What do I think, What can I do?

Archive for 2011/02/10

Light Pollution and Climate Change

It can be considered a secondary problem and certainly it is not comparable to many possible consequences of climate change as: floods, draughts, sea raising, … But, in my opinion, it is at the same time a nice and interesting symbol.

It is quite striking to realize that most prominent astronomers from XVI to XVIII centuries worked from cities. Visiting Greenwich Royal Observatory just in the outskirts of London was a real pleasure and a surprise for me.  Whereas nowadays almost everyone living in a city knows how difficult is to see any star in the night sky. In my case, the very frequently cloudy sky is another important factor too. But even for cloudless cities light pollution is a nightmare for many astronomers, and some of them are taking action against it (there are many links , those three are just a small sample: IDA, wonderful maps, Cel Fosc).  Congratulations for all of them.

Italian peninsula light pollution development, Source: http://www.lightpollution.it/

But for the moment as clearly shown in the picture we have lost hte opportunity to see the universe’s beauty. And we, urban cityzens are more than half of human population. This loss can be critizised from many point of views:

  • A phylosophycal one:the loss of perspective of the universe.
  • A scientific one: we can’t see the stars, and many amateurs find it more difficult to make contributions for general knowledge.
  • A stetical one: we are loosing a wonderful spectacle.
  • An historical one: we are getting disconnected with the night sights contemplated by our grandparents.
  • And a climate change one: We are wasting much of the light emmited by our lamps. So, we are throwing millions of tons of CO2 just to disturb astronomers, and sky lovers in general. This is an evident inefficiency and quite an interesting potential gain, we could save CO2 tons and improve this subjetive concept named quality of life.