09 April 2011

There should be stars up there*

Geoff Powell comments , en passant in relation to urban lighting and power demand, that It was lovely when I, once upon a time, turned my gaze upon the stars and saw them...

I, too, remember with affection and regret the days when I could see the stars and count the Pleiades...

Night time in town feels lonely, these days. I often can't find the Pleiades, never mind count them. Even out in the countryside, there is enough light spill to make the sky much less clear and less vivid than it was fifty years ago.

I try to describe to a European child, now, what the Milky Way used to look like (a great dreamy slash across the sky which clearly earned its name) and realise that they simply cannot begin to imagine it.

When darkness hovers
And city lights take over
I am blinded to the words
"I am alone".
It's useless to cry
For a star in the sky,
For the city lights tell me
There's none.
But: what ... to ... do?

What, indeed, to do. I agree with Geoff that it would “be nice and save so much energy if we stopped being paranoid and turned off street, shop and business lights at night”. I'm less convinced that we could instantly return to a golden age of safe dark city streets ... but it's probably an academic issue since both require persuading people to give up what they have come to regard as essential.

  • Melanie Safka, "In the hour" on Please love me, 1973, New York: Buddah Records. BDS 5132 or 2318 090.

* Post title also Melanie Safka: "(There should be) stars up there", on As I see it now, 1974, New York: Neighborhood Records. NRS 48001 or NH 3003

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