The movie Madagascar has a sad, if witty, moment of astronomical relevance. The animals are in the New York zoo:
Alex the Lion: Today was a great day. It does not get better than this. Oh, look, it just did. Even the star is out. You won’t find a star like that in the wild.
Marty the Zebra: Helicopter.
Note the singular there: star. And even so, it’s not actually a star at all. Alex speaks for all the increasing number of people on this planet who never see the stars. If they lift up their eyes to the heavens at night they see only streetlights, spotlights, neon signs and buildings.
When we think of the world around us being ‘in trouble’ it conjures up flora and fauna on the edge of extinction, dirty rivers, the loss of parkland and forests and reserves.
But our dark skies are also in danger. Light pollution is not often spoken of, but it is all around most of us, even here in New Zealand.
Not everywhere in New Zealand though, thank goodness:
New Zealand’s bid to make Tekapo the world’s first night sky reserve is moving ahead …
Working party member Graeme Murray said earlier this year that many places overseas had lost touch with stars but the Mackenzie Country still had a pristine dark sky.
The reserve, which would be a world first, would ensure New Zealand was kept on the astronomy and astro-tourism map.
“We want to better protect one of the Mackenzie’s most valuable assets, its dark, starry sky,” Mr Murray said.
The Mackenzie country in the South Island is stunning. I’ll never forget once driving on a winter’s night, rounding a corner and seeing Lake Tekapo with the full moon above at the other end, the moonlight shining along the length of the lake, the snow-topped Southern Alps in the background.
If the Tekapo area can be made a starlight reserve it’ll be a wonderful thing for New Zealand.
Of course, even more wonderful would be if the whole country would dispense with all the unnecessary and extraneous lights …