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. Filmmaker Ian Cheney explores this endlessly fascinating subject in his captivating new documentary "The City Dark...a search for night on a planet that never sleeps". You will discover how urban sprawl and our irrational penchant 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. Ian Cheney makes a powerful case that 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." What quickly becomes apparent during the course of this film is how much of the lighting we employ at night is simply overkill. Shopping malls, 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. Cheney's own family in rural Maine did this after a robbery at their home several years ago. Robbed of the natural darkness of night, it is no wonder that increasing numbers of people all over the world are suffering from all sorts of medical maladies. In just the past few years we have learned that there may be a connection between artificial light and certain forms of cancer, namely breast and prostate. It seems that artificial light stifles the body's production of melatonin. Throughout the 84 minutes of "The City Dark" you will discover many more of the negative impacts of all of this lighting overkill that dark-sky advocates are so concerned about.
I thought that the most compelling part of "The City Dark" was Ian Cheney's visits to a couple of the darkest spots in America. His visit to Sky Village, AZ was simply amazing. This just might be the darkest place in the nation. Cheney also visits Bar Harbor, ME, home of Acadia National Park. The residents of this seacoast community treasure their darkness and have implemented aggressive new laws that virtually ban unnecessary lighting. This area is now acknowledged as one of the darkest places in the eastern United States. After seeing these magnificent places in this film I long to experience them for myself. In fact, my wife and I have altered our vacation plans and are now planning a trip to Bar Harbor 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.
During the course of "The City Sky" one man was interviewed on Jones Beach near New York City. He recalled going there back in 1973 armed with his telescope and related how dark the sky was at that time. Not anymore. He finds it all very frustrating. "It's so sad because I know what's above me once it gets dark here. It just doesn't get dark anymore." A couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of a terrific new book about this subject. Reading Paul Bogard's "The End of Night: Searching for Natural Light in an Age of Artificial Light" has had a profound effect on me. It has totally changed the way I look at the night sky and the way we light our world. Reading that book prompted me to view this film. I believe that it is incumbent on each and every one of us to become more educated about these incredibly important issues. Watching "The City Sky" would be a quick, easy and inexpensive way to get yourself up to speed. Highly recommended!
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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
THE CITY DARK is a feature documentary film about light pollution and the disappearing night. After moving to New York City from rural Maine, filmmaker Ian Cheney asks a simple question, "Do we need the stars?" Blending a humorous tone with cutting-edge science and poetic footage of the night sky, Cheney unravels the myriad implications of a globe glittering with lights - including increased breast cancer rates, disrupted ecosystems, and a generation of kids without a glimpse of the universe above. Featuring astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, author Ann Druyan and NASA astronaut Don Pettit, THE CITY DARK is the definitive story of the earth's disappearing night sky.