National Geographic : 2009 Mar
LETTERS When my wife and I purchased furniture recently, we were offered an incredible number of items made from "sustainable" Indonesian hard- woods, invariably with no documen- tation to authenti- cate the claim. As an organist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving in the Bountiful, Utah, temple for almost 12 years, I was surprised to see in your article a picture of that temple using a long photo exposure to exaggerate its brilliance. I enjoy camping in the mountains to escape the city lights and see the brilliant night sky. If the intent in show- ing the temple was to capture the beauty of that magnificent structure, then you have an outstanding photograph. But if you were vilifying the lighting, you failed to mention that the lights go out at 10 p.m. every night. Perhaps other sources of light pollution could adopt the same policy. KAREN ALLGOOD Nashua, New Hampshire I'm a resident of the first International Dark Sky City, and so I experience the benefits of the unpolluted night. With a light ordinance, the innate patterns of night and the need for sleep have no intrusions. We need to reduce light pollution not only for astronomy and the preservation of the natural ecosystem, but also for the health of society. Lifestyles increasingly operate 24/7. The sacred retreat of the night is lost, and with constant light infiltration, the human body loses vital rest. We need the balance of night and day just as much as our fellow creatures. Seeing only the benefits of longer workdays and artificially prolonged days ignores the negative consequences and disregards the necessity of darkness. Without night, we would burn ourselves out. SIERRA ECKERT Flagstaff, Arizona I was struck by author Verlyn Klinkenborg's disapproval of what I have always thought of as a beautiful thing. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring sight I have seen was when I was on an airplane. Spread out below me was a twinkling field of lights, sparkling under the night sky like a sea of jewels. I similarly found the pictures of the nighttime cities to be just as beautiful as the pictures of the stars. And where the author seems to see an example of human hubris, I see a humbling statement about how far our technology, and our civilization, have progressed. STEVEN BENNETT Columbia, South Carolina small-scale sustainable use will become a smoke screen for large-scale illegal logging. MIKE WILLIAMS Ystradfellte, Wales Thank you for calling attention to the devastating effects of palm oil plantations and other extractive industries on Borneo. In addition to the environmental destruction mentioned in your article, Borneo's palm oil rush is taking a heavy toll on indigenous communities that have sustainably farmed the forests for generations. The United Nations has estimated that five million indigenous people in the Indonesian part of Borneo will lose their homes, land, or livelihood if biofuel crops continue to expand. The struggles of these com- munities concern me as an American consumer. American agribusiness giants are major importers of Malaysian palm oil. These corporations claim to be meeting U.S. consumer demand for "greener" fuels, but few consumers would condone the practices witnessed in Malaysia. Agri- businesses rely as much on Americans' ignorance of their practices as on the indigenous communities' lack of power to stop them. DEBRA ERENBERG Organizing Director Rainforest Action Network San Francisco, California Borneo's Moment of Truth When my wife and I purchased furniture recently, we were offered an incredible number of items made from "sustain- able" Indonesian hardwoods, invariably with no documenta- tion to authenticate the claim. Without suitable regulation, Corrections, Clarifications November 2008: Our Vanishing Night Page 112: The photo of the globe-shaped light fixture was taken on Simcoe Street in Toronto's entertainment district.