When was the last time you gazed up at the Milky Way, spilling over with distant suns, filling you with wonder? For many people the answer is "I can't remember when!" or "the last time I went camping." According to the Dark Skies Awareness Project, "the increasing number of people living on earth and the corresponding increase in inappropriate and unshielded outdoor lighting has resulted in light pollution — a brightening night sky that has obliterated the stars for much of the world’s population."
Earth Hour gives us an opportunity as a global community to experience a sky closer to what our ancestors saw. That in itself would be inspiring, but Earth Hour promotes another goal as well: to reduce the world's gas emissions by five percent.
Begun by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in 2007 in Sydney, Australia, Earth Hour has become a worldwide campaign. Here's how it works: People turn off their non-essential lights for one hour -- the Earth Hour -- to show that it is possible to take action on global warming.
It's not only individual households who take part in this action. Many restaurants switch off their lights and serve dinner by candlelight; cities hold concerts under the night sky; observatories offer extra public viewing sessions. More than 7,000 cities and towns around the world take part in Earth Hour actions. You can name this day by finding out what's happening in your community, committing to turn off your own lights during Earth Hour, reflecting on the beauty of the dark night sky, and learning more about Earth Hour through related websites and videos.
Commit to turn out your lights during Earth Hour, and also find out what's happening in your community for Earth Hour. You can join and create events with this tracker: https://www.earthhour.org/tracker.
Here are some quotes about the blessings of the dark night sky:
"Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment we watched the stars. There were practical calendar reasons of course but there was more to it than that. Even today the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me after all these years it still takes my breath away."
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot
"If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown! But every night come out these envoys of beauty, and light the universe with their admonishing smile."
— Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature and Selected Essays
"Sometimes while gazing at the night's sky, I imagine stars looking down making wishes on the brightest of us."
― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes
"In refreshing contrast to some of today’s complex and lingering environmental problems, many existing solutions to light pollution are simple, cost-effective, and instantaneous. Recognizing when outdoor lighting no longer serves its function and becomes a pollutant is the first step toward choosing appropriate solutions."
-- Dark Skies Awareness Project
"The stars have their own language, you know. If you're careful, you can learn it."
― Sarah Jio, The Last Camellia
"Some praise the Lord for Light,
The living spark;
I thank God for the Night
The healing dark."
— Robert W. Service
"He was there alone with himself, collected, tranquil, adoring, comparing the serenity of his heart with the serenity of the skies, moved in the darkness by the visible splendors of the constellations, and the invisible splendor of God, opening his soul to the thoughts which fall from the Unknown. In such moments, offering up his heart at the hour when the flowers of night inhale their perfume, lighted like a lamp in the center of the starry night, expanding his soul in ecstasy in the midst of the universal radiance of creation, he could not himself perhaps have told what was passing in his own mind; he felt something depart from him, and something descend upon him, mysterious interchanges of the depths of the soul with the depths of the universe."
― Victor Hugo, Les Misérables
Websites & Organizations
Earth Hour website: www.earthhour.org
Dark Skies Awareness: www.darkskiesawareness.org
World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF): www.worldwildlife.org
Earth Hour 2016: