Light pollution came onto my personal radar on 17 July 2008. How can I be so specific about the date? That was when I went to see Leonard Cohen at the O2 and he recorded the live album that you can hear me whooping on. As I walked out of the arena after the show I was surprised to see that, unlike rural Devon, London no longer gets dark at night. Instead it's bathed in a murky orange glow. Okay it's not pitch black around here but you can still see stars. It occurred to me that millions of people in the world not longer have the pleasure of perusing the Milky Way. For them, my dear friends Orion and the Great Bear are strangers. That's pretty sad.
I'm a lover of the light but extreme darkness also has a lure. My most vivid memories of being in pitch black come from wilderness hiking in the US and a stay at Lluc Monastery on Majorca. There's something very comforting, like being cocooned.
Research for the post today has lead me to the website of the International Dark-Sky Organisation. It's a fascinating source of information. Not only have I learnt about the adverse effects of bad lighting on eco-systems and human health, I now know of places where I can escape the glow, nearby Exmoor being one of them. And there's useful stuff about doing our bit and not becoming polluters ourselves. As barbecue season looms the section on acceptable and unacceptable outdoor lighting seems particularly pertinent. Food for thought peeps.