The revolution is won when we can see the stars
Humor me if this seems like a silly thing to complain about.
But where have the nighttime stars gone?
Modern light pollution is a measurable thing. Apparently, the Milky Way is no longer visible to fully one-third of humanity — including 60 percent of Europeans and 80 percent of Americans. City lights have created a permanent "skyglow" at night, which means the stars are no longer visible to most people in richer areas of the world.
Why does it matter if we cannot see the stars?
Lets put aside the fact that overstimulation by light at nighttime, and the lack of stars that result, messes up our sleep and probably affects animals in negative ways, as well. We should nevertheless be concerned, very concerned, about the aesthetic and psychological consequences.
Aesthetically, there is profound beauty in the night sky.
The fact that we don't care about the loss of the night sky and the nighttime stars is a profound metaphor for humanity's complete thoughtlessness to its disharmony with Nature in general.
It would not be a difficult thing to figure out how to get cities and societies to work in such a way where light pollution is minimized. We might even discover that we don't have to work so hard in undertaking such a project (and by extension, keep all the lights on all the time). Astronomy is one of the oldest sciences known to our species. By quite literally erasing the stars from our day and night experiences, humanity deprives itself of a free source of inspiration, science, and art -- with little, or nothing, in return.
Then there are the psychological and spiritual losses of not having stars. Looking up at the stars produces a sense of perspective. A person can see how vast and perhaps unknowable the universe really is. The stars produce inspiration, but also anxiety about the meaning of life. They get us to ask deep questions.
When race-based chattel slavery was formally the law in the United States, escaped slaves would find Polaris, the North Star, as a guide to take them out of slave states and into the North and into Canada. Where are we as a culture when we are unable to find that single star that liberated so many souls? Does it matter to anyone? It seems like a small loss, but it is a large loss. It reflects how little we care for history, for culture, for symbols. It reflects the laziness of this era, our sloth in confronting our fundamental conflict and ingratitude to Nature. It is this ingratitude that is roasting the planet now, and which will roast our species. We are too blind, too ignorant, too lazy to do anything about it.
If we can retain all that is good and decent about our civilization, all the conveniences, the wealth, the technological magic, and still look up into the night sky and be surrounded by a sea of stars -- I think that will be a good sign that we have matured into a better species, that we have rediscovered the importance of knowing our place in Nature here on this planet, and in the universe more generally.
We must rediscover the stars for us to rediscover ourselves.
The revolution is won when we can see the stars.