A call to preserve Brunei’s dark sky

First and foremost, congratulations to the Brunei Government, especially the Brunei Climate Change Secretariat (BCCS) for issuing the Brunei Darussalam National Climate Change Policy (BNCCP) recently. We look forward to the Policy as an opportunity to explore further tactics to recover our natural surroundings.

Currently, Comet NEOWISE has generated a lot of public interest, as it is the brightest comet since 1997.

However, watching this supposedly “bright” comet – or stargazing in general – is a real challenge in the country.

Since mid-July, we have been trying to gaze the once-in-a-lifetime comet from various locations. We know exactly where to look for the photogenic comet in the evening sky, but we’ve had trouble locating it with our naked eyes due to light pollution.

According to the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) 2019’s country radiance statistics for land and terrestrial waters by Jurij Stare, Brunei Darussalam ranked 40 out of 250 countries in the highest mean radiance or the amount of light projected from cities into rural areas. This excessive glow over cities and towns is wasteful light energy coming from artificial sources emitted towards the sky.

A dark sky is becoming a shortage; we are losing access to it because of the increasing number of lighting. It is not impossible to imagine the next generations growing up without the possibility of ever seeing the Milky Way.

Globally, starry sky is a vanishing treasure; light pollution is washing away our view of the cosmos due to the rise of industrialisation and human population.

According to the International Astronomical Union (IAU), light pollution is the improper use of artificial outdoor lighting, which can cause adverse effects on the environment.

Based on multiple studies by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA), light pollution not only threatens astronomy but also disrupts the ecosystem and affects human health.

Scientific evidence suggests that light pollution at night is harmful to a vast number of flora and fauna. For example, artificial lights radically alter the habits of nocturnal animals by turning night into day.

Taking steps to reduce light pollution does not equate living in the dark; rather, it is about the efficient use of light. There are effective lighting regulations around the world to draw from, and among them are the adoption of a lighting law and an awareness of the need to reduce light usage. Switching out LED light bulbs for yellow lighting also makes a tremendous different, so is the planting of more trees to reduce secondary reflections.

Around the world, there are an increasing number of dark sky parks and reserves to promote astronomy-based tourism. These parks are often located in rural areas, away from city lights, to protect locales with excellent night-time visages for future generations. They are also designed to preserve wilderness and to offer visitors a stellar celestial nightscape.

It would be good to see the government taking steps to turn some of our existing parks into dark sky reserves, especially in the Temburong District. The impacts would surely be immense. After all, being able to look at the night sky, the stars, planets and the Milky Way in their full magnificence is worth the sacrifice of not illuminating the world when the sun goes down.

Dark Sky Rangers