Monday, July 29, 2013

Don't Read This If You're Afraid of the Dark

A country whose capital, Paris, made history with its "City of Light" glowing streets is suddenly trying to dial them down. Starting this summer, a French decree mandates that public buildings and shops must keep lights off between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m in attempt to preserve energy and cut costs, and "reduce the print of artificial lighting on the nocturnal environment."

As France's move suggests, civilization's ever-growing imprint on the night sky has more than just stargazers concerned. In his new book, The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light, writer Paul Bogard bemoans how our last dark spaces are slowly being devoured by the "light trespass" of artificial rays. A team of astronomers recently projected that while the US population is growing at a rate of less than 1.5 percent a year, the amount of artificial light is increasing at an annual rate of 6 percent. It's more than just a nostalgia for primordial darkness that's eating at Bogard: Too much light causes animals to go haywire, derails natural cycles, and damages human health.

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