I read a lot of National Geographic during college. It had something to do with the small world in my brains and the great giant world in my dreams. I read about Iceland and rain forests and Yorkshire pudding, I'm sure, but I definitively remember only one article. I was sitting in the university bookstore, reading magazines I had no intention of buying (one of my favorite pastimes), and I read a long blurb about how all of the artificial human-generated light was stinking up the earth.
Light pollution, it said.
We aren't fond of the dark. There are homes filled with dinner and chandeliers, with nursing and lamps. People wait for buses and trains, together and alone under streetlights and florescent tubes. Spotlights dash up the sides of art and science museums and they rove the sky. There are blinking planes. The light grid of late night office buildings. All those little LED smart screens of ours are multiplying fireflies on the sidewalks. I imagine that as we sleep and don't sleep under the moon's reflective glow, it sees us and our lights right back. It sees Rio, and New York City, and Hong Kong. It may even see snaking veins of traffic, moving away from those blazing, pumping hearts.
The light that we throw up into the sky, it's hiding the stars, it's uncloaking creatures that do not want to be uncloaked, it's blinding astronomers. None of which are positive things. I'm not going to try to convince you that they are. I like stars and the animals as much as anyone. I have been violently moved out in the world, when nothing at all was happening--this orb where we live is alive and it breathes for us here. It speaks if you will listen.
But I do have to say one thing: I have driven out of a deep, starry canyon and the road has curved and lifted to reveal a great valley-city of light--home lights, and tall building lights, and garden lights, and train lights, and statue lights, and street lights. A sob has ripped at my closed throat, a sob for the lights. I'm saying to you that I think those reviled lights are glorious.
The earth, the darkness and quiet of it, that's so beautiful. But people, all the human people that cover the earth with all of their flickering illuminated bits, they are beautiful too.