A starry night is one of nature's most magical wonders. Yet in our artificially lit world, three-quarters of Americans' eyes never switch to night vision and most of us no longer experience true darkness. Read more...
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A starry night is one of nature's most magical wonders. Yet in our artificially lit world, three-quarters of Americans' eyes never switch to night vision and most of us no longer experience true darkness. In THE END OF NIGHT, Paul Bogard restores our awareness of the spectacularly primal, wildly dark night sky and how it has influenced the human experience across everything from science to art.
From Las Vegas' Luxor Beam--the brightest single spot on this planet--to nights so starlit the sky looks like snow, Bogard blends personal narrative, natural history, science, and history to shed light on the importance of darkness--what we've lost, what we still have, and what we might regain--and the simple ways we can reduce the brightness of our nights tonight.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-04-15
- Reviewer: Staff
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. Agent: Farley Chase, Chase Literary Agency (July 9)
The stars are going out
Paul Bogard is afraid of the dark. But he’s more afraid of losing the dark.
His book, The End of Night, examines how we are slowly losing our ability to enjoy the night skies because of the spread of artificial light. The glare of commercial signage, billboards, parking lot lampposts and other sources of light pollution means that 80 percent of American children will never experience a sky dark enough to see the Milky Way, Bogard writes. The human race prides itself on having conquered darkness, that mysterious abyss that is home to werewolves, vampires and other scary monsters. But the urge to shed light on every dark corner is another way in which we humans have separated ourselves from nature.
The concern is more than just aesthetic. Bogard warns of health issues for people exposed to artificial light at night, including sleep disorders, diabetes and cancer. And other species, such as bats and moths, are in danger because of increased artificial light. “We are just beginning to understand night’s natural darkness has always been invaluable for our health and the health of the natural world, and every living creature suffers from its loss,” he writes.
So Bogard embarks on a road trip across the globe in search of darkness. It takes him from the world headquarters of light pollution, Las Vegas, to Paris, the “City of Light,” to Death Valley in California, one of the darkest places on Earth. Along his journey, he hangs out with casino gamblers, national park rangers, night-shift workers and stargazers to get their take on the night. One of Bogard’s more entertaining encounters with darkness is his after-hours trespass onto Walden Pond State Reservation in Massachusetts, where he tries to experience the night Henry David Thoreau experienced in the writing of Walden. He also returns to a lake in his native Minnesota, where he tries to overcome his lifelong fear of darkness by walking a gravel road at night.
Bogard makes some convincing points as to why we need to embrace the dark and halt the march of artificial light (although I believe he falls short in his argument that increased light at night does not improve safety). At the end of the day, The End of Night enhances our appreciation of the beauty of a starry night.