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Quotations about Dark Skies
& Light Pollution


I can't see the stars anymore living here
Let's go to the hills where the outlines are clear...
~Susan Enan, "Bring On The Wonder," 2005,  ♫

It is a lovely thing:  gazing at the deep, clear darkness of the night and the bright, brilliant light of all that’s in it. But like most lovely things, it’s endangered. ~Casey N. Cep, "The End of Stars," Pacific Standard,, 2014

In the country the darkness of night is friendly and familiar, but in a city, with its blaze of lights, it is unnatural, hostile and menacing. ~W. Somerset Maugham, 1900

The sun sets, and evening is drowned in electric lights... ~Marjorie Allen Seiffert, "The Picnic," A Woman of Thirty, 1919

At least when it comes to light pollution, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas. What happens here seeps across the surrounding desert so that national parks in Nevada, California, Utah, and Arizona... report their horizons aglow, their dark skies tainted. ~Paul Bogard, "To Know the Dark," The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, 2013,

The light pollution blindfolds every star. ~Carol Ann Duffy, "Bridgewater Hall," Rapture, 2005

Simply put, light pollution is excessive and inappropriate artificial light at night. Light pollution is not all outdoor lighting, and important distinctions are made depending on the ecological sensitivity of an area. Artificial lighting is an essential part of modern culture and possibly the most obvious demonstration of technological progress. The problem arises when "progress" cross the line to become wasted energy, wasted resources, and a negative alteration of the environment. ~The International Dark-Sky Association, "Our Endangered Night," Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities, 2012,

For those living in cities... it can be hard to imagine that in truly dark spaces, people would run out of wishes before they'd run out of shooting stars. ~Megan Finnerty, "Valley light pollution erasing stars from Arizona night,", 2014

Four hundred years ago, the twinkling stars cast shadows on a moonless night. Constellations were so intricate as to be unrecognizable today, and some sky landmarks were defined not by individual stars but by the dark spaces between them. The Milky Way appeared so solid that only a magnified view revealed it wasn't one body but hundreds of thousands of stars so densely clustered that their faint, ancient light formed a path across the cosmos. ~The International Dark-Sky Association, "Our Endangered Night," Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities, 2012,

People need the sense of beauty and perspective and awe that we get from our exposure to the universe in a dark night sky. It's part of every culture, part of being human — to contemplate what's above us. ~Marker Marshall, Grand Canyon Park Ranger, 2014, quoted by Megan Finnerty

As a child I was afraid of night at the lake because the dark was so thick it seemed tangible, something you could stick your hands into or hold, like muck, or drapery. And the woods are still that way, but the sky is beginning to wear at the edges where gas stations hope to attract customers by immolating themselves in white light, and roadside restaurants blow their electricity bills straight into the sky. Each summer when I return to the lake I am no longer so much afraid of the dark as I am afraid for the dark. ~Paul Bogard, "Why Dark Skies?," Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, 2008,

As light pollution spreads we are slowly losing one of the oldest and most universal links to all human history. ~Peter Lipscomb, astronomer, "Dark Skies," Santa Fe Conservation Trust,, 2013

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder where you are.
Looking up is no solution;
The sky's so full of light pollution.
~David H. Levy, astronomer, c. 2013, unverified

A millennium without air or light pollution made for pitch-black skies. The stars didn’t just appear anymore. They exploded. Diamonds on black velvet. You couldn’t tear your eyes away. ~Blake Crouch, Wayward, 2019

Just how long is a day anyway? How long is a night when it never gets dark anymore? ~Donna Henes, "Telling Time: Leap Year," Celestially Auspicious Occasions: Seasons, Cycles & Celebrations, 1996

...the smoke-smuggered stars... ~Dr. Seuss, The Lorax, 1971

At first blush, it's hard to imagine why light pollution is a big deal. Sure, it's nice to be able to see the stars at night. But artificial lighting is also incredibly valuable — we can now do all sorts of things in the dark that were once hard to do. We don't have to squint to read by candlelight or hold up a lantern to walk down streets at night... Still, it's possible that modern-day lighting has gone a bit overboard. In recent years, scientists have found that excessive artificial lighting at night can actually have a surprising number of adverse consequences. Here are four big ones:  light pollution can disrupt our sleep, it really messes with wildlife, it's a big waste of energy, and it can diminish our sense of the universe. ~Brad Plumer, "Light pollution is erasing the night sky. Can we bring it back?,", 2014

Turn the lamp down low and draw the curtain wide,
So the greyness of the starlight bathes the room;
Let us see the giant face of night outside...
~Æ (George William Russell), "Prayer," Homeward Songs by the Way, 1894

Light pollution doesn't just bleach the night sky. It squanders electricity, does little to curb crime, disrupts life for animals including sea turtles, bats and migratory birds, and has been linked to everything from insomnia to breast cancer in humans. "The whole issue isn't about not having light. It's how do we use light more responsibly and thoughtfully," said Paul Bogard, author of 2013's "The End of Night." ~Megan Finnerty, "Valley light pollution erasing stars from Arizona night,", 2014

More than anything, protecting our skies from light pollution is vital for reminding us of our place in the universe... The night sky reminds us of how vibrant our planet is, urging us not to take it for granted, but to protect it and care for it — this living, breathing world suspended in the cold, glittering vastness of space. ~Tiffany Francis, Dark Skies: A Journey into the Wild Night, 2019,

One time as dusk slipped into dark,
      I stood upon a stubble-hill,
      And saw the stars come floating in
      Like chaff blown from a mill.
And when the dark slipped into night,
      I saw chaff on the plain below.
      (The lights of a city smouldered there
      In phosphorescent glow.)
The plain I knew, the sky I knew,
      But then I wondered in dismay
      Which were the stars, and which the lights…
      And I asked the night away.
~Elwyn Bell, "Dusk," 1926

We are losing dark skies all over the globe, but nowhere more than in western Europe and North America. Astronomers say that because of light pollution, fully 80 percent of the people living in these areas no longer experience "real night," that is, real darkness. ~Paul Bogard, "Why Dark Skies?," Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, 2008,

      But one thing worries me — the ever increasing plague that is light pollution and especially when it concerns the topic of this book — the Milky Way. How many of us can remember a time when we could go out into our gardens or a nearby park and see the wonderful swathe of the Milky Way cut a path across the sky? Nowadays one needs to be deep in a sparsely populated rural landscape or high in the lonely mountains in order to see this wonder of nature.
      We are told constantly that the resources and animals of the world we live in need to be conserved and protected, and I agree wholeheartedly with this notion... Yet, it seems to me that the conservation of nature and the appreciation of our world stops when it gets dark. Surely, the most wonderful spectacle in all of nature is the night sky, blazing forth in all its glory. Yet most of the world seems unaware that we are losing this resource. ~Dr. Michael D. Inglis, FRAS, "A Plea to the Faithful," Astronomy of the Milky Way, 2004

Such was the burgeoning popularity of gas lighting, in 1815 the Liverpool Mercury proclaimed that "daylight" would soon "prevail in our streets and shops all night round." ~A. Roger Ekirch, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, 2005

Be sensual, be mysterious, O my Night:
Crawl over the sky in your vast shell void of light,
Old tortoise, for such maniacs as I,
Who never have learned to live and cannot die.
Be sensual, be mysterious, O my Night.
~John Gould Fletcher, "Invocation to Night," Visions of the Evening, 1913

Lighted towers and tall buildings so confuse migrating birds that they circle and die of exhaustion or of collisions with each other or the structures themselves. Sea turtle hatchlings attracted to coastal streetlights end up desiccated, crushed under foot and wheel, or killed by predators. Yet beyond these high-profile examples, the magnitude of the ecological consequences of artificial night lighting is only beginning to be known. But all indications are that unless we consider protection of the night, our best-laid daytime conservation plans will be inadequate. ~Catherine Rich and Travis Longcore, Ecological Consequences of Artificial Night Lighting, 2006

In indigenous astronomy, the stars are our oldest living relatives. We're made of the four parts — the mind, the body, the heart, and the spirit — our spirit is really star and comes from the stars and goes back to the stars. So having that connection with the night sky is having that connection with where we come from, where we're going, and the reason why we're here on our journey on earth. So in that sense, it's a lifeline. ~Annette S. Lee, Lakota astrophysicist,, interview with Ira Flatow, "Who Owns The Night Sky?," Science Friday,, 2020 July 10th  #radio  #scifri  [a little altered —tg]

There's a wonderful common ground amongst all perspectives when we think of space as an ancestral global commons. As a cosmologist I know that we are all star stuff, that we have all been deep within stars... Who does space belong to? — is it a shared resource that we hold in community trust; is it a basic human right like food, air, water? I would say dark skies are a basic human right. The sky is something that has connected us around the world and across the millennia. It's essential for all our different human traditions — scientific, cultural, and personal. ~Aparna Venkatesan,, interview with Ira Flatow, "Who Owns The Night Sky?," Science Friday,, 2020 July 10th  #radio  #scifri  [a little altered —tg]

What would happen if we were to understand darkness as sacred? We would turn down our lights, for one thing. We would design our fixtures so they sent no light into the sky. We would understand that the wildness upon which the places we love depend, depends itself on the darkness of night. ~Paul Bogard, "Why Dark Skies?," Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, 2008,

What happens when humans tamper with the age-old balance of day and night? ~Joan Marie Galat,, 2017

No matter what time they are most active, all animals need darkness. Nocturnal animals are adapted to capture food and avoid enemies in dark environments. Animals that are active at night face less competition for food, water, shelter, and space. Diurnal animals, like red squirrels, need darkness to hide from predators and feel safe enough to sleep. But squirrels can’t close drapes or put on an eye mask... ~Joan Marie Galat, Dark Matters – Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution, 2017,

Only in remote spots can one still glimpse the grandeur of the Milky Way. Entire constellations have disappeared from sight, replaced by a blank sky. ~A. Roger Ekirch, At Day's Close: Night in Times Past, 2005

a sea of artificial lights
has extinguished the stars
and drowned the nights
~Terri Guillemets

The dark skies are partially obscured by the light bulbs of the streetlamps below burning with a vibrant luminosity... The glowing orbs of light appear to challenge the dark skies above the city. ~Jeffrey Estrella, The Time Stone, 2013

In large cities around the world, millions of artificial lights have replaced natural darkness with a pinkish haze that hides all but the brightest stars. Poorly designed fixtures illuminate objects with the intensity of daylight, whitewashing the sides of buildings, streaming through windows and over property lines, and escaping into the atmosphere. Billboard lights and business signs demand attention at hours when there is little likelihood of customers seeing them. Searchlights and light sculptures pierce the darkness, attracting hundreds of birds and night-flying insects. Security lights brashly illuminate lonely stairways, parking lots, and ATM machines, creating shadows that actually reduce visibility. ~The International Dark-Sky Association, "Our Endangered Night," Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities, 2012,

Darkness helps regulate sleep patterns in humans and provides migration, feeding, and mating cues for wildlife. Even trees depend on the length of the day to guide the timing of leaf molt. Cycles of light and dark have determined the rhythms of life since life began. ~The International Dark-Sky Association, "Our Endangered Night," Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities, 2012,

Starless and still…
Who stopped this heart?
Who bound this city in a trance?
~James Oppenheim, "Washington Square," Songs for the New Age, 1914

Before we invented civilization, our ancestors lived mainly in the open, out under the sky. Before we devised artificial lights and atmospheric pollution and modern forms of nocturnal entertainment, we watched the stars... Even today, the most jaded city dweller can be unexpectedly moved upon encountering a clear night sky studded with thousands of twinkling stars. When it happens to me, after all these years, it still takes my breath away. ~Carl Sagan, "The First New Planet," Pale Blue Dot, 1994

...suddenly propelled by a desire to see the stars,
i'll find myself driving nowhere
(over great stretches of road)
until some twist around a mountain
obliterates all trace of the city except a vague
luminescence glowing in the sky...
~Ken Sekaquaptewa and Candy St. Jacques, Sahuaro, 1970, yearbook of the Associated Students of Arizona State University

Aside from all the health effects, all the negative disruption to our fragile wildlife, and all the money and energy wasted on excessive artificial lights, perhaps the most effective way to understand the importance of dark skies is to simply look up. Every year, more and more people are losing access to the night sky, unable to see the stars and planets due to light pollution. One of the most well-known galaxies, the Milky Way — that band of sparkling, ethereal light smeared over our heads — is becoming so difficult to observe that a growing majority of people believe they have never seen it. In 1994, an earthquake in Los Angeles knocked out all the power lines, and the emergency services received numerous calls from residents reporting that a strange, silvery cloud had appeared in the night sky. They were seeing the Milky Way as, for the first time in their lives, it was not obliterated by the skyglow emitted from the city. ~Tiffany Francis, Dark Skies: A Journey into the Wild Night, 2019,

Consider us, Creation!
Though you took patient eras beyond counting to create us,
Somehow we are enough detached from you, and from your purpose,
To look back, and laugh...
Consider how your bad children get around you…
We put our fingers to our noses and wiggle them at you...
We tear our Earth up...
You think to darken us with the night, so we light lamps...
~James Oppenheim, "Laughter," War and Laughter, 1916

I shall take the liberty of transporting you one hundred years into the future, to the year 1982. If you look back to 1882 you will be surprised at the rapidity of human progress... The characteristic of our new age is, above all, electricity. The changes wrought by this power since it has been thoroughly controllable have revolutionized human work and life and the very face of nature... It has been so applied as to abolish night when we will, thus fulfilling the old prophecy that in the new heavens and new earth there shall be no night. Dark roads and dark city streets are of the past... ~Edward Payson Powell (1833–1915), "New Year in 1982," Liberty and Life: Discourses by E. P. Powell, 1889  [a little altered —tg]

When the happy darkness creeps
From the east, across the hill,
Every little birdling sleeps,
Every butterfly is still;
Every little clover head
Folds its leaves and nods in bed,
While the starlight overhead
Through the happy darkness, keeps
Watch o'er every bird that sleeps...
Happy, quiet dark, that brings
Rest and nest to weary wings,
Rest to all the woodland things...
Oh, the happy, quiet dark,
Bringing rest from song and play,
Till the morning wakes the lark
Joyous for another day!...
~Charles Buxton Going, "The Happy Dark," Star-Glow & Song, 1909

For much of the populations of North America and Europe the night sky is no longer black, or even dark. Rather, it is a bright yellow orange, aglow from poorly designed light fixtures and almost bereft of stars. For some people born in the 1980s or later, it is possible that the only object they have seen in the night sky is the Moon. ~Mike D. Reynolds and Michael E. Bakich, "Light Pollution," Exploring the Universe: A Laboratory Guide for Astronomy, 2015

We are wasting hundreds of millions of dollars a year on our light bills due to poorly designed lighting, and in matters of safety it is far more important that lighting be effectively used than abundantly used. We are ignoring warnings from scientists about serious consequences for our health. Our lights are killing songbirds that migrate at night; the list is long of nocturnal birds, animals, amphibians, and insects that depend on darkness. Some are as famous as wolves and sea turtles, some as ignored as salamanders and moths. ~Paul Bogard, "Why Dark Skies?," Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, 2008,  [a little altered —tg]

Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that's been our unifying cry, "More light." Sunlight. Torchlight. Candlelight. Neon, incandescent lights that banish the darkness from our caves to illuminate our roads, the insides of our refrigerators. Big floods for the night games at Soldier's Field. Little tiny flashlights for those books we read under the covers when we're supposed to be asleep. Light is more than watts and footcandles. Light is metaphor. Light is knowledge, light is life, light is light. ~Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider

You see how bright the lights are? — they have those horrible bluish neons that illuminate every pore of your skin, your whole soul finally... In the end, everyone looks like a Zombie... ~Jack Kerouac, The Town & the City, 1950

Virtually every process is best carried out at one time or other of the year and that is not something to take lightly... There is much more to seasonality, though, than breeding or migration. Virtually every internal process alters... We humans were clearly highly seasonal beasts until the coming of electric light but traces remain. ~Brian Follett, 2009

how the nighttime looks
during a power outage
is how night should look
~Terri Guillemets

I can no longer walk out on my back porch and stand in awe of a dark sky dotted with infinite twinkling stars. Where did they all go? Oh, they’re still there, just hidden from view by a haze of electrical convenience called light pollution. ~Melissa Janda, "The Stars at Night Are Big and Bright… Unless They’re Covered in the Haze of Light Pollution,", 2020

Returning the night sky to its natural state is as simple as thoughtful placement of outdoor lighting: putting light where it's needed and darkening areas where it's not. These solutions save energy, conserve resources, and restore ecosystems. ~The International Dark-Sky Association, "Our Endangered Night," Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities, 2012,

Modern society requires outdoor lighting for a variety of needs, including safety and commerce. IDA recognizes this but advocates that any required lighting be used wisely. To minimize the harmful effects of light pollution, lighting should:
     • Only be on when needed
     • Only light the area that needs it
     • Be no brighter than necessary
     • Minimize blue light emissions
     • Be fully shielded (pointing downward)
~International Dark-Sky Association, "Outdoor Lighting Basics,", established 1988

Dark skies-friendly lighting checklist:
1. Is the light necessary?
2. Is it on only when needed, or should it be on a timer or a sensor?
3. Is it fully shielded: does the light point only down, not out or up?
4. Does it give off the minimum amount of light necessary, or could you do dental surgery on the steps?
5. Is it the right color? Amber bulbs create the least skyglow.
6. Is the bulb energy efficient?
~Megan Finnerty's 2014 paraphrasing of the International Dark-Sky Association outdoor lighting guidelines

And despite concern about a potential growth in crime, many of these places have experienced the opposite result. In fact, police in Bristol, England, reported a 20 percent reduction in crime, and other English towns have seen crime drop up to 50 percent since lights have been turned off after midnight. ~Paul Bogard, The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, 2013,

Scientists estimate that in about 10 years, America will have only three dark patches of land where people will be able to clearly see the Milky Way and where they'll be able to do high-quality astronomy and nocturnal wilderness research. Those areas are southeastern Oregon and western Idaho; northeastern Nevada and western Utah; and northern Arizona and southeastern Utah — the better part of the Colorado Plateau... But only the Oregon-Idaho area is really safe, since the neon lights of Las Vegas and the sprawling streets of Phoenix are threatening the other two areas. Like travel and tourism around the Northern Lights, the Milky Way might well become something we go somewhere to see, not something we can see from wherever we are. ~Megan Finnerty, "Disappearing darkness,", 2014, and Casey N. Cep, "The End of Stars,", 2014  [mash-up quote, author change noted by ellipsis —tg]

Phoenix is in a unique position because it's such a large metro area so close to so many dark places. Your light affects people's experience in national parks and nocturnal wildlife environments. You can't just say, "It's my backyard and I'll do what I want." It's a shared resource. ~Nathan Ament, coordinator of the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative for the National Park Service, quoted in Megan Finnerty, "Disappearing darkness,", 2014  [“Ament said rangers prefer to educate visitors about smart lighting, rather than lobbying municipalities to rewrite lighting codes. ‘In the West, it seems to work a lot better for people to make decisions for themselves than if city or state or federal government tells them to.’” —tg]

Light pollution has robbed urban areas of views of the Milky Way and other celestial wonders. In big cities like Phoenix, only the brightest constellations and planets cut through the glare. ~Noah Austin, "The Dawn of the Dark Age," in Arizona Highways, June 2018,

the lights of a distant city
seem star-like and pretty
but move closer into sight
they engulf the whole night
~Terri Guillemets

Once you become aware of light pollution, you see it everywhere. So many of our lights are unshielded — meaning the light sprays in all directions, including into our eyes and into the sky. Simply by insisting our lights be shielded, we could significantly improve safety by eliminating glare and improve our view of the stars by reducing the light shining into the sky. ~Paul Bogard, "Why Dark Skies?," Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark, 2008,  [I enjoy going for nighttime walks in suburban Phoenix areas, but it's annoying and sometimes downright infuriating to be constantly hit in the eyes with bright lights. They're on most houses here, and some nights the walks just aren't worth it because of this. —tg]

Around the world, public and private groups known collectively as the "dark sky movement" are taking action to return the sky to its natural state... Yet to achieve this requires education and community participation... This book offers the tools to become a guardian of the night, reduce energy, protect nocturnal ecosystems, and keep the universe in sight for generations to come. ~The International Dark-Sky Association, "Our Endangered Night," Fighting Light Pollution: Smart Lighting Solutions for Individuals and Communities, 2012,

You can be a powerful dark sky advocate for your neighborhood, your city, and even your state and country. Solving the light pollution problem involves raising awareness of the issue so that people are empowered to make better decisions as consumers, voters and community members. ~International Dark-Sky Association, "Take Action,", 2015

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published 2017 Apr 22
revised 2018, 2020
last saved 2023 Oct 26