A third of people on this planet can no longer see the Milky Way. A recent study has concluded that for a third of the inhabitants of earth, ambient and constant light pollution has eclipsed the night sky to the extent that the galaxy we live in can no longer be seen.
It wouldn’t necessarily have occurred to me that this an important thing for humans but, in fact, it is a big deal. Scientists are calling it an unprecedented cultural loss.
Bright areas show parts of earth where the night sky is no longer visible. Image from Guardian UK / University of Colorado.
Up to the age of 19 I lived in a small Canadian town where the stars were constantly present. Since that time I’ve lived in major North American metropolises including Chicago, Washington DC, and Toronto where connection to the night sky basically included the moon and not much else. I have to say that the difference is significant and being able to see the night sky changes your perception of you place in the world. Today I live in Ottawa, a smaller city, where still we have quite a bit of light pollution. I really miss that sense of wonder that goes along with staring up at a truly dark night sky with planets, stars, and yes, the Milky Way easily apparent to the naked eye.
As cities change over it LED for lighting buildings and streets, we have an opportunity to change the way we do things and protect the night sky. For consideration.