Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 7/9/2013
Paul Bogard cites in his upcoming book the 1942 short story “Nightfall” written by Isaac Asimov. The story is about a planet with six suns undergoing a fluke eclipse. Never experiencing darkness and fearing the night sky, the planet’s inhabitants think the eclipse spells doom.
Bogard writes in The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light that a fear of the dark has inhibited most North Americans from embracing the beauty and mystery of the night sky. We are slowly losing the spectacular views of stars to dwindling visibility at night. The cause—sky glow, glare, light trespass and light clutter—the energy-squandering effects of light pollution.
The book caps Bogard’s search for a primal starry night not so remote an excursion that it might hinder a motivated and thoughtful road tripper. WPA-inspired art by Tyler Nordgren on the cover, The End of Night’s instructive activism and fascinating science is certain to make readers conscious of the astronomical, biological and ecological value of darkness.
“I’m talking about a night sky that leaves you breathless, that makes you want to study the stars or write poetry or dance.”
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night makes an impeccable model for its emotional depth and vividness. To see the brilliant stars of the constellation Orion —Rigel, Betelgeuse and the red supergiant—Bogard writes that a night sky must register as a Class 3 on Bortle’s Dark Sky Scale.
The chapters in this wide-angle book trek from Class 9 sites like the Luxor Sky Beam in Las Vegas—which erase the stars from view—to Class 1 sites like Great Basin National Park—where meteors, planets, satellites and the Milky Way can be seen with the naked eye.
Bogard interviews the people and visits the places involved in preserving darkness as a natural resource.
“There is no doubt that when light pollution erases the stars over a park or interferes with the natural cycles of wildlife or blights the view of mountains, waterfalls or mesas, it impairs a park. Without action, the problem will only get worse.”
The lights from Las Vegas create a sky glow on the horizons of 8 beloved national parks. Bogard writes that the National Park Service is on the frontlines protecting natural dark areas and surrounding communities that offer buffers.
Night walks, astronomy fests and full moon hikes at Big Bend National Park, Sequoia National Park and Acadian National Park educate visitors about the dark sky. The National Park Service Night Sky Team presents talks to raise awareness about light at night (LAN) among citizen advocates and works with city councils to update streetlight and building codes that limit light pollution.
Bogard travels abroad for the book to meet activists doing vital work on behalf of darkness. One of the more interesting people he contacts is Fabio Falchi. He founded CieloBuio (DarkSky) to help stop the growth of light pollution in his home of Milan, Lombardy. This high school teacher, who read Sky & Telescope as a teen and contributed to mapping the World Atlas of the Artificial Night Sky Brightness, has rallied local politicians behind quality lighting laws and ordinances.
Bogard also meets Roger Narboni, who formed Concepto in 1988 to design the first “lighting master plan” for the French city of Montpellier. Bogard’s travels take him to the Canary Islands where Cipriano Marin organized a UNESCO conference resulting in a declaration in defense of the night sky and a starry sky as a basic human right. Another significant result of the conference was a Starlight Reserves program that recognizes world sites where natural night sky light conditions are pristine like the Atacama Desert in Chile.
The book offers a glimpse of the night sky we can regain. In London, nostalgic and ambient gaslight is reconnecting inhabitants and visitors to its history. Even in Paris that spends $150,000 nightly to power, maintain and renovate its lighting, new design draws the noctambule to efficiently-lit areas like Notre Dame.
The End of Night by Paul Bogard is a highly worthwhile read blending science with travel memoir and advocacy journalism for the preservation of starry skies.
Category: Nonfiction, Earth Sciences