Book events to explore light pollution

Paul Bogard

Participants in the One Book, One Community program this year will learn more about the effects of light pollution and efforts to reduce it through Paul Bogard’s book “The End of Night.”

For the first One Book event on Wednesday evening, participants received an introduction to the topic through a showing of “The City Dark” at the Handley Library auditorium. The film documents filmmaker Ian Cheney’s own journey in exploring what people lose by washing out the night sky with excessive artificial lighting.

One Book Co-Director Trish Ridgeway said there was a good turnout from community members who had already read the book and some who didn’t even know what One Book was about. Audience members may not have realized the impact light pollution has on star visibility or the number of migratory bird deaths.

“It’s one of those things where you can sit in the movie and you can hear people gasp,” she said.

Bogard is an assistant English professor at James Madison University who teaches classes on environmental literature, and said that among topics surrounding light pollution, the effect on star visibility is perhaps the most poignant.

“One of the easiest things to talk about is the beauty of the night sky,” he said. “People, a lot of times in rural Virginia, think that they can still see the stars but they don’t realize that they’ve already lost much of the night sky because of our overuse of light.”

He’s made author appearances for “The End of Night” and related book “Let There Be Night” across the United States and Europe, visiting some of the brightest city points and sites with huge swaths of stars in the sky.

Part of the book is a call to action for people to reduce how much they waste light – something that provides a false sense of security and can endanger nocturnal animals.

“If you’re under, say, 40, you’ve probably grown up swamped in light; you just don’t know any different,” Bogard said. “We unfortunately think that darkness is bad and light is good – and that’s oftentimes where people stop.”

After exposure to Bogard at a book festival last year, Ridgeway was reminded of the hobbies of her husband and knew Bogard’s subject would bring about some new interest from the Winchester area.

“I had seen him at the National Book Festival in Washington,” she said. “I heard him speak and I was real impressed with his message and his style of speaking.”

One Book participants will next go on a guided Moonlight Walk at Blandy Experimental Farm on Sep. 17 and Bogard will appear for a talk and autograph session on Sep. 23 followed by an author’s workshop on Sept. 24.

From astronomers to activists to students, Ridgeway said the issues discussed in “The End of Night” capture and engage the imaginations of many.

“If people have an inquiring mind, they should be curious about this topic,” she said. “It’s interesting to see the pattern that’s going on over time – that we’re seeing less and less.”

“font-weight: 400;”>Find out more about Paul Bogard and “The End of Night” at http://www.paul-bogard.com/.

Contact staff writer Rachel Mahoney at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rmahoney@nvdaily.com