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  • Aug 22, 2014
  • Updated: 2:00am
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Hong Kong dims as it embraces Earth Hour

WWF welcomes 'commitment to change' but professor criticises event as 'harmful gimmick'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 24 March, 2013, 5:40am

For the fifth year in a row, Hong Kong's famous skyline dimmed last night as residents embraced the green mantra of Earth Hour.

But for one university professor who specialises in sustainable development, it was a chance to protest against what he called a gimmick that did more harm than good.

"There are more than 8,700 hours in a year. What can one hour contribute?" said Professor Edward Ng Yan-yung from Chinese University's school of architecture. "Some say the event raises awareness, but my take is: what awareness will it bring? The dilemma is that one goes away thinking that one has already saved the earth."

For one hour from 8.30pm, thousands of buildings switched off their lights to mark the initiative, which Hong Kong first adopted in 2009. Organised by the conservation body WWF, Earth Hour debuted in Sydney in 2007 and has since spread to 152 countries.

Ng says he never turns on his office light at night because he works mainly on his computer and has a desk lamp that he uses sparingly.

"But I will turn on my office light during Earth Hour, just to remind myself what I have been doing for the rest of the year."

A WWF-Hong Kong spokeswoman says it was a symbolic event aimed at getting people to think about the ecological impact they make on the world.

"Participation in Earth Hour symbolises a commitment to change beyond the hour," she says.

Findings from a light pollution study released last week showed Hong Kong could be the world's worst city for light pollution, with Tsim Sha Tsui recording 1,200 times the brightness of a natural dark sky.

Last night, more than 3,800 companies and buildings joined the event, up from 3,300 last year. All the universities, and about 370 primary and secondary schools also took part.

Landmark buildings on Hong Kong Island that plunged into darkness included the International Finance Centre, Legislative Council complex, Hopewell Centre, Cheung Kong Centre, HSBC building and Convention Centre, while in Kowloon, the International Commerce Centre and 1881 Heritage switched off their lights. The Tsing Ma bridge, which connects Tsing Yi and Ma Wan, also went dim.

Last year, electricity usage dropped 4.27 per cent during Earth Hour, equal to saving 146 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which would take more than 6,300 trees to absorb in a year.

In Macau, major buildings are also doing their part. A new initiative will see 13 hotels including the Venetian Macau and Grand Hyatt Macau switch their lights off on the first Tuesday of every month.

But Ng called on WWF to let people know Earth Hour was just a gimmick so it could spur them to do more. "It's not just about switching off, it's about using light better," he said.


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This article is now closed to comments

Participating in Earth Hour yet ruthlessly lighting up the sky for the rest of the year is utterly insincere and deceiving for the people in Hong Kong. I agree with professor Ng by cutting to the chase and asked, “What awareness does it brings?” such as the farcical comment by WWF that it is a symbolic event. WWF seems to be blind over or too inconvenient to stop the megawatt outdoor advertisement.
And also:
The light pollution study group is so predictable like many other special study groups in Hong Kong would yield no new finding (professor’s study is the exception) or solution to the problem at hand. Ten months of study is just a public relationship with no real intention to fixing problem. It is a sham setup when the majority of the study group members are vested in self-interest – the property developer / electrical power plant owner, and the tourism board. These members would selfishly make no change in curtailing the excessive use of lit advertisement in outdoor. To them it is a penny foolishly spent is many dollars gain. The public not only pay some of those dollars to keep those signs there illuminated through out the night but suffer from the effect of prolonged exposure to them. The most hidden downside is the burning of extra air-polluting coal to get the megawatt on.
Stop the study group but start legislate a law that represents the interest of the majority. Again Hong Kong’s social problem is much linked to property developers.


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