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The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Lightby Paul Bogard
Remarkably, estimates are that eight out of every ten children born in America today will never know "what it means." That is, 80 percent will never know a night dark enough that they can see the Milky Way.
Remarkable and depressing. The End of Night follows author Paul Bogard as he travels the world to discover the pernicious effects of our overdependence on artificial lighting. Our compulsive need to illuminate the night has had many unintended and deleterious consequences for both our own well-being and that of our nonhuman neighbors. Despite there being "no statistically significant evidence that street lighting impacts the level of crime," we persist in our need to eradicate not only the perceived (but nearly nonexistent) threat of post-dusk violence, but also the latent fear that underlies our dis-ease with the darkness and mystery of the evening and early morning hours in general.
Bogard visits foreign and domestic cities, national parks, observatories, workplaces, suburbs, and rural areas to interview a host of both experts and laypeople on light pollution and related subjects. Much of the information he uncovers is rather disturbing, especially the effects on wildlife and personal health (including a possible causal link with cancer). As places throughout the world free from an excess of artificial light continue to dwindle, our connection with the natural world — and our inherent wonder and awe of the night sky's beauty — becomes increasingly threatened.
There is considerable intrigue to be found throughout The End of Night, both scientific and philosophical. A chapter on darkness, melancholia, and death is particularly poignant and moving; however, some portions of the book rely too heavily on anecdote that trends close to tedium. Nonetheless, Bogard's book is, overall, a fascinating probe into an overlit new age of human existence and the ramifications thereof. The End of Night makes clear that it's more than a mere view of the stars above that we've forsaken when we overlight (and improperly light) cities, streets, roads, parking lots, landmarks, and homes.
Synopses & Reviews
A deeply panoramic tour of the night, from its brightest spots to the darkest skies we have left.
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.
"A lyrical, far-reaching book. Part elegy, part call-to-arms, The End of Night feels like an essential addition to the literature of nature." Boston Globe
"A moving, poetic, immersive, multifaceted, and thought-provoking study....Terrific." Publishers Weekly
"[Bogard] offers delightful insights from experts on the activities of nature during the night....Bogard will leave readers in awe of darkness and in admiration of his book." Library Journal (starred review)
"It's impossible to read it without feeling the impulse to set out for the spaces beyond the city limits and spread out a blanket under the stars." The Columbus Dispatch
"Appealing....An engaging blend of personal story, hard science and a bit of history." Kirkus Reviews
"Introducing us to the pitch-black island of Sark, and groups such as Civil Twilight (designer of streetlights that shut off under moonlight) and Starlight Reserves (which considers freedom from light pollution a basic right), Bogard makes a solid case for hitting the national dimmer switch." Mother Jones
"A hymn to vanished darkness. A literary journey. This is a rich book. As you read it, you too will want to reclaim the night and perhaps rediscover the heavens of the Enlightenment." Nature
"The most precious things in the modern world are probably silence, solitude, and darkness — and of these three rarities, true darkness may be the rarest of all. Many thanks to Paul Bogard for searching out the dark spots and reminding us to celebrate them!" Bill McKibben, author of The End of Nature
"Many of the words one might use to praise this book-lucid, illuminating, brilliant — are, ironically, metaphors drawn from light. Paul Bogard deploys his brilliance to seek out and celebrate the primordial darkness that surrounds our lit-up bubble. He shows how much we lose by living cooped up inside this perpetual glare, cut off from the beauty and mystery of the cosmos, lulled into thinking we are masters of the universe rather than members of the web of life. And he shows how we might reconnect to that original world." Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works and A Conservationist Manifesto
About the Author
Paul Bogard teaches creative nonfiction at James Madison University. He is the editor of the anthology Let There Be Night: Testimony on Behalf of the Dark.
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