Hong Kong currently uses over 100,000 kilowatts (kWh) of energy to power their city’s exterior lights, every single minute. From the light shows to the football field-sized billboards, blue light has been negatively contributing to the environment and us – humans. Many of Hong Kong’s citizens do not realize the harsh negative effects of these dangerously bright blue emitting city lights. Hong Kong’s bright entertaining lights are prone to causing severe damage to sleeping patterns/routines and our health, it consumes a huge amount of unnecessary energy, and lights negatively affect the environment. The Hong Kong Government should limit and shorten the number of hours for public city lights to be allowed on.
Everybody loves sleep, but everybody wants a to have a good sleep, with no distractions or interactions. Light Pollution disrupts and destroys our circadian rhythms (regular 24 hour cycle). Light messes and disrupts with our melatonin levels (a hormone which plays a role on positively contributes to sleep and reproductive cycles), generally contributing to sleeping disorders. Only having a reduction or elimination of blue light at nighttime can help you body maintain a steady melatonin rhythm. Edwin Lau Che-feng is the founder of ‘The Green Earth’, goes out around Hong Kong to inspect the city and the environment and lifestyle, this is part of his experience with light pollution: “I went after 11pm to observe the lighting, which penetrated thick curtains into bedrooms, shining unpleasant coloured rays onto pillows. Added to this, it is a complete waste of energy” (Lau). This is a major problem and as we see, even curtains are not contributing to greatly help. Hong Kong has many homes without curtain installed and small blinders will not do the job. At the space museum, the lights become 1,200 times worse and brighter than the recommended brightness for a dark night sky. Unfortunately, this is where many of the top populated hotels are located, and almost all lights are switched on until 12 o’clock midnight every single day. The darkest place in Hong Kong (the astro park) is still 20 times brighter than the average dark sky. According to reports from ‘Time News’, Up to 2.8 million people in Hong Kong suffer from some kind of insomnia. That is just under 40% of Hong Kong’s
Hong Kong currently consumes on up to 50 billion kWh per year. An average American family uses about 4,500 kWh per year in their home. The main way that current lights are powered is by burning coal. Still, only about 40% of coal’s thermal energy can be converted to electricity. To give a perspective, one ton of burned coal for energy provides 2,460 kWh of energy. Around every 1 and half minutes, Hong Kong uses 1 ton of coal (907 kilograms). One ton of coal costs around 350 Hong Kong Dollars or 45 US Dollars, which totals up to over 7 billion Hong Kong Dollars per year. Using this amount of coal and energy is very unnecessary, especially in the late hours of the night. Once again, Edwin Lau Che-feng went out to inspect Hong Kong’s exterior lighting: “At close to midnight, I saw strong spotlights shining onto solid metal roller doors of shops as well as an array of over 30 spotlights shining onto a large billboard with no advert on it. Is this the right way to use our finite energy? (Lau)” Once again, it’s a complete waste of energy.
Thirdly, exterior city lights or any lights negatively affects the environment. As we have seen the paragraph above, electricity meant for powering lights mainly come from the energy from burning coal. Burning coal increases air pollution and raises the risks of many health dangers, due to the fact that burning coal emits large amounts of carbon dioxide into the earth’s atmosphere. Hong Kong uses one ton of coal every one and a half minutes, 1 ton of coal will generate 5,720 pounds (2.86 tons) of carbon dioxide. On another hand, Hong Kong Entomological Society chairman Yiu Vor has feared that the bright lights of Hong Kong has been affecting breeding of fireflies, most notably the endemic bent-winged firefly, which relies on signals to mate coming from light. This is what Mr. Vow has spoken out about: “They might not be able to notice the signals in a bright environment or they simply release the signal less frequently. This would affect their continuing survival” (Vor). Mr. Vor has also noted that there are many other insects that rely on moonlight to navigate, and they also, are currently being affected.
There are many opponents to the concept of “lights-out”, arguing that the beautiful night view is a unique feature of Hong Kong that should not be taken away. I somewhat agree with this, but the lights need to be cut out earlier. Lights running until 12 pm are completely unnecessary. Also, many don’t know what is going on in the background. Hong Kong’s iconic Neon Signs are a major cultural aspect of Hong Kong’s city streets, but currently, the government is stripping away the rights to put these up due to light pollution.
So how much of the 50 billion kWh of power every year is positively contributing to Hong Kong? Hong Kong citizens are still not aware of this problem and the entire mess of negative effects of strong blue light emitting city lights. How necessary is it for lights to brighten up the city until midnight? Meanwhile, majorities of the population such as students, businessmen, etc. are eagerly trying to get their own well-deserved sleep. These lights have clearly been affecting the environment and humans. The Hong Kong Government should limit the number of hours for when public city lights are allowed on.