Dr Airdre Grant
Dr Airdre Grant

Let's reclaim the sky

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A friend who lives in Alice Springs has been telling me how unbearable the heat has been.

There have a long line of 45degree plus days; everything that needs to be done happens very early or very late; the library, the community centre and mall are full of people sheltering in air-conditioning.

She said if you get into a car in the day (madness) you need oven gloves to touch the steering wheel.

No one is out on the streets.

All you can do, she says, is hunker down in the coolest pace possible and wait for it to pass.

She does some work in a shop in town and told me how a couple came in who run an outstation which has tour groups come to stay for their 'Outback Australia' experience.

They had a Chinese group arrive and the people in the group were always looking up.

When asked, it transpired they had were amazed by the night sky.

The combination of dust, fumes and light pollution meant that they had never in their lives seen a clear night sky full of sparkling stars.

I cannot imagine never stargazing or marvelling at a shooting star (and making a wish).

Our planet is changing and this story is symptomatic of some of the unexpected ways the damage of mad environmental policies can manifest.

People fight back, of course, against pollution and overcrowding and there is a network of 20 Dark Sky parks in the world; places which have a crystal clear (increasingly rare) nocturnal environment. Here you can see the glorious radiance of the Milky Way and brilliant luminosity of our galactic neighbours.

The Warrumbungle National park near Coonabarabran is Australia's only one.

Note: There are some very simple things that you can do in your own small way to help reduce light pollution, such as turn off your lights when not needing them, not use very bright lights, face lights downward and hang lights under an awning. This story made me realise that I had taken my celestial navigation for granted. Stargazing puts things into perspective, inspires the spirit and feeds the soul.

It had simply never occurred to me that there could be a time when I would sit on the veranda and not be able to see the stars or marvel at the moon. Unthinkable!

So, go outside tonight and give thanks that we have such a luminous and dazzling galaxy of stars soaring overhead.

Turn off your lights and bring back the night!

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