Virgin| 3 Novmber 2022| 205 pages| Review Copy| 3.5*
How much light is too much light? The Darkness Manifesto urges us to cherish natural darkness for the sake of the environment, our own wellbeing, and all life on earth.
The world’s flora and fauna have evolved to operate in the natural cycle of day and night. But constant illumination has made light pollution a major issue. From space, our planet glows brightly, 24/7. By extending our day, we have forced out the inhabitants of the night and disrupted the circadian rhythms necessary to sustain all living things. Our cities’ streetlamps and neon signs are altering entire ecosystems.
Johan Eklöf encourages us to appreciate natural darkness and its unique benefits. He also writes passionately about the domino effect of damage we inflict by keeping the lights on: insects failing to reproduce; birds blinded and bewildered; bats starving as they wait in vain for insects that only come out in the dark. And humans can find that our hormones, weight and mental well-being are all impacted.
Johan Eklöf, PhD, is a Swedish bat scientist and writer, most known for his work on microbat vision and more recently, light pollution. He lives in the west of Sweden, where he works as a conservationist and copywriter. The Darkness Manifesto is his first book to be translated into English.
Until I read The Darkness Manifesto: How Light Pollution Threatens the Ancient Rhythms of Life all I knew about light pollution was its effect on the night sky, how artificial light impairs our view of the sky, the stars and the planets. But I hadn’t realised just how much it adversely affects our environment, wildlife and our own health. This book is full of fascinating facts about the impact that darkness and the night have on all living creatures, including ourselves.
Artificial lighting today makes up a tenth of our total energy usage but most of it is of little benefit to us, spilling out into the sky. Animals cannot distinguish between artificial light and natural daylight which means their circadian rhythms are disrupted, sending body clocks awry, disrupting our sleep.
There is, of course, the need for safety and security, and Eklöf cites several examples of places around the world that have projects that promote darkness, and have established light pollution laws, such as France where there are regulations to limit how much light, and what kind of light, can be emitted into the atmosphere. The light needs to be adapted to suit the needs of both animals and humans.
Eklöf ends his book with his Darkness Manifesto, urging us to become aware of the darkness, to protect and preserve it individually by turning off lights when not in a room, and letting your garden rest in darkness at night; to discover nocturnal life; to observe the different phases of twilight and how the sun gives way to the moon and stars; and to learn more about the darkness and its importance for the survival of animals and plants. He also asks us to inform local authorities about the dangers of light pollution. To my mind the current energy crisis is another reason to reduce our use of lighting and electricity.
My thanks to the publishers for a review copy via NetGalley.