In this eye-opening talk at TEDxBratislava event, Paul describes what we call “light pollution,” the overuse and misuse of artificial light at night.
When I was young, I was lucky. I knew a wild sky. I grew up in Minnesota, which is a state in the United States near Canada. It’s a country of forests and lakes, and so my memories of nights as a child are of the moon over water and the stars over pine trees.
I would often take our canoe out onto the water and lie back in the bow under a sky that looks like this. And I would hear the sounds of wolves and loons and frogs. I would see the stars.
I would feel the summer air on my skin. And that imprinted on me. That made me who I am and years later created the book that I wrote, and it’s why I’m here today.
I have known nights as night has been for almost all of human history, which is darkness. Something full of beauty and sometimes fear but always something greater than us, something that filled our souls and inspired our imagination, and, it turns out, something our bodies need for their health.
We’re losing this experience of night’s natural darkness. I’ll give you one example.
In the U.S., more than 80% of the people living there can no longer see the Milky Way. And in Europe, it’s about 60%. We have taken what was once one of the most common human experiences, that of walking out your door and coming face to face with the universe, and we have made it one of the most rare of human experiences.