Tag Archives: pollution

Seeking the Stars

Once upon a time, when night falls, kids can look up to the sparkling night sky, filled with thousands of stars shining down on them. Lying on their backs, they count the stars and connect them to form pictures, and imagine what the world would be like if they were up there. There is so much beauty in the natural world available to us to enjoy, so much unknown for us to explore, and so much for us to imagine.

However, recently stars are disappearing. Although they still exist, but we are covering them up with our light pollution. The stars, planets, and galaxies are all obstructed by our excessive use of light. On average, about 2,500 stars are visible to humans when nothing is blocking them. But now, only about 200-300 can be seen in the suburbs and a fewer than a dozen in cities.

Not only does light pollution erase much of nature’s beauty, it can be harmful to wildlife. Birds sometimes get confused by the lights, and end up flying in circles until they drop from exhaustion. Sea turtles wouldn’t next on a beach unless it was dark. Some scientists have even observed that too much light can be harmful to human health.

No matter how much pollution light is producing, it does serve a great purpose: helping us see at night. So as Robert Gent, astronomer, said “ ‘If we shine lights down at the ground instead of up into the sky, and use lower brightness levels, we can save enormous amounts of energy and preserve the beauty of the night skies.’ ” This is a simple and inexpensive solution to light pollution. Many cities and towns have already passed laws limiting light emission at night, making sure that it’s enough to be safe, while not too much to minimize pollution.

That way, we can bring back the beauty of the night sky, and open up a whole new realm of imagination for children.


The Presidency: Prime for Preaching

We all know how the federal system works. Although the president is not a tyrannical ruler with an overwhelming amount of power, he (thus far) has a whole lot of power, and a large degree of influence on the citizens of the United States, as well as some others around the world.

Last year, during the presidential campaign, I remember reading about how the Obama family bought a new Ford Escape Hybrid. He did this under pressure, a presidential candidate with an slight emphasis on environmental issues couldn’t drive something dirty. He had to lead to pack in fuel-efficient, low polluting technology. I have not seen the numbers, but I assume that sales went up for this car after Obama bought one. If he is buying it, it must be a good choice, and a smart one for the future.

The thing to note, is that this is a symbolic gesture. In a modern presidential campaign, a candidate travels effortlessly around the country with a huge staff. It a very mobile operation. That means jets, cars, trains to the max. If Obama drove his new Ford Escape Hybrid for the rest of his life instead of something less clean; it would not adverse effect on the pollution from his trips on a 747 in the span of two weeks. Nevertheless, by changing perspective and remembering that Obama is a leader and therefore trendsetter, everyone who follows him in buying a hybrid SUV may offset that. If not, they are on the right path.

In office, Obama has been making smart choices too. The first one hundred days of a presidency–the presidential honeymoon–are a time for a president to get a lot done without a lot of hassle. Obama got a lot done for the environment. For example: tax credits for clean vehicles and home energy usage, the symbolic (but trendsetting) planting of a vegatable garden; the declaration of greenhouse gases as dangerous and the reducation of pollution.

Good work. Obama is placing himself among the green ranks of Jefferson, T. Roosevelt and Carter; while distinguishing himself from such dirty presidents as McKinley, Jackson and Hoover.
It is important to have a president that cares about the environment. Whether we like it or not, the president gets work done, legislation signed and put into effect. In addition, a president can broadcast a green message to the people. The president is someone to follow and learn from; if he goes green, we go green.

While environmental concerns may not be as in-our-faces as the economy of health care, it is in dire need of our attention. If Obama is lucky with those two problems, his next step would be a comprehensive energy program. Carter tried in ’77 and failed miserably. But I say, ‘Yes We Can.’