On starlight and smog

August 5, 2022 by Joshua
in Nature

Looking out my window at the night sky, I saw what I thought was a bright star but was a plane. Living in Manhattan, I haven’t seen a star-filled sky in years.

Think about what that means. For millions of years, our ancestors could look up at the sky and see stars filling it. It might rain one night or be overcast, but you know what I mean. We evolved to find the stars sparkling, appearing to rotate around us each night in one sense, each year in another, beautiful. Nothing in nature surpasses it in instilling feelings of awe and beauty in use.

The light from stars in the galaxy may have traveled a hundred thousand light-years. The light from other galaxies may have traveled billions of years to reach Earth. For billions of years that light would reach the planet’s surface.

Now, in the past few decades we produced smog that blocks that light, after billions of light-years, one hundred meters from my eyes.

What have we done? Do we know what we’re missing, or rather cutting ourselves off from?

Sound pollution

As I’m writing, I’ve heard several cars go by with loud engines and music blaring. I’m confident these car noises aren’t coming from people who live here, but people visiting and figuring that since cities are loud their noise doesn’t matter, but they’re making it loud.

Still, at least three police or fire trucks went by with sirens blaring and horns blasting. The air conditioners in every apartment are loud.

I hear no birds chirping.

Oh, there’s another siren.

And another car with its muffler deactivated, maybe a motorcycle, and yet another car with a very loud radio. I can here them blocks away.

What have we done? What have we lost?

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