We could see the beauty of the night sky! It was spiritual….and very very romantic 🙂

  45. My husband IM’d me earlier today to say we are supposed to be able to see the Northern Lights tonight somehow! It is cloudy right now – hope it clears up. We live in a fairly rural area and we love just watching the night sky!

  46. (maybe someone posted about this already but…) What happens to people who live in very high latitudes (like Alaska, Scandinavia) where half of the year has WAY too much light? Are there increased health effects for these people or have they just basically figured out ways to block out light for half of the year?

  47. That reddish “star” is not the planet Venus. It’s the planet Mars. Venus is often the brightest starlike object in the night sky and appears in the west shortly after sunset or in the east shortly before sunrise. It is currently very visible in the west after the sun sets–even visible in the city.

    And truly, few things are as amazing as a cloudless night sky far away from city lights. Ever seen a meteor shower in the dark of the country? I recommend the Leonids meteor shower each November, though the Perseids are more accessible in the warmer month of August.

  48. Have you read about the new documentary coming out about this very topic? What you’re saying is right on par with the trailer my husband and I just watched a few days ago. Should be interesting!

  49. Oh a topic dear to my heart!

    My backyard used to be a great place to star gaze with no light interference. Today that is not the case because city-folk (sorry) move to the country and are scared so they leave their porch lights only 24/7.

    One of my favorite things I have done with my grandsons is a trek down to Lake Michigan at midnight (with our night eyes – no flashlights). We walk that path to the lake many times during the day from camp but at night – totally different event.

    It was always planned on an evening when the sky was clear and usually in August when the stars were burning across the sky.

    Oh how I miss the blackened back yard and those camping trips with my boys/grandsons.

    1. Totally agree about the 24/7 porch lights and in my neighborhood
      they don’t have just one but as high as three lights on all the time. Have lived here for over 40 years and when I sleep outside in summer it progressively has ruined my star gazing.

      If you feel you must have a light, why not at the very least put in a motion detector?

  50. My husband and I worked together on merchant ships in the 80’s, (he still does), and our favorite time of the day was dusk, where we were on the bridge, chatting about the day as the tropical sun plumeted out of the sky and Pete used his sextant to “shoot” 3or 4 stars while he could still see the horizon, then calculate our position while having a cup of tea (it was all double Dutch to me). Out in the Pacific the night sky was immense. These days mariners simply use Gps and those ancient means of navigation are nearly lost.
    We have always lived in the bush, down here in Australia, and I used to rug up my Japanese exchange students from Tokyo, and lie them on a mattress in the house paddock, to gaze at the stars. They would cry tears of wonder as they had never seen it.
    Cheers

  51. Tempted to print this out and give to my neighbor. I have been meaning for months, since they moved in to tell them to try to remember to turn off their outside light. It shines right into our bedroom and shades can’t block it well. Now that there is snow (yay it finally snowed in Calif.) the light reflects and is brighter yet. Every morning I say ” I am going to leave them a note”. not only is it bright while trying to sleep but we live up in a canyon with few homes and no street lights so it gets dark and the stars are bright but with that light….. it isn’t quite as brilliant. I feel like I live in a city neighborhood with street lights. I live in the canyon to stay away from that. You just motivated me to go meet my new neighbor and ask them politely, “could you please turn your outside light off when you don’t need it?”

  52. living in the NYC area…light pollution is overwhelming. I recall my trips to the mountains of Vermont and seeing so many shooting stars that are invisible here. I often marvel that our sun is a nearby star and that our moon an nearby planet.

  53. I’ve already shared several of my night sky (inspired) experiences in replies, so this post addresses light pollution.

    Mark’s books had already motivated me to download the Flux program to my computer. That one simple change has made a big difference to my light exposure at night. Now I am motivated to make more changes.

    I am an information junkie. I am retired and still spend hours and hours online, searching data bases, watching educational TV, etc. everyday – all of which tends to make me a night owl if I’m not careful.

    My commitment as of now is to improve my sleep hygiene by incorporating more night time light strategies; going to bed earlier; and, waking naturally with the sunrise, even if it means getting black out curtains and a sunrise alarm for my city house.

  54. I’ve spent my whole life in big cities so I don’t have many memories of being outside with no light pollution. I recently camped across the Southwest and I noted how far you have to travel to truly get away from the lights. There’s a general store at the Grand Canyon (North Rim) and they kept the outside lights on ALL night. It was like a Christmas tree glowing in the distance. We fared much better at Curecanti National Park doing some primitive camping.

  55. Look up tonight and you might see the aurora borealis quite far into the lower latitudes, always a good show.

  56. I was so lucky to spend my childhood in an area with no light pollution in northern MI (I was always fascinated with the weird, orange perma-dusk at my grandparents’ house in Metro Detroit). When I go back to visit, I’m amazed and taken aback at how many stars I can see!

    I have to admit that I do have frequent fantasies of shooting out the streetlight, opposite my front yard, Dennis The Menace style;)

    1. Living in Metro Detroit myself, I also have to confess to fantasies about shooting out the street light directly across the street. I lived under open night skies with no lights for almost 30 years before coming to the city recently.

      Challenges my sense of gratitude, but I try to be grateful for the extra security and just opt for better curtains. There are places in Detroit proper without any street lights – they are constantly shot out – and a high crime rate. So, its all relative I guess….

      With the current economic status being so poor here, I don’t feel optimistic about a campaign to have night sky friendly street lights installed – but who knows….

  57. Just thought I’d throw this in … I worked way too many years of *rotating* shift work, and one of the main things it did was mess up my gut. I don’t know if the sleep loss led to gut problems, or if the gut problems were independent of sleep loss and due to the constantly changing meal times (including in the wee hours every other week) … or due to the stress … or due to the crappy food … but I do know digestive problems are one of the most common complaints of shift workers. My point is that there is a lot of out-of-whack very stressful stuff happening with shift work besides light exposure, so you can’t be sure it was the light pollution that caused or contributed to the health problems mentioned.

    And (to switch topics) I LOVE sleeping in a completely dark and silent room. Some part of me just completely relaxes; it’s like that darkness and silence is sending an irresistible signal – “time to rest”. It almost feels sacred.

  58. Growing up in Manitoba country, star-gazing was a regular occurrence. For a kid with an overactive imagination, that’s a beautiful thing! It’s really weird at my parents’ house because when you’re standing in the yard looking up, you can marvel at the night sky, but when you look out toward the road, you can see the glow of other towns and cities in the distance. You can even identify which town is which by the strength of the glow in the sky. Prairie living for ya.

    When I moved to Winnipeg at age 18, I just couldn’t get over the fact that you couldn’t see the stars. It was depressing. The whole world becomes very small. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad I moved to a village after graduation. I guess I just need that constant in-your-face reminder that nature is awesome and nothing man-made can come close. Plus I get sick of concrete pretty fast!

  59. That feeling of being small and wanting to understand the large universe we live in that I got looking at the stars is what made me into a scientist. Now I ended up looking at small things, but that is what got me wondering about how things work. It is crazy that I didn’t even get to see the milky way until college because of light pollution 🙁 If you wanna see some awesome stars, go to a field in Wyoming. Not much light pollution there 🙂

  60. Great timing! We were just in Tahoe and had a wonderful, unplanned reconnection with the stars one evening. We live in the Bay area, so we have our fair share of light pollution. We can see stars, but apparently only the brightest ones. We slipped out of our Tahoe cabin one night for a quick walk and literally gasped when we glanced up at the evening sky. It was quite literally an overwhelming feeling to see the sky burning with so many stars. It seriously took me a few minutes to comprehend the enormity of what I was seeing and what it all means. And, I didn’t realize until that moment, how long it had been since I had seen the night sky looking like that (probably more than a decade). I agree, we are missing something special. Seeing the vastness of the universe represented by an infinite array of twinkling stars reminds you of how small we are in the overall scheme of things. It puts everything into much-needed perspective. The sad thing is that I think it has so slowly slipped away that very few people even take notice of its absence.

  61. We were lucky to live at 9000 feet in a rural area for several years – talk about bright stars, with no light pollution, and not too much atmosphere, either! Beautiful, and it’s fun to be able to pick out even the dimmer constellations.

  62. I just got back from a vacation in Tanzania where I climbed Kilimanjaro. Standing high up with no artificial light nearby and looking up on the night sky is amazing! You see so many more stars from up there. I wish I one day can see the night sky from space 🙂

  63. Mark, your articles are always great but this one was like a shot through the heart! Dreaming under the stars, about the stars, sure seems the very essence of primal living in the modern world to me. THANK YOU for writing this!

  64. I’m fortunate enough to have the best of both worlds so to speak. we only live about 15 min out of town but have very little light pollution. If the neighbors remember to turn off their garage light I can see the stars from my bed. It does remind me of how small we are, this tiny rock in this great big universe.

  65. We live on 5 acres in the “country”, and all of our neighbors have 5 or more acres, so we get a decent night sky. LOVE IT! Last summer I’d gather the kids after dinner, we’d all get our pajamas on, and walk around the property. We called it our “pajama walks”. Unfortunately, their bedtimes were earlier than sunset, and last summer at ages 2 & 4, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice their sleep. Plus, we have coyotes that roam around once the sun goes down, so we have to be careful. This spring I’m hoping they’ll get a chance to see the night sky, now that they’re a little older and if the weather cooperates, springtime in upstate NY can still be dark before their bedtimes. It won’t be as good as around MY bedtime, but a start anyway. Maybe we’ll let the 5 year old stay up some nights when it’s supposed to be clear out. He made it to midnight on New Year’s after all. Both my boys have a natural love of nature already. By the way Mark, the 5 year old wants to do something “with outer space” for his kindergarten science fair project! The only problem is, he’s supposed to do some kind of experiment, not just research, and I have no ideas. Anyone have any ideas? Remember, he’s 5, and I want him to do most of the work. The only thing I could think of was somehow charting the waxing and waning of the moon. Maybe he could do something on light pollution. I could drive him into the city and he could take pics of lights and describe how the sky looks vs at our house and even more remote areas. What do you all think? Thanks, and great post Mark!
    ~LizS

  66. This is a great observation on a subject that affects our entire society, not just our personal health. What could be a more primal subject? There is the International Dark Sky Association that helps provide support for restoration and preservation of dark skies. Living in Austin (a highly-polluted sky) and traveling across west Texas provides a amazingly stark contrast between what we have now in most cities and what we used to have before all our “progress.” Consider looking into dark sky ordinance support for your community.

  67. Well said, Mark. My DH and I are planning to eventually move somewhere in the country or just to a small community. I miss the stars, the quiet stillness of winter, listening to the myriad seasonal sounds in nature, the burbling of the water. For a girl who grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin and walked down to the river to just dream, living in the city takes its toll. It isn’t just the lights but also the constant hum beneath the surface, like traffic, horns, neighbors, etc.

  68. FYI, my son always dreamed of becoming an astronaut! Of course, visiting Kennedy Space Center and watching Carl Sagan films may have had something to do w/ that. Either way, I am grateful that he has always been interested in the stars!

  69. I’m lucky, here in Telluride, CO the high elevation and remote location make for an unbelievable night sky! I’ll lay on my deck for hours nearly every night just to admire the natural beauty.

  70. I love the deep night sky. We can only see it well when we camp, despite living in a smallish town rather than a city. What a shame!

    The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky proclaims the work of His hands. Ps. 19:1

  71. What an awesome post. This is one of my big beefs. Why do we have to have so many lights on at night?
    My husband and son do some research in Burkina Faso, Africa, out in a village in the back of beyond with no electricity. There, near the equator, when the sun sets, it goes down really fast and it gets dark, really dark, like instantly. My son came home raving about the stars.
    I grew up in the mountains of New Mexico where there is very little light pollution, and we woudl go backpacking and just sleep out under the stars. I remember all those nights just gazing up and watching satellites and planes cruise across the heavens.
    Now, there’s an app for the iPhone called skygazer – you point it at the sky and it tells you what the constellations are. I would have loved to have that back then!!

  72. Thank you for writing this and for not making me feel totally alone. I’ve been pondering over this for quite some time, and I actually mailed the city council, asking them to please consider street lights with motion-sensors on them for all of the reasons you mentioned above. They didn’t even bother to reply. *sigh*

  73. In the summertime I love to admire the beautiful sky and all the stars from our galaxy. It raises my level of consciousness, it talks and tells you that you are part of something bigger than you could ever imagine. We have evolved and we need lighted cities and communities, but once in a while find darkness and take a peak at the beautiful Cosmos and let it talk to you.

  74. Ah, Mark, way to make my homesickness worse!

    I grew up in the country. Apart from growing and raising everything we ate, the nature was just amazing. My favourite time was August, when we’d have shooting stars, and we’d go out into the clearing with the neighborhood kids to watch the night sky…there was also a really tall tree in one of our neighbour’s land – I think it was a sycamore – and we used to sneak in at night through a crack in his fence, and challenge eachother as to who could climb up the highest. The one who won was the ‘king’ or ‘queen’ of the stars for the week! The good old days…

  75. I am a volunteer adult leader with the Boy Scouts (highly recommended), and one of the highlights of our monthly camping trips is stargazing. The Milky Way is often visible and meteors are not uncommon. We almost always do an Aug. 12 meteor shower campout where we stay up all night and watch one of the best meteor showers of the year, the Perseids. The Geminids on Dec 12-13 are also good. Folks at work often ask me why I would go out on a campout with fifteen teenage boys. The answer is that is it a relaxing break from civilization. The night sky is a big part of that.

  76. Comet Hale-Bopp anyone? That was a pretty spectacular time.

    It’s on my life list to see the Northern Lights and the Southern Cross sometime before I croak.

  77. I live in a very tourisy beach community which means there are hotels and restaurants and the like just at sand’s edge. The night time lights on these businesses cause the sea turtle hatchlings to become disoriented and they crawl out of their nest and toward the businesses instead of following the moon into the sea. Many, many, many endangered turtle hatchling species are smooshed by cars because they’re trying to cross the road to get to the light. It’s so sad that our community can’t do more to protect the turtles. They do lower the streetlights and shade the beach side of them, but most of the businesses and condos/homes keep their lights blazing.
    Also, because there are fewer sea turtles there are way more jelly fish in the water and washing up on shore because sea turtles eat jelly fish. There is hardly a day anymore that the dangerous marine life flag isn’t flying on the lifeguard stands.

  78. I absolutely love the night sky. Living in New Mexico I can find some truly dark skies and the beauty of the milky way is really evident. One simple thing the average homeowner can do is install down lighting for their outside lights. These light fixtures direct the light down and not up where it pollutes the sky. If you truly want to make a difference you will do it!

  79. My parents have a small acreage about 8 miles north of a smallish community AND for some reason, there was never a yard light put in so the yard is always very dark unless the moon is blazing. After a visit, if I’m leaving after sundown, the visibility of the stars always stops me in my tracks. They are breathtaking.

    Looking back at my childhood, growing up mostly on farms and acreages, those moments spent star gazing have stuck with me. It really is a very special thing to stop and awe at the stars.

  80. I grew up in the rural-ish midwest, and had the good fortune to often visit places even more rural. I still remember how beautiful the stars were when I was growing up, and the awesomeness of learning how they move through the sky, learning to tell the time of night from the season and the positions of the stars.

    Now I live in Chicago, and every so often on a clear night I’ll look up and say “Oh, look! The star is out tonight!” And I try at least once a month to go somewhere far enough away that the light pollution from the city isn’t so bad, but it’s difficult around here; it takes a few hours to get to anything near as dark as what I grew up with.

  81. A couple weeks ago the observatory of which I am associated (http://www.bro.lsu.edu/index.html) and the local park commission jointly presented the premier of a film called The City Dark, A Search For Night On A Planet That Never Sleeps. The film, created by amateur astronomer Ian Cheney, asks, “What happens when we lose the night?” While planning for the event, we discovered that Dr. David Blask of Tulane University of New Orleans (only 50 miles away) is featured in the film discussing his research with Dr. Robert Dauchy on the effects of light on circadian rhythms. We invited them to the presentation. They had not seen the film and accepted. They discovered that light exposure retards melatonin levels. Rats were injected with cancer cells. The rats that had lowered melatonin levels developed cancers. Those with higher levels experienced few instances. They concluded the light exposure of shift workers may account for the higher cancer rates among those workers.

  82. Oh My! Love stars so much, that they are tatooed in multiple places on my body…I feel blessed to live somewhere that still gets pitch black, and on a clear night, the sky leaves me speachless and still, no matter what my hurry…I always stop to look in awe.

  83. I was born and grown up in the very north of Sweden. Altough I moved elsewhere, being rather urbanized today, in my heart I’ll always be that little boy who got a glimpse of this marvellous world we live in.
    The seeds of my being aware of the infinite cosmos were sown when watching the first Russian Sputnik, speeding over the sky back in October 1957.

    I remember my father and me together experiencing this remarkable event at that time.

    Now reading about the solar storms I also recall those amazing, colourful Aurora Borealis curtains, sweeping back and forth across the starry, cold winter night skies.
    As aside, the Finnish word for these northern lights(revontulet)can be translated as “the fire of the fox”). (Firefox 😉

    As someone mentioned here earlier, the summers above the polar circle are quite the opposite. The midnight sun, throwing its reddish, sharp light over the landscape, somehow shortens my need for sleep.
    In fact, these are often the times when I find myself most alive and creative.

    Later on, in the twilight of August, the full moon looks like an orange;
    a very beautiful sight indeed.

    Luckily the air in the north is still very clean. So, unless there are clouds, the whole universe seems to be twinkling before your eyes.

    The best month to get lost in the cosmos is September. At that time the evenings are dark again, but still warm enough for such an adventure.

    However I do not own a telescope, but contemplating the Milky Way through an ordinary 7X50 binocular is also quite awesome.

    Peace!

    Jim

  84. I love this article. As someone who supports the paleo lifestyle and also dabbles in amateur astronomy, it’s nice to see these two issues converge somewhere besides my own mind. I’ve seen the milky way but I have to travel very far to do so, it’s sad and I long to live in a world where I can see unpolluted skies by just stepping outside my home. I’ve never seen the kind of skies that I hear sailors and people who’ve been to *really* remote places talk about, and don’t know if I ever will 🙁

  85. I never knew that the pollution in the night sky could actually cause sleep disruption and cause some cancers! Thanks for the warning! This blog is so helpful!

  86. I moved out to the country a few years ago, fully looking forward to a nice, dark sky. I had one, for a little while, until my neighbors across the road moved in and re-activated their always-on-at-night, supplied-by-the-power-co-op street lamp. (Which brings me to another point: you’d think the electric company would stand behind their supposed promotion of responsible energy usage and instead suggest people get motion-sensing lights instead of always-on lights!)

    I don’t understand why anyone would want a freakin’ street light in their driveway, right outside their house. The thing lights up rooms inside my house, I can only imagine what it does to theirs.

    I wonder if I could ever convince them to turn it off.

  87. Great post! I think a great addition to the primal living movement would be to commit to turning off the lights at night. In my neighborhood, not only do the street lamps shed way too much excess light at night, but on top of that it has become extremely trendy in suburbia to use night lights as part of your landscaping. I know this can be useful for seeing your way to the door, but let’s be honest, you need that about .001% of the time. Let’s start a movement to use motion sensor lights only, and start bringing back the stars, and our circadian rhythms.

  88. I use to live in the country out in the farmland area, I never saw so many stars, it took me back to when i was a child in the early 70’s.
    Now I am married and live in Key West, husband refuses to move. The light pollution is terrible and the noise the bar down the road till 3am. I long for the quiet and darkness of the night sky twinkling. Sigh, someday.