Friday, 22 March 2013

Bright Lights, Big City

NASA's picture of Hong Kong at night from space. Pretty illuminating...
With Earth Hour approaching tomorrow night, we are not surprised but disappointed to find Hong Kong has the worst light pollution on the planet.

More specifically it's Tsim Sha Tsui, that has levels 1,200 times brighter than a normal dark sky.

The findings were released earlier this week by survey leader Dr Jason Pun Chun-shing of the Department of Physics at the University of Hong Kong.

He said according to his research, he could not find anywhere else on earth as badly affected.

While Tsim Sha Tsui is bad, even Sai Kung has unacceptably high levels of brightness too that could damage health and wildlife.

And why is it so bright? Because there are no laws controlling external lighting, unlike other international cities such as London, Frankfurt, Sydney and even Shanghai.

"Lighting is supposed to provide safety and security for people's daily life," said Pun. "Lights are for human use and not for the sky. But what we see is that many lights are pointing to the sky."

Indeed if you look around the city, many bright lights, such as those illuminating giant billboards, shopping centres and skyscrapers are quite unnecessary. Can we also throw in the tacky light and laser show at 8pm every night?

Interestingly the worst offender in Tsim Sha Tsui is the Space Museum, which was 1,200 times the International Astronomical Union standard. Wonder what the Hong Kong government has to say for itself...

Meanwhile Hong Kong Entomological Society chairman Yiu Vor said he feared the brightness would affect the breeding of fireflies, including the bent-winged firefly, which rely on light signals to mate.

"They might not be able to notice the signals in a bright environment or they simply release the signal less frequently," he said. "This would affect their continuing survival." He added that insects that rely on moonlight for navigation could also be affected.

Besides the blinding brightness affecting the health of all creatures including us, what about all the energy wastage?

Shouldn't the government take the lead in encouraging Hong Kong residents and businesses to save energy?

Oh wait. The authorities haven't quite figured out recycling and cutting waste disposal either.

Guess we'll be wearing eye shades for a while then...

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