5 Reasons to Read – The End of Night

3d3541c9f3fdf9b42e75548985fc3e86It’s been a while since I recommended a book. I have been reading. It’s true! See… The widget over there doesn’t lie. Unless it missing, in which case I blame WordPress. —->

Books are being consumed and considered with much enthusiasm and enjoyment. However when I finish a book, I want to make sure I mulled it over sufficiently before recommending it. Like did I enjoy the writing? Did I learn something interesting? Did I enjoy any of the characters or rooted for the bad guy? And for non-fiction, was the book educational? Do I feel more knowledgeable? Or does it make me want to ask more questions? Would it help others?

Then I read The End of Night  by Paul Bogard, and had my mind blown by something I’ve noticed for years without actually putting it into words. Where did the darkness go? No, not this one. Or this one. Come on, yo know what I mean. Where did the night go. So here we go:

5 Reasons to Read – The End of Night:

You get to know why…

  • …your childhood sky isn’t the same now. I grew up close to Copenhagen with all its faraway luminescence. It was a constant reminder of how bright a city can be, but I was still be able to see quite a few stars. I remember lying on the local hills seeing hundreds of stars twinkling gently above me, with the only (known) obstruction being the local mosquito population descending onto my fragile body to feast. That was 30 years ago. When I visit home today I see very few stars, and almost no mosquitos. The northern star is quite visible and a few pinpricks of light that might be stars, or might be an aircraft landing at Copenhagen Airport. Urban development and a copious approach to street lighting has pretty much wiped my childhood sky, and possibility of lying on a grassy hill and taking in the cosmos.
  • …you don’t really need or want all this light. Why do we need all this light? The book demonstrates clearly that we are not necessarily safer with all this light, in some cases are even far worse off. The human eye is capable of seeing, understanding and interpreting visual cues with very little light, so the addition of more and more lights is superfluous at best, and a massive waste of energy at its worst. The evolution of street lights is addressed in the book, comparing different types of street illumination (flame vs electric for instance) and its effects of the visual appreciation of the world. And that the types of light, direct vs indirect, flame vs incandescent, illuminates the world radically differently. Did you know that there is a type street light that is known as a cobra light?
  • …light is wreaking ecological havoc. From messing with the rhythm of nocturnal animals, disorienting birds and flying mammals, to disrupting human health, light is far from harmless. Light causes real world damage to living beings and it’s not being addressed. The human cost for people working at night and living in areas with heavy illumination are cancers, higher levels of depression and a generally lower quality of life. And unfair slants towards the poor who are forced to take up jobs where that’s necessary.
  • …darkness does not equal fear. The dark, in our modern civilised world, holds very few actual dangers, besides not being able to see a rake in the grass, or that corner table that’s a magnet to toes. Which, once your eyes are adapted (unless you build you home to hurt people), you rarely need to fear anything. Sure, street lighting is needed when people are out and about, fires are needed to keep wild animals at bay; in places where snakes/spiders/Australians are a real concern, you need light to make sure they’re not about to crawl up your nose. Tactical lights are needed to blind the occasional perp during heroic rescues, but for day-to-day living the darkness holds few real dangers.
  • …that darkness should be considered a human rights issue. Or more accurately, the night sky. I personally never considered the night sky to be something I had a ‘right’ to, because it was always a background to something else. It’s just there, above me, doing nothing much but inspiring the people who actually take the time to look at it. I like to think that seven year old me got something out of it, even if I can’t quite remember the details. Whether it was considering the existence of other civilizations out there, or just enjoying the beauty of a twinkling star. And all I got as a kid was a smoggy, hazy view, but in places where it’s truly dark the night sky can be mesmerising.

And there we go. The book also reads well, has interesting facts about bats, and may have informed some of my future travel plans.

But what do you think? Have you read The End of Night? Do you agree or disagree with the authors conclusions on light pollution?

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