Night sky over Flagstaff, Arizona
courtesy of
From my blogpost, Night Skies, at

“Growing up years ago in a Cascade Mountain rain forest, hemmed in by tall trees and cloud cover, we didn’t often see the stars.  But on an occasional clear night, we’d go outside, tip our heads back and gaze up in awe at the Milky Way’s glowing path of stardust winding through a billion distant suns. Only the dim gas lamp shining through the living room window competed with the brilliance above. We seldom saw a plane pass over in daytime and never at night. Man had not yet been to the moon or fired a rocket into space.

 I was pleased this week to receive a message from Lauren Nilson, who’d read this blogpost and wished to share a video she’d helped create. It was filmed on the night streets of Seattle, and is all about the hidden costs of light pollution. The short video is an eye-opener, worth watching several times. Here’s the link:

This is the video transcript, from the website. Brief, but thought-provoking.

“It’s more than one billion cars burning 2 billion headlights It’s argon gas and less than an inch of tungsten metal swinging naked from the ceiling. It’s beautiful at a distance and blinding the rest of the time. It’s sealed glass tubes, mercury, phosphor powder, free electrons and ions bumping and vibrating and dully humming. It’s 1898 to 1959 the discovery of neon to the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign. It’s the las vegas strip. It’s the sunset strip. It’s strip clubs and stadiums . It’s streetlights and streetcars. It’s malls. It’s your work. It’s outside your bedroom window keeping you from sleeping. It’s insomnia. It’s the slow extinction of animals and insects dependent on darkness for migration and mating. It’s the device you obsessively check as you walk down the street raising your dopamine levels while reducing your melatonin. It’s a carcinogen. It’s one of the reasons women in developed nations are five times more likely to have breast cancer. It’s looking down instead of up. It’s 2 thirds of the global population, 5 billion people, unable to truly see the night sky. It’s the indifferent blinking out of 200 billion stars.”

What can you and I do to minimize light pollution? We can choose low wattage bulbs whenever possible. We can choose outdoor fixtures that direct light downward. We can turn our lights off when not using them. If we want to learn more, we can get involved with the International Dark-Sky Association.

Thanks, Lauren!

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