Tonight we begin our week-long event Starry Nights Harrisonburg, an attempt to raise awareness of light pollution and its solutions here in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. My hope is that we will be incredibly successful, that dozens or even hundreds of people come out to the events, that we get national media coverage, that the Starry Nights idea spreads to other cities and towns, and that we get serious about halting and reducing light pollution here and everywhere.
But there's only so much I can control, right? I can put this week together with the help of Shanil Virani, the director of the JMU Planetarium. I can do interviews and send emails and tweet photos of Alicia's dog Shadow reading The End of NIght. But in the end, what happens next is out of my hands. Maybe no one will come to the events. Or more likely, maybe our elected officials will yawn and do nothing. And ten years from now--five years from now--light pollution will be even worse here, and everywhere.
One of my favorite quotes comes from Aldo Leopold's book A Sand County Almanac (1949) in which he wrote, "Once you gain an ecological education you live alone in a world of wounds." It's a feeling I've often had, that I'm the only one who sees what we're doing to the beautiful world. And the feeling is real--and the evidence sometimes overwhelming--but the sentiment isn't true. I know that I am not alone. I know that plenty of other people care about this world. They might not immediately care about light pollution, but they will care if I connect with them. And I will care about their concerns if they help me connect. I'm sure of this.
I'm sure too that we don't need everyone in order to succeed. I remember Paul Wellstone, at Carleton (he was my professor, and later became a US Senator before dying in a plane crash in November of 2002), telling us how during the Civil Rights Movement it wasn't as though everyone was in the streets--it was a few dedicated people leading the way.
And so I will do what I can on behalf of darkness and especially on behalf of those creatures who depend on darkness. I've never really been an activist. But tonight I will begin. It feels good. It feels like being a little more alive. Yesterday, at a UU service, I admitted I "felt called" to do this. I don't mean this in any heroic way. I just mean it. I have no idea where it will take me.