I am fortunate that I spent much of my childhood beneath an unpolluted night sky in rural Virginia. It is my memory of that overwhelming field of glowing stars that inspires paintings like Dark Sky (above) that I make here in my Brooklyn studio.
It’s a personal dream of mine that someday we might be able to see a few more stars in our city skies, and just maybe access the giddy awe I remember feeling as a child. How spectacular would it be to see a fully visible night sky merging with the city skyline? The closest I have come to seeing this was during the blackout here in New York City in 2003. But another possibilty exists– one where city lighting is managed to reduce pollution without turning out all the lights. We can achieve city nightscapes that allow celestial and earthbound lighting to coexist! The earth-side lights would be enough for safety but shielded to limit glare and planned so that excess light does go where it is not needed. Energy would be saved. We might all sleep a little more soundly. And the visual dream that is always present above all of us could begin to reappear.
One organization that shares this vision is The International Dark Sky Association. The IDA seeks to raise awareness about the advantages we can gain from intelligent lighting. The IDA website is loaded with information on how to design or purchase better light fixtures (like the one in the photo on the right), as well as information for educators and all sorts of ways to become personally involved in the cause. You can always donate! My favorite sections are this page of links to satellite photos of Earth at night and this fantastic guide to growing your own local dark-sky aware environment.
Next time you step outside at night, look up. How many stars can you see from where you live?