In his persuasive LA Times essay “Let There be Dark,” editorialist Paul Bogard shines a little light on our human need for darkness. He argues that ubiquitous light pollution throughout the country is not only reducing our quality of life by depriving the sky of its natural beauty, but also by creating a host of pollution-related health problems.
Bogard employs his own personal experiences to connect with his audience, fondly recalling the profound darkness and starry skies of his childhood home in Minnesota. He talks on how 8 in 10 American children will never know a night sky dark enough for the milky way galaxy. Bogard also quotes the World Health Organization in stating that sleep deprivation caused by light pollution is now known to be a probable carcinogen, and links other disorders such as obesity, diabetes, and depression. He maintains that in a world growing 6% brighter every year, even the world’s ecology is becoming increasingly unstable as the nocturnal creatures that pollinate fields and protect against disease are growing increasingly disoriented. He offers some hope though, in addressing the steps being taken to reduce light emission the world over, such as LED replacements and automatic shut-off switches in large, bright cities such as Paris.
Bogard points out that without darkness, we are losing a natural treasure along the same lines as the Grand Canyon or Yosemite. He warns of the part the every-day consumer plays in the reduction of darkness. Every night, people reach for their devices, light their homes, and turn on their headlights. Bogard concedes that recent changes for good are a result more of a desire to reduce energy consumption, although their side effects are beneficial to the environment. He argues that we will never truly address the problem of light pollution until we become aware of the irreplaceable value and beauty of the darkness we are losing.
Bogard uses powerful and often melodic language when trying to communicate to his readers the country’s dire situation. He recalls days spent under “sugary spreads of stars,” and laments the probability that modern youth will grow up in a world without that sky that inspired works like Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” He states that “every religious tradition has considered darkness invaluable for a soulful life, and the chance to witness the universe has inspired artists, philosophers and everyday stargazers since time began.”
Paul Bogard, despite obviously holding the subject near his heart, still gives objective and excellent points regarding the invaluableness of darkness. He gives stark predictions on the future of a country enshrouded in light, supported by existing data supporting his thesis that darkness is a necessary part of life. He gives startling links to light pollution and health and ecological problems, and illustrates all the religious and cultural significance of darkness in human history. He ends his essay by positing that the problem of vanishing darkness will never be solved until there is a wide acknowledging of said problem. Ultimately, Bogard hopes for a coordinated effort to stem the rise of light pollution and return to the nation the beauty and calm of the nights our grandfathers knew.