In 1994 a 6.7 magnitude earthquake shook the city of Los Angeles, disrupting the power supply. The bright halo that characterises LA’s urban sprawl and its light pollution temporarily gave way to a star-filled sky. According to media accounts, the encounter with the otherwise invisible cosmic bodies sparked fear among the population. Reportedly, emergency centres as well as the famous Griffith Observatory received phone calls inquiring about what some inhabitants anxiously described as a ‘giant silvery cloud’ over the city. It was the Milky Way.
Between historical account and urban legend, the LA episode sheds light on how light pollution has reduced the human ability to connect with the broader system of the universe, and invites discussion on the symbolic currency of darkness within environmental consciousness.