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Our use of light at night is negatively affecting the natural world in ways we’re barely beginning to study. Meanwhile, our physical, psychological, and spiritual health are significantly influenced by darkness or a lack thereof; it’s not a matter of using light at night or not, but rather when and where, how and how much.
We live awash in artificial light. Since the 1930s its increase has been gradual enough that it would be easy to imagine our nights are as dark, or nearly so, as they ever were. But today some three-quarters of Europeans and Americans no longer experience real night and can’t imagine real darkness—and nearly all of us live in areas considered polluted by light.
In ways we’ve long understood, in others we’re just beginning understand, night’s natural darkness has always been invaluable for our spiritual health and the health of the natural world, and every living creature suffers from its loss.
In Geography of Night, Paul Bogart investigates what we mean when we talk about the different shades of darkness, about what we’ve lost, what we still have, what we might regain. He travels from our brightest nights to our darkest, from the intensely-lit cities where public lighting as we know it began, to the sites where real darkness might still remain. Encountering scientists, physicians, activists and writers, Bogart discusses how our use of light at night is negatively affecting the natural world in ways we’re barely beginning to study; how human physical, psychological, and spiritual health are significantly influenced by darkness or a lack thereof; and how it’s not a matter of using light at night or not, but rather when and where, how and how much.
A beautiful invocation of our constant companion, the night, which returns every day of our lives, this book reminds us of the power and mystery of the dark.
Bogard (editor, Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark) spent his childhood summers in a lakeside cabin in Minnesota, where he savored the night in all its inky blackness and took away with him a lifelong appreciation for the darkest hours. In this moving, poetic study, the professor of creative nonfiction at James Madison University examines from numerous angles the night and how we experience it, traveling to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, Walden Pond, and the Canary Islands to soak up varying degrees of darkness. After talking to astronomers, lighting professionals, nurses, and other night-shift workers, Bogard goes on to explore the implications of a night that's getting brighter every minute, thanks in large part to parking lot lights and streetlights. Discussions on lighting's role in safety (some research suggests a direct correlation between higher crime rates and increased street lighting), as well as public health (he notes that studies indicate a possible relationship between light at night and cancer rates), add to the story, making this an immersive, multifaceted, and thought-provoking study. Even readers unable to tell Orion from the Big Dipper will find a new appreciation for the night sky after spending some time with this terrific book. 13 b&w photos.