Yesterday's Earth Hour gave me occasion to remember a time this past December when I briefly thought I was having a near-death experience. And not surprisingly, it occurred while running through the streets of Miami. Let me explain...
I try to get in a few miles of jogging every day in the early morning. On one such run in December, I was unexpectedly overcome by some very bright light in the pre-dawn hours.It wasn't the light of the full moon that illuminated the night sky brightly that morning. Nor was it the strobe light that flashed brilliantly from my armband to alert passing motorists of my presence. Nor was it the LED strobes from the cyclists, runners, and school buses that I passed along my daily path in turn. Nor was it the headlights and high beams that greeted me head-on as I passed vehicles in the street, nor the crimson taillights of those traveling in the opposite direction. It wasn't even the gaudy, multi-colored displays of the holiday season that blinked and burned with the light of a thousand bulbs wastefully in the wee hours of morning.
Rather, it was a newly installed series of streetlights that caught me by surprise. I had watched them get installed over the previous year along the relatively desolate road that I regularly run. This "improvement" to the community was proudly promoted as a product of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA)-- supposed evidence of progress beyond our disastrous economic slump. And though the largely unnecessary street lamps only cost us a quarter million dollars, I wonder where the money will come from to operate and maintain them for the decades to come.
It wasn't until that December morn that I had seen the new lights in operation. Though the surprisingly brilliant light I encountered was not a portal to the afterlife, it did give me pause to consider the hell of light pollution in which I reside while alive.