A Profound Plea to Embrace the Night: A Review of “The Darkness Manifesto”

In "The Darkness Manifesto," biologist Johan Eklöf eloquently argues for the preservation of night, highlighting how excessive artificial lighting disrupts not only the natural behaviours of wildlife and human health but also our spiritual connection to the universe. This book merges scientific insights with vivid narratives to champion darkness as a precious ecological and cultural resource, urging a collective shift towards light pollution reduction to protect and rediscover the profound beauty of the night.
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April 21, 2024

If you wish to read a scary book, look no further than the Darkness Manifesto by Johan Eklöf. Or even better, meet Johan in person at the Starlight Conference 2024 in Tekapo.

Eyes and vision, in general, started to develop around 540 million years ago1. It is possible that the reason we got eyes in the first place was the alternation between day and night. Who knows? One thing is certain: we evolved to be who we are – creatures that have used our eyes as part of our data collection about the world since then. But since the advent of artificial light, we have started to destroy not only our own eyes but the eyes of all other creatures we are supposed to care for – as guardians of Earth.

What kind of guardians are we? Johan Eklöf’s book is a wake-up call to turn the lights off when they are not in use and to consider how many lights we really need at night. And it’s not just the eyes. It’s our own health that is at risk.

In “The Darkness Manifesto,” Johan Eklöf presents a compelling argument for the urgent need to preserve darkness in our increasingly illuminated world. This book is not just a scientific discourse about nocturnal wildlife; it’s a passionate plea to recognize the vital role that darkness plays in the health of our planet and ourselves.

Eklöf, a Swedish biologist, expertly intertwines research and personal anecdotes, drawing readers into the seldom-discussed world of night-time ecology. The book “illuminates” how artificial light disrupts the natural rhythms of human and animal life, contributing to a decline in biodiversity and human health. With an informative and deeply moving narrative, Eklöf makes the case that darkness is a resource just as precious as the light of day.

The author does an excellent job of making scientific research accessible and engaging. His explanations of how light pollution impacts everything from birds’ migratory patterns to bats’ feeding behaviours is eye-opening. He also delves into the human aspects, discussing everything from sleep disorders to the loss of our connection to the stars above.

What makes “The Darkness Manifesto” particularly impactful is the wealth of scientific evidence Eklöf provides and his reflections on the beauty and wonder of the natural world after dark. He invites readers to rediscover the night, advocating for “darkness sanctuaries” where one can experience the night sky in its full glory.

The book also serves as a practical guide, offering solutions and steps that policymakers and individuals can take to reduce light pollution. From the design of lighting fixtures to community-led initiatives, Eklöf provides a roadmap for how we can act to preserve our nights.

“Moths have shown themselves to be at least as important pollinators as the diurnal bees and they even visit more kinds of flowers than bees do.”

Johan Eklöf, The Darkness Manifesto: On Light Pollution, Night Ecology, and the Ancient Rhythms that Sustain Life

“The Darkness Manifesto” is a clarion call to preserve the night sky for the sake of our ecological and personal health and the enchantment it offers. It is a thoughtful, beautifully written book that challenges us to see the dark in a new light. It is a must-read for anyone concerned about the environment and our place within it.

Hear Johan Eklöf talking about light pollution in this video.


  1. The earliest known evidence of eyes in the fossil record dates back to about 540 million years ago, during the Cambrian period. This evidence comes primarily from the discovery of an ancient marine predator called Anomalocaris. The eyes of Anomalocaris are considered among the oldest and most primitive visual systems known. These eyes were compound, similar to those of modern insects and crustaceans, suggesting a sophisticated visual system that could have supported hunting and navigation in complex environments. Additionally, trilobites, another group of ancient arthropods from the Cambrian period, are known for their well-developed compound eyes, suggesting a highly developed ability to see in their environment. These early eyes likely played a crucial role in the evolutionary “arms race” during the Cambrian explosion, where rapid diversification of life forms included significant advancements in sensory capabilities.
Reconstruction of Anomalocaris canadensis, a cambrian anomalocaridid radiodont (stem-ArthropodaDinocarididaRadiodontaAnomalocarididae).
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