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Paul Bogard, author of "The End of Night"
BY IAN MYLCHREEST -- In the last 60 years, says author Paul Bogard, we’ve become obsessed with lighting the world and it’s creating a serious problem. And, of course, Las Vegas is one of the great symbols of the modern obsession with light.
His new book, The End of Night, holds up Las Vegas and its explosion of light as a prime example of how light pollution has exploded. In fact, Bogard set out to find the darkest places in the lower 48 states. He headed to Great Basin National Park, which is hundreds of miles from any serious source of light but even there he could see the halo of Las Vegas.
When he tried to gaze at the stars from the heart of the Strip, outside the Bellagio, the ambient light made it near to impossible.
“We’ve already lost the night to light,” says Bogard, “but the good news is that we can get much of it back if we get serious about tackling this problem.” The darkness is still out there and only needs us to control light pollution.
Paradoxically, the boom in public and exterior lighting has happened over a few brief decades but it’s been slow enough that we’ve barely noticed. Gas stations and parking lots are now lit 10 times as brightly as there were just 20 years ago, noted Bogard. We’d only have to go back 20 years to make major reductions in light pollution.
On the other hand, Great Basin National Park is one of the country’s best places for darkness. It’s remote but it’s also one of the wilderness places Americans love and want to protect, said Bogard. Parks like Great Basin and Death Valley are already dark at night. “And it’s only the places that we know about and love that we’re going to try and preserve.”
Those dark places are magical, according to Bogard. “One of the things you find is that the longer you’re out in a truly dark place, the lighter it gets and it’s counterintuitive but what’s happening is that the human eye is really remarkable in terms of seeing in the dark but it needs time to adjust,” he said. And as your eye adjusts you see more and the natural light “lights the night.”