That's a rather smug attitude. A substantial fraction of all urban Americans don't own cars, cannot afford to travel far by any other means, and in any case have very little time to spare. What's a minor inconvenience to you is a huge hurdle for them.
A certain amount of light pollution is inevitable, but we have a great deal of control over the degree. If darker skies were a high priority in our society, we could have vastly darker skies without sacrificing anything whatsoever in terms of convenience, safety, and the amenities of civilization. Well-designed streetlights are better than bad ones in every possible way -- better lighting on the ground, much less light spilled unintentionally, and cheaper. And quite a large amount of light pollution is caused by privately owned glare bombs that benefit nobody, least of all their owners.
Cities in Western Europe are generally considerably darker than comparably sized cities in the U.S., and every bit as civilized.
(1) Astronomy is our hobby, our passion. Last year, I sought out amateur microscopists. In fact, my first summer job in high school was in a hospital cytogenetics lab where I first used a binocular microscope. Those are common hobbyist goods today. And microscopes work all the time, revealing the hidden structures of plants, animals, and minerals. And as useful as astronomy could be in fact life sciences benefit us all very much more. Maybe we need to change our point of view on how to "get kids excited about science."
I grew up one mile from the steel mills of Cleveland. I never saw many stars. That's what the planetarium was for. And I took two buses to get there. My family cared about my education. Deprivation is as much a personal choice as a social fact. My MA is in social science.
(2) I agree that we have a problem with pollution and always have. It is because we do not have good understanding of property rights. We still have medieval ideas about land being the only real estate. Our intellectual property laws are truly medieval. So, too, with common overflows of refuse. My ex is a borough mayor and was telling me about the fact that in the East, they have always let storm water and sewage flow into the rivers down to the Mississippi and Gulf of Mexico. Now, it is very costly to fix. That was a consequence of poor understanding of property rights. Here in the West, commonly, you do not have the right to deprive people downstream of good water because you do not own the cows downstream. That is closer to a better answer.
As I said on my blog (where my first response came from):
We do not have the same perceptions with light that we do with sound. You can close your eyes. You cannot close your ears. So, we have laws against noise. We do need a rational theory of law to address noisy light. But not all light is pollution, any more than all noise is bad. After all, most people enjoy the sound of children playing and most so-called “light pollution” is equally benign.
I am not insensitive to the problem. I believe that a correct political analysis begins with considerations of property rights. A couple of years ago, I wanted to arrange the loan of a large hobby telescope to a co-worker who recently moved into a rural area. Sadly, he declined the offer because his neighbor had just installed a security light, a mercury-vapor spotlight that illuminated her land, his, and much else. If the light waves were sound waves, she would be blasting rock ‘n’ roll at 2:00 AM. That is a problem that is easy to understand and any number of local ordinances (if not common sense and common courtesy) would put a stop to it.
The basic mistake is for "all of us" to make a "common decision" that will benefit "everyone." The problem with satellites, in particular, was the declaration that outer space belongs to all humanity to share equally. Communist thinking is a known failure mode and yet we are loathe to give it up. The tribe is deep within our genes. Nonetheless, long ago, some simian got the new idea that she/he could survive apart from the tribe. In fact, social biologists know that the "gamma" is the individual that moves among gene pools. Neither an alpha leader nor a beta follower, the gamma is the genetic individualist. Among social animals, the gammas mitigate in-breeding. America was settled by Europeans who were gammas. We left our conformist cousins back home, Even many of the Africans who were sold into slavery were gammas whom their own tribal leaders got rid of. Australia is another example of the dregs of one society becoming the makers of another. (See my article, "Mary Reiby: Australia's Pioneer Woman Capitalist.")
What we need to solve the problem of "too many satellites" is good property law based on individual rights and motivated by profit from investment. Right now, even when we think of property, we have the medieval concept of land as the only "real" estate. Landlords are the seamy underside of capitalism: they do not build the land or invent the structures on it; they just buy and hold. What we need for outer space is a mindset of development, exploitation, and growth for future profit.
Edited by mikemarotta, 18 December 2021 - 09:52 AM.