My friend John Hayden wants an annual holiday celebrating the night sky, complete with a universal blackout (of lights, not necessarily of power). He arbitrarily proposed August 4th as the date, although precedent suggests the better date is August 14th, the anniversary of the 2003 blackout that covered most of northeastern North America and left 40 million people in the dark. For romantic reasons I’d prefer Midsummer (traditionally celebrated June 24; coincidentally, the 25th is a new moon this year).
Financial considerations mean any such holiday would be impossible, since the enormous enjoyment people would derive from being able to see the stars would not result in any growth in GDP*, and thus is, from a capitalist perspective, a useless activity not worth engaging in, and the total loss of consumption in a single night would probably amount to many billions of dollars worth of trade. Not to mention safety considerations (shutting down streetlights on highways, e.g.), enough to scare away even the wildest & craziest of municipal authorities.
This is unfortunate. Personally, stars are the closest thing I have ever come to worshipping, and the idea that one could, in the past, have been casually awestruck simply by gazing upwards at night both frustrates and inspires me. Sometimes I’ll catch the moon in a moment like that – it’s the only thing left that can still do this, and I think it’s difficult for it to bear the weight of the job that the entire firmament used to accomplish. But when it’s full and the sky is clear (or better, if there are only a few tufts of clouds), it can still quite take your breath away.
So light pollution is something of a nemesis of mine; even if its ecological impact is not that great, I believe it’s quite spiritually damaging to us. Heaven is one of the most awesome sights available; a huge body of myth certainly testifies to that. I think I can say quite safely that we have produced nothing that compares to it, and we never will. Our spirits are left bereft and weaker because of that absence, and our devotion to nature is probably also consequently smaller. This may come across as mystic garbage, but I mean it quite seriously; we should take some care as to how our environment reflects on our souls.
There are groups dedicated to fighting light pollution, of course, the best known of which is the International Dark Sky organization. There’s also this group of Neo-Luddites who in the past celebrated the anniversary of the 2003 blackout (though now no longer, maybe). On the other hand, if we want to be more pro-active, an enterprising group of individuals with some high-powered rifles could probably simultaneously knock down enough high-voltage power lines that they would trigger cascading power failures and take down a substantial portion of the electrical grid… but this sort of talk is quickly going to get me into trouble, so I’ll end here.
* Yes, I considered telescope sales.