Sustainability Sunday #63

Will we end up on the moon?

When I was about 9 I did my first public speaking competition at school, and rather than talk about a family or pets like other children did, I chose to talk about light pollution. I sure started being an enviro freak early!!

I rehearsed and rehearsed, ready to preach to my peers. So much so that I still remember my first lines:

“Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. This could be what future generations will be wondering if we don’t face up to the problems we are causing as 21st century light polluters.”

And I stand by my 9 year old words. Images from space show us the beaming ball of light we now are, yet should the current state of affairs continue, looking up from down here we might not see anything in the near future.

light pollution.jpg

The effects of global warming and resulting climate changes affect how wee see the sky. If you live, like I do, in a fairly central position not too far from the equator then we’re slightly less affected it’s true. However, recent reports from the Arctic tell how Inuit elders say the Sun is rising in the wrong place and that the Moon and stars are in skewed positions. They believe it is because the Earth’s tilt has changed, but climate change scientists say it’s down to an illusion created by a warming atmosphere. Whilst we have clocks and watches (or dare I say it, iPhones) to check the time, remote communities like the Inuit rely on the Sun, Moon and stars to know when the day begins, what time it is and what season they are in.

Last night we went to the Greenwich Observatory in London for one of their special “Evening with the Stars” events where we had a wonderful introduction to urban astronomy in the Planetarium (which I thoroughly recommend if you can go). A small cinema room with a huge domed ceiling onto which the night sky is projected, you are submerged in complete darkness with only the stars for company. The second part of the evening was a talk with several astronomers and a view through the Great Equatorial Telescope although sadly it was typical British weather: completely cloudy in all directions. However, whilst the astronomers talked us through the use of the telescope and current research at the Observatory, all of them noted in some way that our increased light pollution, climate change, and global warming is affecting the way we see the stars and thus our knowledge of space, navigation aids and the potential to discover more from Earth in future.

telescope

Surely with the intent of Americans to explore space this would trigger change? Yet when Trump came into power and within days repealed Obama’s climate change power plan my heart sunk. Is there not a single person in his administration that can influence his decision? Apparently not, as at the end of last month Trump had the audacity to tweet “In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming…”. With leaders like this, we can’t possibly hope to keep warming below 2.0ยฐ so what can we do? Will we end up escaping to the Moon? Will it be Elon Musk and his plans for a spacecraft that will allow him and SpaceX to colonise the Moon, opening up the opportunity to ruin another territory for us?

I don’t know. But what I DO know is that we all just gotta keep doing our own little bit to keep it chill down here. And keep the stars in the right place. So that we, and the Inuits can see them.

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