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Where are we? There is so much light we cannot see.

According to NPR, nearly 80 percent of people in North America cannot see the Milky Way in the night sky due to light pollution.

I love seeing the stars at night. It reminds me of where we are in the universe. It reminds me that we live on a planet. The night sky in its full glory is an open door to the infinite and to wonder.

Figure 1. Milky Way Night Sky Black Rock Desert Nevada by Steve Jurvetson (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Figure 2. Before (on left): Night-sky view erased by light pollution. After (on right): Night-sky view regained by removal of light pollution. Reproduced with permission from International Dark Sky Alliance’s Light Pollution webpage.

Figure 1. Milky Way Night Sky Black Rock Desert Nevada by Steve Jurvetson (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Figure 2. Before (on left): Night-sky view erased by light pollution. After (on right): Night-sky view regained by removal of light pollution. Reproduced with permission from International Dark Sky Alliance’s Light Pollution webpage.

The stars also enable me to find my way. I use the Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Cassiopeia, or the constellation Orion—or all of them together—to find the north star, and thus the direction north. In the southern hemisphere I use Orion and the Southern Cross constellation to find north and south. (See appendix 7 of my book Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 1, 2nd edition, for how to use constellations and our sun to find direction.)

I relish the different stories and myths told by diverse cultures about how the various constellations came to be, and how those stories can guide us in life on the ground. The constellations even act as calendars (e.g., in the Sonoran Desert when Pleiades appears on the eastern horizon at dawn, it is time to harvest saguaro fruit1) and timepieces.

But I don’t want to have to leave my neighborhood to see the stars, and as a kid in the suburbs on the north side of Tucson, Arizona, I did not have too. I now live on the north side of downtown Tucson, where light pollution is extreme, but I’m taking action to reduce that light pollution while making the neighborhood safer.

I start at home
I got rid of the outdoor porch lights that shined light in all directions. The damn things would blind me from the glare, allowing my brother Rodd to easily hide from me in the shadows then jump me. He got me every time.

I replaced the old lights with dark-sky-compliant lighting that shines all direct light downward, dramatically reducing blinding glare. Thus, with the new lighting in place, my brother (and all others) could no longer surprise me.

Initially I bought dark-sky compliant light fixtures. Later, I made my own fixtures out of buckets and salvaged chicken-watering cans.

[…]

Visit Brad’s Drops in a Bucket blog post on his website to pick up where this story leaves off and read more of the story of Brad’s promoting night-sky harvesting with friends, neighbors, family, on a policy level, and beyond. Also, he shares a few juicy resources, including DIY instructions for making a dark-sky-compliant bucket light, for those inspired to learn more and get involved in some night-sky harvesting of their own!

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REFERENCES:
1. Stars of the First People: Native American Star Myths and Constellations, by Dorcas S. Miller, Pruett Publishing, 1997, p. 204.

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