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1 Makes a Difference: 99 is not 100

What child has not lain in a field and stared up, imagination fired by the glittering heavens? They have captivated us since the beginning of our race. Some of the earliest bits of art were of the stars. Some of the earliest civilisations built entire cities as reflections of the night sky. We know what they are now. After a couple of early scientists were burned as witches, anyway. Now we can calculate their locations with things like microwaves and red shift (whatever the fuck that is). We can sometimes spot planets orbiting them. We can gauge their lifespans in billions of years. And we can measure their size, which is frequently many magnitudes larger than that of our own relatively modest star of a sun. I say “we” like I’m doing any of that. Not even kind of. I don’t even own a telescope. What I do is I go outside, look up, and go “Wow!” I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey. I could see stars then. Spent much of my adulthood in New York where sometimes, on a cloudless, moonless night and you were walking down a quieter residential street in Brooklyn you could see a star or two. Here, though - during the new moon especially - the sky is absolutely dazzling. The sky twinkles with color. Jupiter has been positioned right outside our front door in the early evening for months now, imposingly large against the backdrop of sky it outshines. Some of the constellations stand out so much they seem close enough to touch. The crown of all this is the Milky Way itself. Like a wisp of smoke from a distant fire, or a smear of watercolour it cuts across the entirety of field of view directly overhead. Well… it used to. Usually can’t see it anymore. Sometimes, but not often. Our neighbours on one side sold their house a bit ago and the new owners installed floodlights that remain on all night. And it’s just enough light pollution to wash out the Milky Way. Just a single person’s actions make an entire galaxy disappear. We all see it all the time. The one person who throws an empty soda bottle at a public bin and misses, shrugs, and walks away with no care that it’s going to wind up being just one of tens of thousands of bits of plastic garbage that washes up on every beach in the world. Or the tranquility of a camp site shattered by some douche playing music as loud as their radio will go. Every single action we make reverberates out (to risk sounding a little new-age) across the interconnectedness of the entire planet. Repeated and/or mass actions, of course, amplify the damage in kind (think deforestation, biodiversity loss, climate change, the anthropocene extinction, and other such cheery topics). There’s a conversation I’ve had many times with many different divers. (Oh, you thought this shit was about astronomy? Go to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s blog if you want that sort of thing.) They are generally of the same demographic: newish to the sport, youngish, very enthusiastic, eager to prove themselves, almost always dudes. And engaging in patently unsafe behaviour. “If I die diving then I died doing what I loved. And besides, it’s just me, so it’s not like I’m gonna hurt anyone else.” Well, there’s your friends and family; the loss is going to hurt them for sure.

- There are your dive buddies who will spend the rest of their lives wondering if there was something they could have done to prevent it.

- These are probably also the people who have to come and look for you, using time, resources, money, emotional well-being.

- Then there’s the folks who need to live the rest of their lives remembering the long swim towards extraction with your lifeless body staring at them echoing around in their memory.

- And their families who will want to support and nurture them in their grief over the task.

There is the entire dive community who will have to explain yet again, “Yes, it was an accident, here’s how it happened, it’s actually perfectly safe mom.”

- There’s the potential to get sites closed because landowners or the park or the boat owners or the state just don’t want to deal with it anymore (hell, a negligently dropped condom cath on the ground can achieve this). It. Is. Not. Just. You. Hell, it doesn't even have to be so grand and dramatic as a fatality. A negligently dropped condom cath on the ground can get a site closed. A stray fin kick can kill a hundred year old coral colony. Just be a responsible representative and member of the dive community, dammit. I wonder how the stars looked to early man. The mystery and wonder they held in a sky so dense with them it must have seemed bright even on moonless nights. Of course there are places remote enough that sort of sky can still be seen. But it ain’t like I’m in a hurry to visit the middle of the Gobi desert: no diving there. So, unfortunately, I’m not going to see it anytime soon. My night sky has been messed up by the light pollution of a single person.

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