The health effects of a world without darkness – Rebecca Boyle – Aeon
‘We are all descended from astronomers,’ the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson intones in the rebooted version of the TV show Cosmos. This is as poetic as it is true. Everyone owns the night sky; it was the one natural realm all our ancestors could see and know intimately.
No river, no grand mountain or canyon, not even the oceans can claim that.
But since Edison’s light bulbs colonised our cities, the vast majority of humans has ceased to see those skies.
More than 60 per cent of the world, and fully 99 per cent of the US and Europe, lives under a yellowy sky polluted with light.
For many of us, the only place to see the milky backbone of our own galaxy is on the ceiling of a planetarium.
Although humans are diurnal, factories and Twitter and hospitals and CNN are not, so we must conquer the darkness.
As a result, almost everything industrialised people build is lit up at night. Malls, hospitals, car dealerships. Streets, bridges, air and sea ports. Buildings on a skyline.
These artificial lights identify our cities all the way from the moon. If aliens ever do drop by, this might be their first sign that someone is home.