Whitening the Sky: light pollution as a form of cultural genocide

Preprint – Journal of Dark Sky Studies, Vol. 1

Whitening the Sky: light pollution as a form of cultural genocide
Duane W. Hamacher 1, Krystal De Napoli 2, and Bon Mott 3
1 ASTRO-3D Centre of Excellence, School of Physics, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, 3010, Australia. 2 School of Physics & Astronomy, Monash University, Clayton VIC, 3080, Australia
3 Faculty of Fine Arts & Music, University of Melbourne, Southbank, VIC, 3006, Australia

Abstract: Light pollution is actively destroying our ability to see the stars. Many Indigenous traditions
and knowledge systems around the world are based on the stars, and the peoples’ ability to observe
and interpret stellar positions and properties is of critical importance for daily life and cultural
continuity. The erasure of the night sky acts to erase Indigenous connection to the stars, acting as a
form of ongoing cultural and ecological genocide. Efforts to reduce, minimise, or eliminate light
pollution are being achieved with varying degrees of success, but urban expansion, poor lighting
design, and the increased use of blue-light emitting LEDs as a cost-effective solution is worsening
problems related to human health, wildlife, and astronomical heritage for the benefit of capitalistic
economic growth. We provide a brief overview of the issue, illustrating some of the important
connections that the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia maintain with the stars,
as well as the impact growing light pollution has on this ancient knowledge. We propose a
transdisciplinary approach to solving these issues, using a foundation based on Indigenous
philosophies and decolonising methodologies.



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