MAP: Stories From The Darkest Places On Earth
A night so black you can’t see your hand waving in front of your face. So dark you could just reach out and grab a star.
True darkness is daunting and mesmerizing. For city slickers, it can be terrifying. And according to author Paul Bogard, it is necessary.
"In The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light," Bogard argues that in a world of increasing light pollution, darkness is as vital as the sun.
“When you think about life on earth and how life evolved, it evolved with bright days,” Bogard said. “But it also evolved with dark nights, and we need that natural darkness as much as we need the light.”
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People need darkness for sleep. Constant light in daily life – both electric and electronic – affects sleeping habits over time, which can have serious health consequences.
“Sleep disorders are tied to every major disease that we’re dealing with in the Western world right now: diabetes, cancer, obesity – you name it,” Bogard said, speaking on KUOW’s The Record.
Light at night disrupts the production of the hormone melatonin, Bogard explained, which the body only creates in darkness. Studies have linked a lack of melatonin in the bloodstream to cancer, especially breast and prostate. For this reason, the World Health Organization calls working the night shift a “probable carcinogen.”
It’s difficult to find truly dark places in the United States because people, even if they move out to the country to avoid the city, bring the light with them wherever they go.
“It’s really spreading everywhere, and that’s one of the reasons why I say it’s so important for us to become aware of this and to start to reduce the light where we live and protect those areas that are still dark,” he said.
Bogard said people should start by simply increasing darkness in their lives by pointing lights downward and hanging light-blocking curtains. He understands that true black is nearly impossible to attain.
“What we’re trying to say is let’s use light thoughtfully, responsibly, even beautifully,” he said.
Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.
This story originally aired August 5, 2014.