A Starry but Polluted Night

Van Gogh’s legendary ‘The Starry Night’ shows the view outside of Vincent’s bedroom at Saint-Pail-de-Mausole psychiatric hospital after he voluntary admitted himself in 1889.


The swirling night sky is a modern masterpiece, but it also could invoke the idea of millions of particles of pollution that fill our skies today. The current global attitude to pollution makes us think that Vincent might not be the only self-proclaimed lunatic out there.



We all saw the reduction in pollution around the globe that COVID-19 lockdowns created in 2020. As the skies cleared, the newspapers wrote about it, we told out friends about it and it brought us a glimmer of hope. But has that hope continued, or are have we fallen back into our old ways?


While pollution levels dropped during the first lockdown, they came back over the summer of 2020 to pre-pandemic levels (or higher in some cases). One theory for this is due to the number of deliveries being made cross the world to people at home- more cars and lorries on the road means more pollution in the air. It has also been said that the powering of our homes also creates pollution, and with millions of extra people working from home all day, every day, levels began to rise.


If we can return to pre-pandemic levels while the pandemic is still here, imagine what could happen once we return to ‘normal’. More worrying is how the conversation around pollution has been pushed to the back of our minds, and has understandably been replaced by COVID-19 stories, resulting in some governments across the world abandoning their pollution-reduction plans. It is more important than ever that we push our politicians and governments to tackle pollution, and consciously address our own day-today behavior.


How nice would it be to look out the window at night and always see those clear, starry skies that inspired Van Gogh back in 1889. If we don’t all continue pushing for cleaner air and see the error of our ways, maybe we should admit ourselves to the nearest psychiatric hospital like Vincent did, because it seems like a very obvious choice to us.