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General Astronomy >> Light Pollution

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csa/montana
Den Mama
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Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5422137 - 09/15/12 10:43 AM

If we all retain a negative attitude that LP cannot, nor will not be reduced; then you are 100% correct, it will not be reduced.

Each little "victory" of individuals reducing LP; towns reducing LP; major cities becoming aware of LP, & trying to reduce it; is a start. It will not happen overnight, nor in our lifetime; but we cannot just give up, and not try to get the message out about LP. That's what this forum is about, trying to get LP reduced. We cannot give up hope; rather keep trying, one light at a time.


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BigC
Carpal Tunnel
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Reged: 09/29/10

Loc: SE Indiana
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5422175 - 09/15/12 11:09 AM

I believe the best answer is somehow getting everyone ,including cities, to use lighting that only lights the needed area.

It is not that most people want to shine lights into the sky and waste electricity,it is simple that most light sold or offered for the past 100 years have been omni-directional rather than directional.

All too many places are lit by lights that glare in the eyes as well as illuminate the path intended, simply because the CHEAP and CONVENIENT TO INSTALL light is the light nearly everyone will use,as opposed to the better but more expensive light. Installation cost is often the biggest dollar factor in lighting choice .


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amicus sidera
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Reged: 10/14/11

Loc: East of the Sun, West of the M...
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5422217 - 09/15/12 11:31 AM

I'd really like to believe that a positive attitude will help push light pollution back, I truly would; I take absolutely no pleasure from my position, but I have to call it as I see it... and I see us losing. For every light that we manage to get turned off, many, many others are turned on - it's like Hercules battling the Hydra. At least in the myth, he managed to defeat the monster... as for us, the skies over areas with any substantial population are getting brighter and brighter every year, despite our efforts.

I do not consider myself a pessimist, even though others may; I do my best to look at issues objectively, and bring a lifetime of experience to bear on them. Perhaps in localized areas, where people operate on a generally higher level of thought, or where there is wise jurisprudence in effect, the possibility exists to beat back light pollution, but it would be a rare occurence; Tucson is the only area that comes to mind, and what would be its status were there not major observatories located nearby?

Light pollution is but one symptom of a civilization in decline, where the problems created are incapable of resolution due to the overriding complexity of the issues, and the resistance of its population to change; history holds many such examples. I dearly wish it were otherwise, but to think that we are exceptional would be little more than hubris.


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csrlice12
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Reged: 05/22/12

Loc: Denver, CO
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5422246 - 09/15/12 12:01 PM

"This last sentence is at the very crux of the dilemma... the inherent belief that darkness is somehow intrinsically bad or evil..."

Yet, according to certain religious texts, In the Beginning, there was darkness; which would indicate that darkness was the natural state of things till something came along and upset the balance.....


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Kfrank
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 12/20/08

Loc: Northern Colorado
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5422473 - 09/15/12 03:01 PM

Amicus, my wish for you is that your life is not as bleak as your outlook!

That said, I have been married to an artist for 30 years. My wife is an artist in the realest sense of the word. Lots of folks call themselves artists but she lives to create, and teach and appreciate art. It's part of her and has been since childhood. She would undoubtedly appreciate the project discussed here for it's artistic value even though she might not like the LP implications. This project is really no different from other environmental art projects, such as those done by Christo. They are indeed art - and, they tend to be controversial.

"It is an "art" project involving search lights in Philadelphia, PA."

The above is a quote from the posting that started this thread. Note the quotation marks around the word art. They belong to the OP, not to me. And, they reflect a common thread among the general public - that being that "This can't be REAL art, 'cause it's not painting or sculpture or, well, you know, it isn't REALLY art". You hear it all the time.

Without getting into a philosophical discussion of what constitutes art, let me just say that this project is indeed, art! Whether one likes or dislikes it has no bearing on that. Whether it is deemed appropriate has no bearing on its validity as art. And, the Op's opinion, as stated clearly above, has no bearing either.

I submit that this display is nothing more that a fireworks display. It lights up the night sky - just like a fireworks display. It uses shapes and designs. Just like a fireworks display. However, instead of being fueled by gunpowder and chemicals and being very transitory, it is fueled by electricity and is far less transitory.

This project, and others like it are pretty much insignificant in the great scheme of the light pollution problem. If we use these kinds of projects as the focus of our campaign to reduce light pollution, we risk losing the battle by shooting at the wrong target.

The problem is not art projects - it is street lights of the wrong kind in places where street lights are not needed. It is grotesque, glaring signage on the roofs of buildings. It is lighted billboards studding the roadsides of America. It is the attitudes and misconceptions about the nature of darkness and the use of light that are the problem. And it is here that we must focus our efforts. Perhaps if we do that, the artists creating such projects will begin to have a different prospective.

I for one, chose to be hopeful!


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barasits
sage


Reged: 06/12/11

Loc: Chicago
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5422824 - 09/15/12 07:34 PM

Fred, I don't think you're a pessimist (but you're certainly not little Mary Sunshine either ). And I don't blame you for not being sanguine about the short or long term prospects for reducing light pollution barring some kind of undesirable authoritarian intervention or catastrophe. Although I do epidemiological research for a living, I'm an anthropologist by training and I'm familiar with the sociocultural and demographic trends that do not bode well for our efforts to control light pollution (not to mention the survival of civilization--as we know it). Population growth by itself could counter any gains we make, our economic system encourages present-oriented self-indulgent over-consumption aided and abetted by a value system that promotes individualism over responsibility to others. You're also correct that history can supply many examples in which societies failed to respond to challenges and experienced decline and demise.

On the other hand, there are other examples demonstrating that people and the societies in which they live can make astonishingly dramatic and rapid changes. Positive sociocultural changes witnessed in the last century should at least be taken as evidence that our cause is not hopeless even if it is daunting (I realize that "positive" in the preceding may be open to interpretation, but that is another debate entirely and runs the risk of becoming overtly political). Nevertheless, changes in attitudes can come about in many different ways and it is sometimes the case that a seemingly insignificant change acts as a catalyst for major changes. I apologize for not including specific examples, but I'm trying to write within the confines of CN policy.

We are at the beginning of serious investigation of the impact of light pollution on the ecosystem. It's going to take a lot of time and effort to break through into broad public consciousness, but as we accumulate evidence of the threat to biodiversity and public health, and the economic waste that light pollution represents, and demonstrate that less outdoor lighting actually improves security, we have a reasonable chance of slowing and hopefully reversing light pollution.

Geoff


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barasits
sage


Reged: 06/12/11

Loc: Chicago
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: barasits]
      #5422883 - 09/15/12 08:18 PM

I have an art project proposal called "Open Ear." It consists of 24 powerful air raid sirens on computer-controlled mountings that will create unique, dynamic sound patterns which respond to voice messages supplied by the public. Playback of the messages will change the frequency, wavelength, and amplitude of the sound waves generated by the sirens. This sound show would run for 32 consecutive nights from 8 pm to 11 pm in Philadelphia and would be audible from a distance of 10 miles.

The environmental impact of this project would be mitigated by purchasing carbon offsets and by monitoring any harm done to wildlife.

Some may call this noise pollution, but I call it art. In anticipation of criticism, I believe opponents of noise pollution should exempt this temporary sound show and focus their efforts on the sources of perpetual noise in the city.

I'm certain that this sound show would not be funded nor receive approval from city authorities. What I'm trying to figure out is why Open Air is deemed acceptable by the funders and the city, but Open Ear is so obviously unacceptable. To my mind they are fundamentally the same (despite different choice of media) since they both trespass on public open space, serve no essential public need that cannot be fulfilled in private confined venues, represent threats to wildlife and public health, and deprive some segment of the public from enjoying the more or less unadulterated public open space.

Could the difference in acceptability hinge primarily on the extent to which people can escape from exposure to sound versus light? If I don't want to see Open Air, I can go inside and close my blinds, but if I don't want to hear Open Ear, going indoors may not be enough--and if the sirens are audible at 10 miles it would probably take a fair amount of sound proofing to keep the noise out anywhere near ground zero.

If this is so, then Open Ear might pass muster if the peak volume were kept below the level at which it could be heard indoors. However, the show would be much less impressive.

And making a very big impression is the goal of Open Ear and Open Air. It seems to me that the scale of Open Air is what makes the project objectionable: i.e., 24 high power searchlights running for 32 consecutive nights for three hours at a time.

This insistence on grand scale is what argues against Lozano-Hemmer being taken seriously as an artist insofar as this project is concerned. Open Air is more an ego trip (an expression that will certainly date me) than an authentic work of art. By the way, like Ken, I'm married to an artist. I'm also a card carrying member of the Art Institute of Chicago, a lifelong supporter of the arts, and a fan of contemporary art.

And I submit that the disrespect for others represented by Open Air's grand scale is what truly rankles. I think Fred (amicus sidera) was alluding to this when he spoke of the "neighbor who refuses to shield a glaring porch light when asked politely to do so." Even if light pollution presented no harm to public health or wildlife, outdoor lighting beyond what is absolutely necessary for public safety would still be objectionable because it deprives people of the enjoyment of the dark night sky. Assuming, of course, that you have any respect for the rights of others.

Geoff


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amicus sidera
Post Laureate
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Reged: 10/14/11

Loc: East of the Sun, West of the M...
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: Kfrank]
      #5423605 - 09/16/12 11:38 AM

Quote:

Amicus, my wish for you is that your life is not as bleak as your outlook!




Yor well-wishes are much appreciated, but have no fear; my life is not defined by the adversities that I encounter! That I hold out little hope of the light pollution dilemma's rectification brings me no joy, but it cannot rob me of my equanimity.

As far as the definition of art is concerned, I think that there could be almost 7 billion takes on that, all quite legitimate. One can ascribe to it solely the aesthetics of beauty and truth, or, like Tolstoy, consider it, among other things, a means of communicating feelings... or something else entirely.

Is this "Open Air" project indeed art? Of course it is, to some... primarily those who, by reason of their wealth, or position in the "art world", have set themselves up, unbidden, as arbiters of public taste.


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amicus sidera
Post Laureate
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Reged: 10/14/11

Loc: East of the Sun, West of the M...
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: barasits]
      #5423661 - 09/16/12 12:19 PM

Quote:

Fred, I don't think you're a pessimist (but you're certainly not little Mary Sunshine either ).




No, that appellation would be pretty far from the mark! However, I'm not all that doomy; save for when I clearly see the writing on the wall, as well as the disembodied hand that produced it...


Quote:

And I don't blame you for not being sanguine about the short or long term prospects for reducing light pollution barring some kind of undesirable authoritarian intervention or catastrophe. Although I do epidemiological research for a living, I'm an anthropologist by training and I'm familiar with the sociocultural and demographic trends that do not bode well for our efforts to control light pollution (not to mention the survival of civilization--as we know it). Population growth by itself could counter any gains we make, our economic system encourages present-oriented self-indulgent over-consumption aided and abetted by a value system that promotes individualism over responsibility to others. You're also correct that history can supply many examples in which societies failed to respond to challenges and experienced decline and demise.

On the other hand, there are other examples demonstrating that people and the societies in which they live can make astonishingly dramatic and rapid changes. Positive sociocultural changes witnessed in the last century should at least be taken as evidence that our cause is not hopeless even if it is daunting (I realize that "positive" in the preceding may be open to interpretation, but that is another debate entirely and runs the risk of becoming overtly political). Nevertheless, changes in attitudes can come about in many different ways and it is sometimes the case that a seemingly insignificant change acts as a catalyst for major changes. I apologize for not including specific examples, but I'm trying to write within the confines of CN policy.




You are certainly in a much better position than I to make a judgement as to whither we are going, as your training gives you a firm grasp of human culture and interaction. I am indeed aware of instances (per CN policy, I will not detail them, either) where seemingly small occurrences blossomed into large-scale, civilization-encompassing events that brought positive changes... perhaps we're closer to a solution to the LP problem than is realized. After all, it's not like cleaning up toxic waste... all that has to be done, collectively, is to throw a percentage of the right switches, and the night sky will once again return.

Quote:

We are at the beginning of serious investigation of the impact of light pollution on the ecosystem. It's going to take a lot of time and effort to break through into broad public consciousness, but as we accumulate evidence of the threat to biodiversity and public health, and the economic waste that light pollution represents, and demonstrate that less outdoor lighting actually improves security, we have a reasonable chance of slowing and hopefully reversing light pollution.




My hope is that, as a culture, we are able to do this before it is forced upon us, in one form or another.


p.s. If you're serious about your "Open Ears" project, I'd be happy to send along a few bucks to get things rolling... I'm sure that Rafael would approve, seeing as he's so cutting-edge and all; perhaps it could be set up in proximity to one of his residences, so that he could more easily appreciate its tonal qualities?... but I jest...

Seriously, it would be interesting to apply for a permit for such an exhibit... one would most likely get turned down as the sound would be at "nuisance" levels. Interesting that sound is easily recognized as a nuisance, and yet light isn't? I suspect grand hypocrisy here, although it is true that one can close one's eyes easier than one's ears.


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TOM O
sage
*****

Reged: 03/30/06

Loc: Joshua Tree CA.
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5423691 - 09/16/12 12:32 PM

Four days till we see what really turns out. I heard that Derrick Pitts, chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute has decided to join in on the project with the idea that the lights could be used to do a bit of astronomy outreach and point to some things like the Moon. For me, this is a slap and spit into the face of what anti light pollution efforts needs. I urge everyone to besiege the Institute and tell them that if they can't object outwardly, then do nothing and let the chips fall where they may. Using this abomination in any astronomy activity only fuels the artists war chest with the ability to say, "see, the astronomy guys think it's Okay. They are doing astronomy with it" and that is the sad outcome, I think>
Here is a copy of an email I managed to receive and thought it would be of interest to everyone. From it, you can decide what action, if any, would be appropriate for yourself.


Greetings Everyone;
The following was deleted at the request of the Moderator. Sorry.


Edited by TOM O (09/16/12 01:07 PM)


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Kfrank
Carpal Tunnel


Reged: 12/20/08

Loc: Northern Colorado
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5423761 - 09/16/12 01:17 PM

"p.s. If you're serious about your "Open Ears" project, I'd be happy to send along a few bucks to get things rolling... I'm sure that Rafael would approve, seeing as he's so cutting-edge and all; perhaps it could be set up in proximity to one of his residences, so that he could more easily appreciate its tonal qualities?... but I jest...

Seriously, it would be interesting to apply for a permit for such an exhibit... one would most likely get turned down as the sound would be at "nuisance" levels. Interesting that sound is easily recognized as a nuisance, and yet light isn't? I suspect grand hypocrisy here, although it is true that one can close one's eyes easier than one's ears. "

*************************

You can draw some parallels between light and sound insofar as deletorious or nuisance value is concerned. However there are significant differences between the two.

Excessive sound is far more damaging than excessive light. With light, one can escape it - perhaps by closing one's eyes, or by turning one's head, or simply by going into a dark room.

Excessively loud sounds, however, can be almost impossible to escape. Oh, sure, you could enter a soundproofed room, but how many of us have them available to us? The fact is, it's far easier to shut out unwanted light than unwanted sound.

Therein lies the likely reason that sound is recognized as a nuisance and light is not.

Neither, in excess, however, is a good thing.

As to the desire of the local Astronomer to work with the artist and those behind the exhibition, I couldn't disagree more with the poster who advocated an angry, adversarial response.

Like it or not, we in the astro community are in the significant minority and the sooner we realize that we cannot win by simply overwhelming our opponents, the better off we'll be. Ultimately, right may indeed be on our side - but "might" is not. And an angry opponent is MUCH harder to deal with, and often much more determined, than a calm and reasonable person.


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barasits
sage


Reged: 06/12/11

Loc: Chicago
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: barasits]
      #5423965 - 09/16/12 03:43 PM

I just sent a message to Knight Arts, the Open Air funder, asking if they would consider donating a sum of money equal to what was spent on Open Air, for the expressed purpose of refitting Philadephia street lights with full cutoff fixtures.

I didn't have the moxie to ask them if they would be interested in funding "Open Ear."

Geoff


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amicus sidera
Post Laureate
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Reged: 10/14/11

Loc: East of the Sun, West of the M...
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: Kfrank]
      #5424099 - 09/16/12 05:07 PM

Quote:


Like it or not, we in the astro community are in the significant minority and the sooner we realize that we cannot win by simply overwhelming our opponents, the better off we'll be. Ultimately, right may indeed be on our side - but "might" is not. And an angry opponent is MUCH harder to deal with, and often much more determined, than a calm and reasonable person.




So, how's that "calm and reasonable" approach been working out for us so far?

Your recommendations must sound very fine, delivered as they are from the relative darkness of northern Colorado; heard here in New Jersey, under red-tending-towards-white zone skies, they have a hollow ring to them.


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amicus sidera
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Reged: 10/14/11

Loc: East of the Sun, West of the M...
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5424118 - 09/16/12 05:25 PM

It would appear that both the Open Air project and the Franklin Institute share a major donor.

Open Air Project

Franklin Institute donors

I draw no inferences from this.


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barasits
sage


Reged: 06/12/11

Loc: Chicago
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5424283 - 09/16/12 07:46 PM

Quote:

Quote:


Like it or not, we in the astro community are in the significant minority and the sooner we realize that we cannot win by simply overwhelming our opponents, the better off we'll be. Ultimately, right may indeed be on our side - but "might" is not. And an angry opponent is MUCH harder to deal with, and often much more determined, than a calm and reasonable person.




So, how's that "calm and reasonable" approach been working out for us so far?

Your recommendations must sound very fine, delivered as they are from the relative darkness of northern Colorado; heard here in New Jersey, under red-tending-towards-white zone skies, they have a hollow ring to them.




It's generally true that ad hominem attacks do not win converts to your cause (whatever it may be). And we would all do well to remember that there is a wider audience to our exchanges, an audience that may look with less favor on our positions if we engage in angry rhetoric.

Have light pollution opponents made any progress via calm rational discussion? I believe that calm rationality is the primary approach of the IDA in dealing with the lighting industry and city governments and I think the IDA has made progress.

As you say, fighting light pollution is a herculean task. But the astronomy community does have natural allies and we're not alone in this. I believe Ken errs in his estimation of the impact that a vocal minority can have on policy. I cite contemporary American politics in support of this.

Geoff


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barasits
sage


Reged: 06/12/11

Loc: Chicago
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5424305 - 09/16/12 08:02 PM

Quote:

It would appear that both the Open Air project and the Franklin Institute share a major donor.

Open Air Project

Franklin Institute donors

I draw no inferences from this.




"Follow the money," eh? I took a look at the Knight Foundation web site and I think the organization may be sympathetic to environmental concerns--at least I saw nothing that was hostile.

Geoff


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amicus sidera
Post Laureate
*****

Reged: 10/14/11

Loc: East of the Sun, West of the M...
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: barasits]
      #5424414 - 09/16/12 09:14 PM

Quote:



It's generally true that ad hominem attacks do not win converts to your cause (whatever it may be). And we would all do well to remember that there is a wider audience to our exchanges, an audience that may look with less favor on our positions if we engage in angry rhetoric.




So, we shouldn't display the least bit of righteous anger and indignation towards those individuals, groups and organizations that have effectively stolen, and continue to steal, a birthright from us? Amateur astronomers are for all intents and purposes invisible to the planners, decision makers and public at large; at this point, any attention would be welcome... but we'd have to follow it up with action, not a bunch of wheel-spinning on an internet forum. Not going to happen anyway, so don't worry about it... the demographics of amateur astronomy, at least in the U.S., seems to consist primarily of well-off, well-fed older white males, which is the group least likely to rock the boat.


Quote:

Have light pollution opponents made any progress via calm rational discussion? I believe that calm rationality is the primary approach of the IDA in dealing with the lighting industry and city governments and I think the IDA has made progress.




Progress - where? Where is all of this progress that's more-or-less continually referred to on this forum? It sure isn't in any metropolitan area or suburb that I know of, unless you consider getting a few lights removed as fifty more are installed "progress". While I agree with the "rational" part of your statement, I think the time is long past to abandon the "calm" part... but as I stated above, it ultimately won't make any difference.

Quote:

As you say, fighting light pollution is a herculean task. But the astronomy community does have natural allies and we're not alone in this. I believe Ken errs in his estimation of the impact that a vocal minority can have on policy. I cite contemporary American politics in support of this.

Geoff




I disagree; we are completely alone in this. Our environmental allies have much bigger things on their collective plates than light pollution... I would posit that light pollution ranks dead last on their long cleanup list (and rightly so). We may get lip service, memorandums of understanding, and other such niceties, but usually little else.

Look, the proof's in the pudding: Is the night sky over the populated areas of the U.S. darker now than it was twenty years ago, ten years ago, or even five years ago? If not, then any progress claimed must be for the most part illusory in nature.


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csa/montana
Den Mama
*****

Reged: 05/14/05

Loc: montana
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5424646 - 09/16/12 11:57 PM

Quote:

the demographics of amateur astronomy, at least in the U.S., seems to consist primarily of well-off, well-fed older white males,




Seeing the membership just here on CN, I strongly disagree with this. Most of the members work hard for their astronomy equipment, and are far from well-off. We'd be interested in where you got this information.

As far as nothing can be done to reverse, or at least halt LP; it will not happen if all of us simply throw up our hands & accept defeat.


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barasits
sage


Reged: 06/12/11

Loc: Chicago
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: amicus sidera]
      #5424655 - 09/17/12 12:08 AM

Now you've gone and made me feel nostalgic.

This is the same debate I had with people over forty years ago. Things were bad and getting worse. Should we respond in anger. Had we made any difference. Was anyone on our side.

I'm going to put on some Dylan and see if I can't make this feeling last.

Geoff


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Tony Flanders
Postmaster
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Reged: 05/18/06

Loc: Cambridge, MA, USA
Re: Open Air art project in Philadelphia new [Re: csa/montana]
      #5424937 - 09/17/12 07:43 AM

Quote:

Quote:

the demographics of amateur astronomy, at least in the U.S., seems to consist primarily of well-off, well-fed older white males,




Seeing the membership just here on CN, I strongly disagree with this. Most of the members work hard for their astronomy equipment, and are far from well-off.




Sorry, Carol -- the statement is unquestionably true. We at Sky & Telescope know this from reader surveys, from attending club meetings all over the country, star parties, and trade shows.

There are plenty of women in amateur astronomy, but they're outnumbered by men easily 3 or 4 to 1. There are shockingly few African-Americans, though Asians are well represented, and there are an increasing number of Hispanics. And the average age is quite high; we joke at S&T that our average reader is 80 years old and has been reading S&T for most of his life.

As for well-off -- it depends what that means to you. Most well-off people work very hard; the poor people are the ones who can't find jobs -- and there are tons of them. There are also huge numbers who labor at minimum-wage jobs; very few of them are amateur astronomers.

I'm sure that the average income of amateur astronomers is well above the national average.

Mind you, this is all just averages. Of course there are plenty of exceptions.

Tony Flanders
Associate Editor, Sky & Telescope


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