Friday, December 01, 2017

Requiem for the Night Sky

Image result for satellite photos of northern hemisphere night

God who made the Bear and Orion,
    the Pleiades and the chambers of the south... Job 9:9

Lift up your eyes on high and see:
    Who created these?
God who brings out their host and numbers them,
    calling them all by name;
because God is great in strength,
    mighty in power,
    not one is missing. Isaiah 40:26

The other morning I was awake  "dark and early" and our two cats insisted on being allowed outside. I stepped onto the deck and glimpsed the stars and the waxing moon. This brief experience stirred something in me, as it almost always does. Somehow I feel both smaller and expansive in the same moment, part of something infinitely greater.

Unfortunately something as simple as pondering the night sky has become increasingly difficult as we flood the heavens with human-created light. We had a social gathering in our court of nine households recently and we collectively lamented the new, very intense LED lights which seem to have doubled the brightness outside our homes. We chatted about what we are doing to ensure a decent night's sleep because of these three new lights.  

There is growing discussion about the end of night, which is actually the title of a book by Paul Bogard which is in my "to read" pile. We know that around the world light pollution is growing brighter and more extensive every year. Between 2012 and 2016, the planet's artificially lit outdoor area grew by more than 2% per year. Scientists say a "loss of night" in many countries is having negative consequences for "flora, fauna, and human well-being". A BBC Science and Environment article by Victoria Gill offers these facts about our changing night sky: 

A recent study published in the journal Nature revealed that artificial light was a threat to crop pollination - reducing the pollinating activity of nocturnal insects.
  • Research in the UK revealed that trees in more brightly lit areas burst their buds up to a week earlier han those in areas without artificial lighting.
  • A study published earlier this year found that urban light installations "dramatically altered" the behaviour of nocturnally migrating birds.
    Royal Canadian Mint coin- Roberta Bondar

    I'm not sure why I feel that this is a spiritual issue as well, but I do. When many of us never see the Milky Way in the course of a year, or even look to the night sky with a sense of expectation and wonder, we lose an important connection with creation and Creator.
    Does anyone else feel this way? Have you seen the Milky Way in 2017, or would you even check to see whether constellations are visible in your locale? Would you know an Orion or Pleiades if they dropped down and bit you?

    Image result for william blake heavens
                                        William Blake



    1 comment:

    David Mundy said...

    These thoughts were sent to me by a reader:

    Yes I feel the same way. The loss of the night sky was devastating for me when we moved [from the Prairies]. This has had a deep & seering effect on my spirituality for 15 years. My sense of wonder diminished. I rarely if ever experience the depth of awe &humility the prairie sky evoked.