"According to the World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness, created in 2001 by Italians Pierantonio Cinzano and Fabio Falchi, two-thirds of the world's population--including 99% of the people living in the continental United States and Western Europe--no longer experience a truly dark night, a night untouched by artificial light." -- p. 25
Being a city kid I guess I never really thought about it all that much. Over the past half-century the world has become a substantially brighter place. Due to the intrusion of high intensity artificial lighting our nights are being transformed while some of the darkest places on earth are being impacted in ways that we could not possibly have anticipated. Some call it progress but a growing cadre of scientists and concerned citizens believe that the phenomenon known as "light pollution" decimates our view of the heavens above, wastes money and precious natural resources and threatens the health and well-being of people all over the world. Author Paul Bogard explores this endlessly fascinating subject in his captivating new book "The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light". Bogard takes his readers to myriad locations in the U.S. and across the globe to shed light on the subject of darkness. You will discover how urban sprawl and our irrational demands for ever-increasing levels of security are robbing most of humankind of the magnificent darkness that poets and philosophers have been writing about since the beginning of time. Clearly, the time has come to re-evaluate the way we think about darkness.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) defines light pollution as "any adverse effect of artificial light, including sky glow, glare, light trespass, light clutter, decreased visibility at night, and energy waste." I don't know about you but I had never even heard of this term before I opened up this book. Paul Bogard gets us all rapidly up-to-speed on these most compelling issues. What quickly becomes apparent is how much of the lighting we employ at night is simply overkill. Gas stations, parking lots and car dealerships are among the worst offenders. Lighting is essentially being used for marketing purposes. Meanwhile, increasing numbers of homeowners are installing those hideous 175 watt dusk-to-dawn security lights despite the fact that numerous studies have concluded that there is no compelling evidence that such lighting reduces crime. Motion-detectors work every bit as well without contributing to the light pollution we experience all around us. Robbed of the natural darkness of night, it is no wonder that increasing numbers of people around the world are suffering from various kinds of sleep disorders. Furthermore, we are learning that there may be a connection between light at night and certain forms of cancer, namely breast and prostate. It has something to do with the body's production of melatonin. Throughout the pages of "The End of Night" you will discover many more of the negative impacts of all of this lighting overkill that dark-sky advocates are so concerned about.
But the most enchanting parts of "The End of Night" are Paul Bogard's visits to some of darkest spots on earth. After reading the author's descriptions of these magnificent places I long to experience them for myself. Bogard's travels take him to several National Parks in the U.S. and Canada as well as to locations in the Canary Islands, Spain, England and France. It turns out that a couple of these pristine places are within driving distance of where I live. My wife and I are considering visiting either Mont-Megantic National Park in Southern Quebec or Acadia National Park in Maine sometime this fall. I look forward with a great deal of anticipation to experiencing the awe of seeing a true night sky for the first time since I was a child.
As Bogard points out: "As important as it is to protect areas of wild pristine sky, it's the protection of darkness in places where people actually live that will ultimately change attitudes toward light and darkness." He believes that America's National Parks are perfectly positioned to play a significant role in transforming attitudes and building consensus. The hope is that as more and more people visit these areas and have positive experiences a sea-change will occur in the way that people perceive darkness and night. Unlike other forms of pollution that present much more formidable challenges, light pollution can be reversed quickly and relatively inexpensively. A number of cities all over the world have already begun to address some of these issues. "The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light" has totally changed the way I look at the night sky and at way we light our world. All of us need to become more educated about these incredibly important issues. If you are like me you will come to the conclusion that the price we have been paying is simply too high. Much to my surprise, "The End of Night" now ranks as my favorite book thus far in 2013. Very highly recommended!
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