The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light by Paul Bogard (2013)
Surprisingly, I not only made it through the entire book, but I found it pretty interesting. Sometimes nonfiction books really could have been articles and they are heavily padded with excessive background information and tangents. When things started to get tangential here, though, it always retained at least some relevance and was always interesting. So although the book is about light pollution, I learned that there are still gas lamps and lamplighters in London, that once a Luna moth emerges from its cocoon it never eats again, and that when bats fly too close to turbines the pressure drop makes their lungs burst.
I learned about all the ways in which artificial light at night is bad for us and for animals. It upset circadian rhythms in most species, it negatively affects visibility with shadows and glare, and makes it easier to commit crimes at night because the people committing them can see what they're doing. There is apparently a possible connection between working night shifts and certain kinds of cancer, because we only produce melatonin while in natural darkness, and melatonin plays a role in preventing the growth of these types of cancer.
Paul Bogard visited many of the darkest places so he could see the natural night sky, and spoke often of the International Dark Sky Association which works to recognize places that have little or no artificial light at night. Some communities have taken steps to improve their lighting so it reduces the associated problems. It was surprising to learn about how inefficient and badly-planned lighting is in most places. But it was heartening to hear how many people are concerned about it and working to educate the public about these issues and make improvements in how we use light.
Part of me feels discouraged that I now have one more thing to worry about, but another part of me sees how easily the problems associated with light pollution could be solved with more education. We cling to our current practices out of ignorance about the issues. I found this book very easy to read for a nonfiction book without a linear story, and highly recommend it. Bogard makes a compelling case for preserving natural darkness, one that should interest anyone who cares about the environment and public health.