This morning I woke up to a neighbourhood without power. The street lights were off, the buzz of my refrigerator was absent, and there were no lights on over anyone’s front porch.
When I was in high school I entered a contest on beautifying your city, and I wrote a proposal to have streetlights that only cast light downwards so the night sky is preserved.
You don’t notice how much light a city gives off until you get to see the dark. Not just the dark where there’s shadows from driveway lights, but actual dark.
There’s a stretch of unlit road between our house and my in-laws. Sometimes you can stop there if you want to see more stars than you ever do in the city. It’s where we go if the northern lights are out.
For a few minutes this morning, I didn’t have to go out of town to experience darkness. I got to see the world as it was for most of human history. Then the power came back, our central vacuum system buzzed, the microwave clock beeped, and the streets of 3:30 am were illuminated.
So much of human history and storytelling and discovery has been created by people looking into the night sky and wondering about what they see. Now we blanket that dark with artificial light, all night long.
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