The Light Prison


I am a prisoner.  My confinement is not built of walls or fences or gates, but derives from a byproduct of civilization taken for granted.

I see my prison everywhere I go.  It is in the streets, on buildings, emanating from vehicles, even on ourselves and within our pockets.  Looking up to the open sky should bring me solace, but it only reinforces why I know of this prison at all.

I see the telltale signs throughout the day, but the prison’s constricting grasp radiates most fiercely at night.

My prison hinders me, and billions of others, from fully engaging with the greatest physical medium.  It stifles imagination and stunts creativity.  It has created a tragedy of the mind, pushing us to believe in existence merely of the lands and clouds.  Severing our connection with the cosmos limits our potential and halts wonder, impacting even our perspectives on philosophy and Humanity’s enduring search to understand the Divine.

Mankind built this prison, certainly unintentionally, but Man bears responsibility for its upkeep and expansion.  Our continued, collective ignorance reinforces our detention.

It is a prison made from light, sourced from every construct.  From the backyard porch to parking lots.  From street posts to the tallest skyscraper.  Even automobiles and trains.  Anything that emits unshielded photons spilling into the empty sky beyond its intended illumination target contributes to the light prison.

We know our prison from the orange, sickly glow protruding across the horizon.  If you are lucky, this veil has its limitations, for when looking up, you shall see a wisp or more of the true freedom we are being slowly impeded from.

The prison is, ostensibly, pollution.  We have conquered or controlled so many forms of pollution, yet the prison of light continues to grow seemingly unabated.  Perhaps because we cannot smell it, nor tangibly observe a sludge byproduct, is why we continue to ignore the single type pollution that permeates every square measurement of society.  But it is pollution nonetheless, harming ourselves, our environment, and all life that depends on the eternal cadence of dawn and dusk.

We are meant to live in day and rest in night.  Some creatures thrive in the darkness.  The light prison, built in barely a century, distorts all of nature’s ecology, confusing rhythms forged through millions of years.

Acknowledgement of the existence of the light prison is not a call to Armageddon.  We need light, and it is a testament to our intellectual progress that we can bring light to the encompassing darkness with such ease.  What is needed is a societal understanding of both the existence of light pollution and the modest steps we can take to nullify its effects.

Should there be a goal?  Yes, and it is simple.  The the Milky Way in its entirety would be a stretch, but children in even the most populated urban areas should be able to see a night sky with thousands of stars, not just the Moon and Venus a handful of the brightest stars.  The goal is very plausible with better planning and foresight, utilizing prudent techniques to control it.  Architects should incorporate light-shielded designs into buildings and constructions of all varieties.

The light prison will never be deconstructed entirely, but through the spreading knowledge of its existence, and understanding the simple task to contain it, shall we and all of the Earth benefit from the return of the true night and the window to the cosmos it provides.  We will then no longer be prisoners, but proud stewards of a genuine planetary cause.


3 thoughts on “The Light Prison

  1. Pingback: Light Pollution Example #1 – The Treehouse | Aperture Astronomy

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