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The Green Life: Movie Review: The City Dark

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May 04, 2012

Movie Review: The City Dark

CITYDDVjacketFWhen filmmaker Ian Cheney moved to the Big Apple from rural Maine, he says he felt like he had "left something important behind." Cheney's new movie The City Dark is an attempt to answer this question: "What do we lose when we lose the night?"

The documentary tracks Cheney's quest, which takes him to the College Of Staten Island, where Professor Irving Robbins shares what it has been like for his Astronomy Department to gradually lose the night sky. "Since 1966 while living in Brooklyn, I've only seen the milky way twice — both times from a blackout," says Robbins. "I could not believe the heavens."

Next Cheney visits the owner of a lightbulb store in Hackensack, New Jersey. His grandfather knew Thomas Edison and he shares a crash course on the incredible evolution of lightbulbs from Edison's original 50 lumen bulb in 1879 to mercury-vapor lights, high-pressure sodium lights and finally today's metal halides, which produce 15,000 to 16,000 lumens.

Some astronomers have fled to the deserts and islands to escape light pollution. Jack Newton, one of the greatest astro-photographers of our time, managed to obtain 450 acres in remote Arizona. A small community of night-seekers has gathered there in a place they call Sky Village. For Newton, the mystery of 50 billion galaxies lies waiting to be captured through his camera lens. His wife calls the connection to the stars "an emotional feeling of being a child, a childlike wonder that all of this is out there."

People aren't the only ones trapped in the planet's luminous fog of light — animals are also loosing the night. Disoriented sea turtle hatchlings  head toward city lights, rather than the ocean reflecting starlight. An estimated 1 billion migrating birds are killed by collision across the U.S. every year. They mistake the city lights for stars, which they use for navigation. Even the fireflies can't find each other to mate.

"The night sky is part of the great mystery we were born into and seeing [the heavens] is more spiritual than practical. We realize we are not the center of the universe and how small we are. [We experience a] re-setting of our ego," says Cheney.


BioPhoto_CyndyCyndy Patrick is a life-long animal-lover who opened her own pet salon and commenced to giving doggie hairdos (and bathing some pretty unhappy cats). She hung up her clippers to pursue a career as an environmental journalist and photographer. She is a student at San Jose State, loves to swim in the ocean and sleep under the stars.

--photo courtesy of Bullfrog Films


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