Tuesday, May 22, 2007


We don't usually think about the fact that it gets dark at night.

I'm serious.

Darkness has been essentially banished in America and is actually pretty difficult to find. One of my personal gripes is the nightlight, several of which seem to be beaming in every bedroom window around the USA. Stop almost anywhere on any road at night and you will more than likely see them, shining all night long. Shining to banish the Boogeyman. Why else?

Richard Nixon made a grandstand play when he was president. He claimed that bright lights around the nation's Capitol kept crime down. Turned out that drug dealers liked the bright lights because it meant fewer rivals hanging out in the shadows when deals were going down. Deals were made under the bright lights where everybody could watch everybody else and then disappear into the darkness beyond the glare.

Another "common sense" idea shot full of holes.

The ubiquitous night light has several evil side effects. The glare of a light, even hundreds of yards away, actually obscures visability into naturally lighted areas...The sky, for instance.

Here in the gorge I have been admiring an old night time friend during my treks for nocturnal relief. My friend is the Milky Way. Remember the Milky Way? It's still up there, honest. It's our view from home of our galactic disc, only most of us can't see it from our homes. We look up an instead of the Milky Way, we see...night lights.

There's no real reason for this. There has been a movement to eliminate the glare from our skies that originated with astronomers but has been picked up by ordinary people who just want the stars back. It is called Dark Sky. There is no rational reason why a light should shine on anything except whatever it is that needs lighting up. Billboards, street lights, night lights, and thousands of other area lights are wasted. All they need are the proper reflectors or lenses to greatly reduce the glare and wasted light. Sure this a global warming issue. Sure this is a wasted energy dollars issue. Sure it is an issue of privacy and that your neighbor really doesn't have the right to shine his night light into your bedroom window because he is afraid of the dark.

But I want my stars back.




There are actually places in the word where the night needs banishing from time to time. In parts of Africa, babies are often born at night by the light of fires, lanterns and torches. Burning valuable fuels this way not only costs scarce resources but is a health hazard costing tens of thousands of lives each year. One group has decided to give the gift of solar light to poor regions in Africa. It functions by asking people to buy a solar flashlight. well actually Two solar flashlights.

Buy One Give One becomes BOGO.



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