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Should There Be Laws To Control Light Pollution?

SCMP | Updated on Oct 31, 2008

It seems that people are becoming more aware of the effects of climate change.

We appreciate the threat posed by greenhouse gas emissions.

Yet although people have this awareness, many do little in the form of practical action to curb the effects of global warming.

We must address environmental issues, because the problems we create are damaging Hong Kong’s reputation.

For example, regulations must be introduced to control the problems caused by light pollution. You see brightly lit advertising signboards. They remain switched on throughout the night, which is unnecessary.

We must have laws that ban this waste of energy.

Mandy Chan Man-hang, Lai Chi Kok

Winning Toy Designer Reinvents Light Bulb

Peter So – SCMP | Updated on Oct 25, 2008

An environmentally friendly “sticker lamp” as thin as a magazine cover has won a local toy designer a top award in the Seoul Design Competition – Hong Kong’s first and only winner in the contest.

Keikko Lee Wing-lam, 26, came up with the idea of a lamp with electroluminescent material on one side and solar panels and sensors on the other. The electroluminescent material gives out light when an electric current is passed through it, in this case generated by the solar panels.

Users attach the lamp’s sticky solar side to a window to absorb sunlight, Ms Lee said. At night, it can be taken down and placed in a room to provide light. When the power runs out, the lamp can be returned to the window to recharge.

“No extra electricity is needed,” said Ms Lee, a graduate of Polytechnic University’s school of design.

The concept landed her the gold prize in the Seoul Design Competition, which was part of the international Seoul Design Olympiad 2008, held this month.

The aim of the contest is to encourage environmentally friendly and creative design solutions for a sustainable city life.

Since the lamp is very thin and light, Ms Lee said it could reduce complicated manufacturing procedures and save on raw materials.

“I believe not only the product itself has to be ecological, but the manufacturing process should be ecological too, in order to make our environment better. Pollution and [power] usage will be reduced correspondingly.”

Ms Lee said she found the electroluminescent material on the internet three months ago and wondered why such an ecological substance had not been put to wide use.

Although the idea had yet to become a finished product, Ms Lee was confident it would be workable.

Should There Be Laws To Control Light Pollution?

SCMP | Updated on Oct 25, 2008

You see neon lights all over Hong Kong. It does not matter where you are – Mong Kok, Central or Causeway Bay – you cannot escape them.

These neon [and other kinds of] lights sometimes illuminate advertising billboards and your attention is drawn to the product being promoted. But they are also a major cause of light pollution.

A simple solution would be to introduce laws restricting the size of neon lights and the length of time they can be turned on.

However, there is a problem with passing such laws. Hong Kong is famous for its neon lights. Many tourists look forward to seeing the harbour at night, with its neon signs on top of the high-rise buildings.

If strict regulations are imposed, this spectacular view could disappear and some people might decide not to visit Hong Kong.

Economic factors are always considered to be a high priority, but what about environmental factors? Light pollution may not be a serious problem for some residents, but it does adversely affect animals. Nocturnal animals are especially sensitive when it comes to the intensity of some lights.

If lights are too bright, it can affect their life cycle. For example, it must be very difficult for owls, which hunt when it is dark.

I think we do need to enact some laws to control this form of pollution. Apart from helping animals, it can ensure those residents who are affected by strong lights can enjoy a good night’s sleep.

B. Leung, Lai Chi Kok

I strongly support the idea of expediting legislation to ease the severe light-pollution problem in Hong Kong.

The reason is twofold. First and foremost, we cannot tolerate a deteriorating situation.

Even at midnight in Mong Kok, you can still see neon lights on. It does not even feel as if it is night. How can residents have a proper night’s sleep with all these billboards lit up?

These upmarket fashion firms which use the lights to advertise their products do not seem to care about our Earth. They care more about making a profit than trying to be environmentally friendly.

The government should take prompt action now to stop shops from keeping exterior lights on at night and lit-up billboards.

Our officials can no longer turn a blind eye to this problem.

Zalon Wong, To Kwa Wan

I strongly support the introduction of laws to control this form of pollution.

Many lights in the city are kept switched on when they are not needed, for example to illuminate advertising billboards throughout the night.

How many people will actually look at these billboards at 1am?

The excess of neon lights, floodlights and other lights near residential buildings is not good for the city. They consume a lot of electricity which in turn increases carbon dioxide emissions and these emissions are a cause of global warming. They disturb residents living nearby who have difficulty sleeping.

Even badly designed street lights are a problem. They should be modified so the beam of light is directed to the ground and not upwards. I am interested in astronomy and it really saddens when my efforts to stargaze are impeded in the name of development. This is not progress, it is just the building of more flats so property developers can line their pockets. I believe a reasonable regulation should be introduced, which would mean all floodlights on buildings (for example IFC and Bank of China) should be switched off after midnight.

Virginia Yue, Tsuen Wan

Hong Kong Night Light Pollution Under The Spotlight

James Pomfret – Reuters | Wed Oct 22, 2008

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Hong Kong may be known as the Pearl of the Orient for its bright-light, big-city allure, but the ubiquitous practice of keeping neon signs and buildings blazing all night has come under growing fire from green groups.

One of the world’s most densely built-up and populated metropolises, Hong Kong is also one of the most brightly lit.

From bustling streets bathed in an array of neon signs to gargantuan spotlight-strewn advertising hoardings to massed light-specked skyscrapers twinkling off the waters of Victoria harbor at night, the glow over the sleepless city makes it difficult to glimpse stars in the night sky.

In an era of growing green consciousness and global warming fears, environmentalists are increasingly critical of this ostentatious display, calling it as unnecessary and wasteful.

“The trend is getting worse and worse,” said Hahn Chu, the environmental affairs manager for Friends of the Earth: “Hong Kong always thinks the brighter things are, the more prosperous we seem, but people often forget that we’re wasting energy.”

While Hong Kong doesn’t have compulsory measures for lights out, a recent public opinion poll on energy conservation by the Council for Sustainable Development found 71 percent of over 80,000 people backed turning off neon lights in the small hours.

In 2008, the city’s environmental protection department received some 50 complaints about light pollution, up from the 40 cases received in 2007, with neon signs posing a growing nuisance for the public.

“FLAMBOYANT WASTAGE”

A massive neon sign advertising luxury brand Prada was found to be one of the worst offenders in an online poll, spilling intense white light onto a near-deserted Central street until till 5 a.m. every day.

“This is flamboyant wastage and creates light pollution,” one respondent was quoted as saying.

A spokesperson for Prada in Hong Kong said it had noted the concern, was “actively seeking a solution and we will reduce the lighting,” she added without giving specifics.

In an initiative named “Dim It Please,” Friends of the Earth called on retailers and building owners to set a lights-off time after business hours to conserve energy and reduce emissions.

The group says Hong Kong’s electricity consumption grew 18 percent between 1997-2006, outpacing local population growth of 5.9 percent in the same period.

Light pollution however, is by no means unique to Hong Kong.

NASA photographs of global “artificial night sky brightness” display a conspicuous “luminous fog” around much of Western Europe and North America as well much of Japan, Taiwan, while Hong Kong shows up as a bright spot in the southern China region.

Global experts say light pollution has become so pronounced that two thirds of the U.S. population and about half the EU are no longer able to see the Milky Way with the naked eye.

Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang seems to be seeing the light.

In his annual policy address last week he said the government would “assess the problem of energy wastage of external lighting and study the feasibility of tackling the problem through legislation.”

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by David Fox)

© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved.

Switch Off Plea

SCMP | Updated on Oct 22, 2008

Light pollution is becoming an increasingly serious problem in Hong Kong.

In the city it is difficult to see the night sky clearly, because of the powerful neon lights and even lights in flats. We keep talking about reducing air and waste pollution, but seldom focus on light pollution.

I do not think passing laws will help. What the government should be doing is trying to make the public more aware of the problem. Lights that are not needed should be switched off. We all must learn to reduce our use of lighting. It is really a matter of changing people’s habits.

Yeung Shuk-wai, Kwai Chung

Green Group To Call For Prada Boycott Over Bright Signboards

From Monsters and Critics.com By DPA – Oct 20, 2008

Hong Kong – A green group will call for a consumer boycott against Prada if the luxury fashion chain fails to dim its illuminated sign boards, a media report said Monday.

Friends of the Earth said the sign board at Prada’s flagship store in the central business district was needlessly illuminated from dusk until dawn, the South China Morning Post reported.

The group’s activists in other cities found that Prada’s Beijing store was lit up until at least 4am, while stores in Singapore and Taipei showed more restraint but the signs were still illuminated until 2:30 am.

Hahn Chu, Friends of the Earth’s environmental affairs manager, said Prada showed ‘no taste at all in this unrestrained quest for brightness. The consequences are a waste of energy and an unnecessary emission of greenhouse gases. If Prada does not stop the light pollution, we will appeal to consumers to boycott it.’

Chu added that a letter has been sent to Prada asking the company to turn off the signs at a reasonable time.

He said: ‘We have also written to two Beijing-based green groups to ask them to follow up the issue there.’

A Prada spokeswoman said the company was considering its options for the Hong Kong shop. ‘The exterior lighting is part of our architecture design and we are reviewing options to reduce the lights,’ she said.

Green Group Takes Dim View Of Prada’s Bright Signboards

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP | Updated on Oct 20, 2008

Consumers will be urged to boycott upmarket fashion chain Prada if it refuses to dim its illuminated signboard in Central, a green group has warned.

The warning came as Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen last week said the government would study the need for legislation to control light pollution.

Friends of the Earth said the board at Prada’s flagship store at Alexandra House was unnecessarily lit from dusk until dawn.

While many of its neighbours kept their signboard lights on until early morning, Prada’s exterior lighting was the most extravagant, a survey by the group found.

Assisted by overseas activists, the group also found Prada’s Beijing store was lit up until at least 4am, while its counterparts in Singapore and Taipei showed more restraint by switching their much less extravagant lighting off no later than 2.30am.

A letter has been sent to Prada in Hong Kong asking it to rectify the situation, said Hahn Chu Hon-keung, Friends of the Earth’s environmental affairs manager.

“The brand shops show no taste at all in this unrestrained quest for brightness. The consequences are a waste of energy and an unnecessary emission of greenhouse gases,” he said. “If Prada does not stop the light pollution, we will appeal to consumers to boycott it.

“We have also written to two Beijing-based green groups to ask them to follow up the issue there.”

A spokeswoman for Prada in Hong Kong said it was looking at the issue to see if a solution could be found. “The exterior lighting is part of our architecture design and we are reviewing options to reduce the lights,” she said, without saying why the lights could not be switched off earlier.

In a poll by the group, Prada’s exterior lighting was voted the second-most-ridiculous in the city, beaten only by the advertising boards on Windsor House, Causeway Bay.

Incandescent Light Bulbs May Be Banned

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Oct 16, 2008

Funding carbon audits in buildings and a possible ban on incandescent light bulbs were among measures heralded by the chief executive to combat climate change and develop a low-carbon economy.

“We will enhance energy efficiency, use clean fuels, rely less on fossil fuel, and promote a low-carbon economy – an economy based on low energy consumption and low pollution,” Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said.

Up to HK$450 million will be reserved under the Environment and Conservation Fund to partially subsidise building owners to conduct energy and carbon audits for their public space and carry out related improvement works. The subsidy details would be later worked out by the fund.

The government will also consider following overseas practice in banning incandescent light bulbs and study the feasibility of controlling outdoor light pollution by law. The mandatory energy labelling scheme for electrical appliances will also be extended to cover washing machines and dehumidifiers.

District cooling will be adopted for the Kai Tak development that will cost HK$1.4 billion to build but bring about an annual energy saving of 85 million kilowatt-hours and a reduction of 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Friends of the Earth environmental affairs manager Hahn Chu Hon-keung welcomed the measures but questioned where they would lead. “The lack of a timetable and energy saving targets means the government is not yet committed,” he said.

Greenpeace campaign manager Edward Chan Yue-fai said the government should ban incandescent bulbs immediately.

Meanwhile, WWF Hong Kong welcomed an earlier announced move to ban commercial fishing in marine parks. The green group’s director of conservation, Andy Cornish, described the ban as a “historic event” for marine conservation. But the group said more substantial gains could be achieved by designating the Soko Islands as marine parks.

City Of Far Too Much Light

Updated on Oct 10, 2008 – SCMP

At night in Hong Kong, it is difficult to see the stars in the sky because of the street lamps, and bright shop and neon lights.

It is no wonder that the city at night is a sight that attracts tourists from around the world. But while it might be a magnet for visitors, do we ever think about the serious environmental problems we cause by light pollution?

I know residents in some neighbourhoods complain that strong exterior lighting at night is so bad that it affects their health, because they have difficulty sleeping.

It also affect birds, because they become disorientated.

Light pollution is a problem that the government has to deal with. It is not as if this is something new.

Regulations should be put in place to try and reduce light pollution and give residents and animals some protection. It could limit the number of shops that can have lights on at night and inspect premises to ensure the rules are adhered to. It could also impose a limit on the intensity of lights, so they are not so strong. The government should also try and educate people so they become more aware of the problems that can be caused by light pollution.

Harina Fong, Wong Tai Sin

Causeway Bay Mall Voted City’s Worst Light-pollution Landmark

Joyce Ng – Updated on Oct 06, 2008 – SCMP

A shopping mall at a busy corner in Causeway Bay has been named the most polluting city landmark in a campaign seeking to enhance public awareness of light pollution.

An online poll, organised by the green group Friends of the Earth, recorded 347 of 639 voters picking Windsor House on Great George Street as a “ridiculous” light spot.

More than 60 spotlights were illuminating billboards with 10,000 lux of light, the group found. The intensity was 20 times as high as required for an office environment.

Voters said the spotlights were scorching and hurt the eyes, and chased away customers instead of attracting them.

The green group will hold a protest in front of the building at 7pm on Friday. It calls for participants to wear sunglasses, bring an umbrella and put on sunscreen.

“We are not opposing advertising, but half of the lights should be enough to serve the purpose and it saves energy,” said Hahn Chu Hon-keung, the group’s environmental affairs manager.

Windsor House representatives were unavailable for comment.

Among the other 11 spots nominated by voters as polluting sources, the Prada store in Central and a sign for a non-existent Tse Sui Luen Jewellery Shop in Jordan rank second and third on the list, getting 98 and 41 votes. The jewellery-shop sign, an illegal structure, was still present even though the government has issued a removal notice.

Some of the sites were still lit after midnight when there were no shoppers. Residents have to hang a cloth over their windows to block the light.

Official figures show complaints about light pollution rising. The Environmental Protection Department has received 27 complaints in the first six months of this year, compared with 40 in all of last year.

There are no environmental regulations controlling light pollution, but outdoor advertising lights are regulated for safety reasons.

Some countries have rules to adjust the direction of light to avoid disturbing residents, Mr Chu said.

“I’ve seen a jewellery shop reducing its light sign’s flash frequency after residents complained. This shows the situation is adjustable.”