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The long road to our ancestral home...

So after watching the Persieds last night from our sky balcony, a disturbing thought has come to mind. Science has recently shown that modern humans suffer from a number of vitamin deficiencies due our evolution being under very different circumstances than much of recorded history. Like Vitamin D. Many humans are mildly deficient because we spent many thousands of years evolving mostly outside and with far less clothing.

But what about the effects of Star Light Deficiencies? The human brain and psyche spent many millions of years staring up at the night sky and being astounded by what they saw. If you have never seen the Milky Way, then you wouldn't know. It can knock your socks off! You can read by starlight, and see shadows from the glow of our neighboring planets. Look at this picture and think about seeing that every night.

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My night sky is partially there. Dark Sky is rated on the Bortle Dark-Sky Scale. On a scale of 1-10, a totally unpolluted sky, the skies of our ancestors, is a 1. Our area, like many rural ones, is a sliding between 3-4. We can see much of the Milky Way and nebulae. However, it is now estimated, that there are no truly 1 class skies in the continental United States. None in Europe, and fewer every day in Asia. So unless you go to the Australian Outback, the Arctic North, the Saharan Africa, or deep into the ocean, you cannot see the wonders we evolved with. Only, even then, it is still not quite there. The cumulative effects of world wide lighting and particulates of air pollution lead to a global phenomenon of mild light pollution. Like our aerosols sprays and our pesticides, mankind's touch has reached to the farthest corners of the globe, and made it, a little less.

"I hear that it is an imperfect copy that I possess and have read, that my ancestors have torn out many of the first leaves and grandest passages, and mutilated it in many places. I should not like to think that some demigod had come before me and picked out some of the best of the stars. I wish to know an entire heaven and an entire earth."
- From the journal of Henry David Thoreau, March 23, 1856.

So how are we affected psychologically by this? How do we suffer from the toxic effects of light pollution. We know pollution is bad for us. Many folks who would not casually throw there trash on the ground, or dump there motor oil into the rivers, would easily put up, "Just another light". Look at these two pictures.

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The one on the left was taken under "normal" conditions. The one on the right, during a blackout. Wow. That is just overhead. Any night you want, just step outside and look up. Unless, well, you see what I mean.

This picture, and several other interesting facts about light pollution and folks responses to seeing the night sky for the first time, can be found here: http://www.physics.fau.edu/observatory/lightpol-astro.html and you can learn more about lighting, and the movements to preserve our dark skies at http://www.darksky.org/ They have resources and how avoid purchasing "glare bombs" of lighting.

So I ask once again, are we sickened from a deficiency of wonder when we cannot see the night sky? Do we suffer from a paucity of astonishment? How is it that we are starting to understand that children suffer nature deficit disorder, yet we so casual ignore what could be called "Stellar Deficit Disorder". Ask yourself this, can you find the North Star? Would your children know what that "vast silvery cloud" was if they saw it? Do they know that they are stardust?

I believe I have added a criteria to my list of acceptable living conditions. I must have community. I must have clean, healthy organic food. I must have clean water, bird calls, and trees. I must have clear skies.

I shall follow the road home....

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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 13th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
And this is why I cling to the family farm, and it's acres, and the fact that out there in the mountains there is still no sign of encroaching development. Resorts be damned.
Aug. 13th, 2010 03:24 pm (UTC)
There was a night not long after my husband and I moved out to somewhat-rural western MD when I stopped and spent probably a good ten minutes standing on our driveway in the freezing cold just staring up in awe at the night sky. Even the difference between our area and back near the Beltway was just amazing.

Another wonderful night-sky-related memory: back when I was in college, I took a solo cross-country road trip that included a night at Wild Horse Butte State Park in Utah. I was the only person at the campground in the middle of nowhere - so remote that the park ranger rode up on her horse in early evening to make sure I was okay, given that the closest "civilization" was about 30 miles away and she was about to head home. That night, as my fire was dying down, I stripped down to my birthday suit and just danced by myself under the stars for the sheer joy of doing so, and the fact that I could.

Good memories. Thanks for the post, and for helping me remember them. I needed a smile today. :)
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:04 pm (UTC)
That is a fantastic memory! I have never been outside where I could be assured of not being seen by another human being. It must be amazing!

Also, your icon is made of win!
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
Thanks! And yeah, it was pretty liberating. :)

When we were looking for our new house, one of our requirements was "located somewhere we could, if we wanted to, dance naked around a bonfire and not piss off neighbors or authorities." We didn't *quite* get there (we still have neighbors within view, at least in the wintertime), but we're fairly close.
Aug. 13th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
Man, am i ever acquainted with light pollution. Where we live, it's so difficult to see the stars unless they're really bright (like Sirius, & Orion's stars). The last time i can remember seeing a sky so chock full of stars was when i was much younger & an aunt & uncle still lived together up in Pennsylvania, in the country. We saw a shooting star & my aunt & i went, "AH!" & scared my brother so that he whined about it. Around here, though, i'm glad if i can kind of see any stars. The best is when it's a freezing cold night, because the cold makes everything so clear, & the few stars that can be seen are so bright & sharp it's like they're singing.

A little off topic, perhaps, but did you see the bright full moon at the beginning of the month? I was at Ocean City with my family, & i went to the beach & saw the moon over the ocean. There were some stars there, too, but that night the moon really owned the sky; it was so bright that the moonlight was casting shadows.
Aug. 13th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
Wonderful post. So true.

Unfortunately, we live in the big city (Jacksonville, FL) and I don't think I have ever seen the milky way like in those pictures. It's one of my biggest frustrations. During a meteor shower one night a few years ago, I loaded the family into the car and drove around and around searching for a dark place to view the sky. Finally, I got so frustrated we ended up driving home unsuccessful, realizing it was impossible.

Just once I hope to one day be able to share the awe of our little piece of the universe with my children.
Aug. 13th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
thank you shane :)
Aug. 13th, 2010 05:02 pm (UTC)
Fascinating. It's making me rethink our lighting plans for the house.
Aug. 13th, 2010 06:04 pm (UTC)
EXCELLENT! Exactly! My intentions precisely! No Glare Bombs. Tons of research says that motion detecting security lights, are just not necessary. I know that many folks up here just leave huge outside lights on all the time. Studies point out that in the country, all those do is give a criminal good light to work by!
Aug. 14th, 2010 02:21 am (UTC)
Soon I am off and away to the mountains - it will be bliss to be back in their arms and welcomed by the stars.
Aug. 14th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
i love you/your mind.
Aug. 14th, 2010 12:39 pm (UTC)
Very interesting view point. I have never thought of that before.
Your first and last images remind me of my hippie days driving thru Jackson Hole, Wy. Totally clear night but I thought there was a light cloud cover because so many stars could be seen. Some one noticing my awe explained that was the normal night sky when the big city lights were not around to brighten up the darkness.
That night is still strong in my memory two decades after the fact.
Aug. 16th, 2010 08:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the wonderful post.
When we were house-hunting, darker skies were on our wish list, too.
I love looking up and seeing the Milky Way blazing across the sky.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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