Thursday, June 30, 2016

Ignorance and Loss

Most people have never heard of many things. They have always been ignorant and remain so.

The descendants of the people who exterminated the Woolly mammoths would, many generations later, encounter the tusks and skulls of mammoths sometimes emerging from the thawing permafrost and melting glaciers. They would see these things and puzzle on them, completely unaware at what they were looking. Many such populations settled on the story that these were the skulls of giant cyclopean beasts who burrowed through the earth with those giant tusks. (The nasal cavity for the trunks they mistook for a giant eye socket.) These miscreants had no idea at all that they had utterly exterminated an entire genera that had once supplied them with food, with clothing, with building materials, with ivory for art, etc. They just gaped at the enormous skeletal artifacts in complete ignorance.

If the average American moron even looks at the skies at night (I doubt many do), then they would be left to assume that the sky either has no stars at all, or that there are only a dozen or so in the heavens. 

Yes, I have seen the skies at night with little light pollution. It is a sobering thing to behold.

Night sky above Firehole Lake, Yellowstone National Park. Photo courtesy NPS.


Stuart Gardner said...

Beautifully said, Bob.
I've often reflected - no pun intended - on our loss of starlight and the staggering view the night sky must still afford those lucky enough to manage an escape from light pollution. I never have and may never, but I sorely feel my loss.

James Robert Smith said...

When I was a kid I could go up on the mountaintop my parents owned and see the Milky Way. These days I suspect that the cities of Chattanooga and Atlanta have both crept so close to that formerly isolated place that this would no longer be possible. Until the human population collapses (and that will happen) things like light pollution and mass extinction are not going to stop.