Book Review: All Through the Night – Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies

English/Saesneg

The cover of All Through the Night: Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies by Dani Robertson.
The cover of All Through the Night: Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies by Dani Robertson. Published by Harper North
Profile photo of Eryri Dark Sky Officer and Author Dani Robertson
Eryri Dark Sky Officer and Author Dani Robertson

I grew up in rural Northern Cymru (Wales), in the county of Gwynedd. My village, population of just over 100, is placed exactly in between the Môr Iwerydd (Irish Sea), and Eryri – a wild and mountainous national park, and one of 18 Dark Sky Reserves in the world. It is a unique location within the UK. The majority of its population speak Cymraeg (Welsh), not English, as their first language (including me). We are immersed in the history and culture of our ancestors, and are never far from a Celtic carn (cairn) or a castle that belonged to the Tywysogion. And we are privileged to live under some of the most pristine dark skies in the world. It inspired me to become an astrophysicist.

Today, I live in the neon glow of Nashville, Tennessee, and I miss the night sky. So, I was beyond excited to find a book about my home. The author, Dani Robertson, is the Dark Sky Officer for Eryri National Park and a DarkSky Advocate. She lives in Ynys Môn (Anglesey), an island just off the north-west coast of Gwynedd.

Each chapter of All Through the Night has a different theme, and her personal connection to the natural world weaves through the pages. She jumps from one subject to another with each section: from the health problems in humans induced by light pollution, to the history of stargazing and different cultures’ connections to the night sky. She documents the destruction of wildlife because of our artificial lights, such as the groundings of Manx Shearwater that confuse cities for the glow of the moon, or disrupting trees confused between our spotlights and the light of day. Throughout the book, Robertson argues why dark skies are important, and how our dependence on artificial light is causing us to lose more than our night sky.

The Milky Way rising over a mountain. Credit: William Lamb
Y Llwybr Llaethog (The Milky Way) rising over Mynydd Mawr, captured from Llyn y Dywarchen, Rhyd Ddu, Gwynedd, Cymru. Credit: William Lamb

I think her strongest chapter addresses her experiences as a female Dark Sky Officer, who often goes to isolated areas to view the night sky by herself, not just for her job, but for her own enjoyment. She’s often patronised with questions like, “Should you be doing this job?” (Read: isn’t it too dangerous for a woman to be on her own in the dark?) These attitudes towards women contribute to the marginalisation of women and minoritised genders from astronomy (which we have long documented), and from accessing the night sky and their own neighbourhoods without the fear of violence and victim blaming. Robertson argues that a problem could lie with too much lighting. At first, this seems contradictory, however she cites research that shows that overlit spaces can cause excess glare that blind individuals and create deeper shadows. Street lighting that is better designed, and informed by listening to the concerns of women, would make streets safer for all. However, changing our lighting isn’t enough. The entire chapter demands a change in our sexist society, and to end male violence. “It is time to demand safe, Dark Sky friendly, street lighting, to light the path to an accessible night to all.”

Despite being raised as Cymraeg, I was embarrassed to not know the constellations in my own culture. I had never thought of how Anglocentrism has removed my culture’s connection to the stars. She devotes an entire chapter to introduce some Celtic interpretations of the night sky, which I’m now curious to discover more about (and perhaps write a future Astrobite on…) It’s a revelation to me, as my community continues to fight for our right to protect our culture and language, and as other Celtic identities are threatened with imminent erasure. It is a subject that Robertson is passionate about; in fact, the title of her book is the English translation for the classic song, Ar Hyd y Nos.

…Golau arall yw tywyllwch

I arddangos gwir brydferthwch

Teulu’r nefoedd mewn tawelwch

Ar hyd y nos…

…Other light is darkness

To show true beauty

The Heavenly family in peace

All through the night…

I can’t tell you exactly what Robertson’s book really is. Is it a science and nature book? Is it a love letter to her cynefin (home) and diwylliant (culture)? Or is it an agenda to reclaim the dark sky, while also reclaiming the night?

It doesn’t matter. It’s a beautifully written book with a strong message that we must act upon. Turn off those lights.

You can follow Robertson and her advocacy for preserving dark skies and natural habitats at @DaniDarkSkies

Edited by Dee Dunne

Cymraeg/Welsh

Clawr All Through the Night: Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies gan Dani Robertson.
Clawr “All Through the Night: Why Our Lives Depend on Dark Skies” gan Dani Robertson. Cyhoeddwyd gan Harper North.
Swyddog Awyr Dywyll Eryri ac Awdur Dani Robertson
Swyddog Awyr Dywyll Eryri ac Awdur Dani Robertson

Tyfais i fyny yng Ngogledd Cymru wledig, yn sir Gwynedd. Roedd fy mhentref, o dros gant o drigolion, rhwng y Fôr Iwerydd ac Eryri – parc genedlaethol gwyllt a fynyddog, ac un o ddeunaw Gwarchodfa Awyr Dywyll ar y ddaear. Mae o’n leoliad unigryw. Cymraeg siaradai mwyafrif ei phoblogaeth fel eu hiaith cyntaf (gan cynnwys fy hun), nid Saesneg. Rydym yn byw yng nghanol hanes a ddiwylliant ein cyndeidiau, a byth yn bell o garn neu castell y Tywysogion Cymraeg. Ac ein fraint ni ydyw i fyw o dan awyr dywyll, sef fy ysbrydoliaeth i fod yn astroffisegwr.

Heddiw, rydw i’n byw o dan lewyrch neon Nashville, Tennessee, a mae gen i hiraeth am y sêr. Felly, roeddwn i’n llawn cyffro i ddarganfod llyfr o adref am y nos. Swyddog Awyr Dywyll Eryri ac eiriolydd i DarkSky yw’r awdur, Dani Robertson, o Ynys Môn.

Mae Robertson yn canolbwyntio ar thema gwahanol gyda phob pennod o `All Through the Night.’ Cyfunai ei chysylltiad personol â’r byd naturiol gyda phob tudalen, a neidiai o un destun i’r llall: o’r problemau iechyd o ganlyniad llygredd golau, i hanes seryddiaeth a chysylltiadau diwylliannau gwahanol â’r awyr dywyll. Digrifia Robertson dinistriad bywyd gwyllt oherwydd am ein goleuadau artiffisial, fel sut mae adar drycin manaw yn mynd ar goll oherwydd maent yn drysu goleuadau dinasoedd am y lleuad, neu sut mae llifolau yn amharu ar goed. Drwy’r llyfr, mae Robertson yn dadleuo pam mae awyr dywyll yn bwysig, a sut mae ein ddibyniaeth ar goleuadau artiffisial yn achosi i ni i golli mwy nag ein sêr yn unig.

Y Llwybr Llaethog yn codi dros fynydd. Credyd: William Lamb
Y Llwybr Llaethog yn codi dros Mynydd Mawr. Tynnwyd y lun o Lyn y Dywarchen, Rhyd Ddu, Gwynedd, Cymru. Credyd: William Lamb

Pennod cryfaf Robertson yw pan mae hi’n cyfeiro at ei phrofiad fel Swyddog Awyr Dywyll. Yn aml, mae hi’n teithio i ardaloedd arwahanedig i edrych ar y sêr ar ben ei hun, am ei gwaith ac am bleser. Yn aml, mae pobl yn ei chwestiynu, “a ddylai hi gwneud y gwaith yma?” (Darlledwch: ydi o’n rhy beryg i ddynes bod ar ben ei hun yn y nos?) Mae agweddau fel hyn tuag at merched a rywiau lleiafrifol yn cyfrannu at eu ymyliad o seryddiaeth, ac eu ymyliad o’i gymdogiaethiau heb ofni trais na beio dioddefwyr. Dadleuai Robertson bod gormod o olau yn rhan o’r broblem. I ddechrau, mae hyn yn teimlo fel gwrthddywediad, ond dyfynna Robertson gwaith ymchwil sy’n dangos sut mae gôr-oleuo strydoedd yn achosi llewyrch sy’n dallu ac yn creu cysgodion dyfnach. Buasai golau stryd sydd wedi ei ddylunio’n gwell ac wedi ei ddyfarnu gan merched yn gwneud strydoedd yn mwy diogel i bawb. Ond, dydi newid ein goleuadau yn ddigon. Mae’r pennod cyfan yn galw am newid i’n cymdeithas rhywiaethol, ac i roi diwedd i drais gan ddynion. “It is time to demand safe, Dark Sky friendly, street lighting, to light the path to an accessible night to all.”

Er tyfu i fyny yn Gymraeg, mae gen i siom o beidio gwybod am enwau a chwedlau Cymraeg y gytserau. Mae’r pennod cyfan wedi cael ei roi at gyflwyno rhai o ddehongliadau Celtaidd y sêr. Mae gen i chwilfrydedd i ddysgu mwy (ac efallai ysgrifennaf Astrobite arall ar y pwnc yma yn y dyfodol…) Mae o’n ddatguddiad newydd i mi, wrth i’n gymuned dal i ymladd am ein hawl i’n iaith ac ein bodolaeth Cymraeg, ac wrth i hunaniaethau Celtaidd eraill dod at y brig o diflannu. Mae Robertson yn angerddol at hyn, a mae hi’n bwyleisio hyn gan enwi’r llyfr fel cyfiaethiad Ar Hyd y Nos.

…Golau arall yw tywyllwch

I arddangos gwir brydferthwch

Teulu’r nefoedd mewn tawelwch

Ar hyd y nos…

Ni allaf dweud wrthych be yn union yw lyfr Robertson. Ai lyfr gwyddoniaeth a natur? Ai lythur cariadus at ei chynefin a’i ddiwylliant? Neu ai agenda i adennill yr awyr dywyll, ac i adennil y nos?

Dydi o ddim yn bwysig. Mae o’n lyfr hyfryd gyda neges cryf, a mae’n rhaid i ni ei weithredu. Trowch yr oleuadau i ffwrdd.

Dilynwch Robertson ac ei gwaith ar gwarchod awyr dywyll a chynefinau naturiol yma – @DaniDarkSkies.

Golygwyd yn Saesneg gan Dee Dunne

About William Lamb

I'm a 4th-year PhD Astrophysics candidate at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN. I study nanohertz gravitational waves which we hope to detect using pulsar timing arrays, and I want to understand the astrophysical and cosmological sources of these waves! Outside of work, you can find me swing dancing and two stepping, hiking, cycling, or reading Welsh-language YA novels

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