Review of THE DARKNESS MANIFESTO
The world comes alive at night
This weekend I’m heading to the San Rafael desert during a new moon to experience one of the darkest night skies on earth. Living in Utah, as compared to metro Detroit, has given me a new appreciation for true darkness in nature – an experience that many who live in developed countries like the United States may never actually experience.
True darkness opens a whole new world invisible to us who live in constantly light polluted areas. In The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms That Sustain Life, Johan Eklöf meditates on the wonderful night life that is central to biological life on this planet – and shows how light pollution is causing problems for this vibrant community that requires true darkness.
Until the turn of the 20th century when electricity started to become common, the world was a much darker place. Today, however, nearly every corner of our world is illuminated with lights. Light pollution is an increasing problem as places become industrialized and cities become larger. Our never-ending light, however, has consequences for animals and plants that we may not think of.
As humans who sleep during the night, we can forget that so much life happens at night. We are actually quite odd that we sleep at night. About 70% of animals are nocturnal. And as mammals, we are the ones who changed from being nocturnal to diurnal. Because we are such a ‘daytime’ animal, we have illuminated the night with new technology, in part, because it makes us feel safer.
As Eklöf explains, there are many consequences to the extreme light pollution that litters the planet. For us humans, we never truly experience the stars, our night vision is never fully activated, and our sleep gets constantly disrupted. For other animals, especially those whose mating has evolved to depend on night time cues, light pollution can inhibit reproduction leading to species endangerment and even extinction. The same goes for plant species that need darkness for their reproductive adaptations to function.
Every animal and plant on earth has evolved with regular cycles between light and dark, but we humans have disrupted these ancient selection pressures. The positive thing about light pollution, however, is that it’s the easiest pollution to fix and leaves no physical waste. We just have to commit to doing something about it, especially in urban environments.
This was a good read, though I found that the book lacked the scientific depth I was hoping for with this one. You do learn a lot about different animals and plant life, especially in the first half, but I felt the book fell off the science in the second half. I also felt that the chapters together lacked a cohesiveness I like in books. Overall, though, good content.
Published: February 2023
If you think this sounds interesting, bookmark these other great reads:
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong (2022) | Read my review
Where We Meet the World: The Story of the Senses by Ashley Ward (2023) | Read my review
Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest by Suzanne Simard
This post contains affiliate links, allowing me to earn a small commission when you purchase books from the link provided. There is no cost to you, and this will allow me to keep this newsletter free and open to all. Happy reading!