A conversation with Johan Eklöf, author of The Darkness Manifesto.
When I first came to Big Sur I used to drive my motorcycle between Bixby Canyon and Ventana Inn. I drove several days, and some nights, each week. When going north from Ventana at night the part of the ride from River Inn to Bixby was in almost total darkness (especially during new moon), only the lighthouse swung its steady beam out over the sea at its precise intervals. I often used to stop at Little Sur, turn off all my motorcycle lights and wait for the requisite twenty minutes for my eyes to get acclimated to the dark. The reward soon came in the form of a night sky that rivals anything I have ever seen, be it in northern Sweden or out in the middle of the South Atlantic ocean! The Milky Way! Like a huge, indeed milky, cloud in the sky dotted with thousands of stars and galaxies. What an amazing place this is, I remember thinking!
The agreement we have in Big Sur to keep our lights down at night, to at night turn off any light that isn’t absolutely necessary, to not have illuminated driveways and parking spaces, is one of the many wonderful things about our community. The recognition that we live in a place that begs us to together protect and safeguard the wild, rustic and, at night, dark place we are so grateful to call home.
There are however many, and more important, reasons than our personal romance with the night sky to protect the night. For example, I recently found out that the Yucca lives in symbiosis with a Moth, the Yucca Moth (!), and that, no surprise, the Moths are very sensitive to light. In fact if you have a constant light on at night there are hundreds of insects, many of them pollinators, that might get killed each night as they fly into and around the light. If you study flora and fauna in urban areas you will find certain species to be very rare, if not totally gone, due to ubiquitous lighting that kills off the important night pollinators. Fruit growers are aware of this.
Part of Eklöf’s Darkness Manifesto reads:
Become aware of the darkness | Protect the darkness | Preserve the darkness in your surroundings | Follow your inner rhythm | Discover nocturnal life | Seek out darkness | Learn more about the darkness and its importance for the survival of animals and plants | Talk about darkness with the people around you | Influence your environment and be a role model in the fight against light pollution.¨'
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the Henry Miller Memorial Library
Big Sur, CA
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