(mostly) Northern roundup

14 November 2008

Kyle Hopkins kicks ASS! Just heard him interviewed on NPR about an Alaska politics article he wrote for the ADN, and I was both thrilled to hear about someone I had lost touch with, and relieved that so sharp a wit is covering the important Stevens-Begich Senate race closely.

Begin obligatory election response: pretty weird that the three most hotly contested (or at least most drawn-out) Senate races were the three states I was most interested in: AK (see above), MN, OR. End obligatory election response.

I’m just starting Rashid Khalidi’s book Resurrecting Empire, which doesn’t seem designed to flagellate liberal guilt so much as actually educate a willing audience about colonialist history from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent. A good book, and I liked it even more when I found out that he’s almost as dangerous as Bill Ayers.

National Geographic has a ten-page cover article on light pollution out this month, and we happily have our first clear night in about two weeks (not that that’s a record or anything–Alicia tells me that she remembers Kodiak going for something like sixty straight days of rain once, and nobody was talking about records being broken) Still, though, it is crisp and cool tonight. Jupiter looked bright until I saw Venus, and Manaiakalani is setting in the west as Ke ka o ka Makali`i is rising in the east. Even though I know something about how bad light pollution really is, I am reassured that I showed my nephew the same two planets and some of the same stars from the East River about a month ago.

I can’t find the quote now, but I read a while ago that an astronomer working at (I believe) the European Southern Observatory described humans’ disconnect from the night sky as the single biggest influence in our disregard for the environment. While that has the potential to be melodramatic, I agee with the point that the sky, and particularly the night sky, represent one of the least controlled, most atavistic aspects of our lives. If we stop paying attention to that, it is much easier to see ourselves as living in a managed, not to say manufactured, existence. The influence isn’t confined to us (and Nat’l Geo looks to talk about this, too) in that there’s the whole bit about moths’ and birds’ navigation systems being messed up with competitors for the moon now being a dime a dozen. And the terrible part is that it isn’t even very hard to fix. We can cut down on light pollution and excess electricity while still providing safe and effective lighting. I don’t put this on a par with nuke disarmament or anything, but it is a big issue. Whether you know the names of stars or not, being able to look to them is a dream we have in common.

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