“And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator.”
– Donald Trump’s Inaugural Address, January 20th, 2017
If only this were true, Mr. President.
The night sky in the city of Detroit is far different from the night sky in the state of Nebraska.
The child of the plains will likely have a wonderful view of the universe on clear evenings. He will wonder, and dream, and imagine. He will think about his place in the cosmos. He will ponder both philosophical and spiritual questions about the Almighty Creator. His ability to see the night sky in its nearly-complete wondrous glory will provide him with opportunities to become a sound and thoughtful adult.
The child of urban sprawl will grow up seeing a far different sky. Her childhood will be spent under a sickly, orange haze. She will not look up and wonder, because there will be nothing in her night sky to dream about. Chances are, the overbearing glare of her neighbor’s porch light or a simmering alley bulb will arrest her attention far more than anything up in the sky. This is not a place to leverage the Cosmos to wonder, or dream, or ponder about life and God. With the simple absence of a decent night sky comes lost opportunity and inspiration for this child trapped in an urban light prison.
Of course, the city and country skies will never be the same, but the tragedy of light pollution is that so much of it could be mitigated with cognizant planning and effort by all. We are all impacted by this least-understood form of pollution. Contrary to photographs taken from orbit, it is aesthetically uninteresting. While scientists are just beginning to document light pollution’s adverse effects, both we and all our living ecosystems depend on the quality of a proper night just as much as the radiance of the Sun at day.