We need city lights but at far less cost

Edward Mak, King George V School
Edward Mak, King George V School |

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Neon signs light up a Hong Kong street at night.

Hong Kong is a city of lights - thanks largely to all those neon adverts and displays. But our nighttime dazzle comes with a cost. Light pollution in the city is a huge problem. Our night skies are hundreds of times brighter than recommended levels. Not even outlying suburbs can escape all the excess light.

The effects of light pollution are subtle but just as dangerous as those of other problems like air and water pollution. Research suggests that long exposure to unnatural light - from sources such as LED screens and neon lighting - can lead to negative health effects, including insomnia and headaches. More intense exposure could cause brain problems or hormone dysfunction.

Exposure to too much light at night affects animals, too. Experts have noted that this could endanger natural wildlife and ecosystems in Hong Kong.

We currently have no laws to control external lighting. But there have been discussions about regulating, or even banning, offices and stores from using decorative lights or neon advertisements at night.

Many shops rely on lighting and neon signs to advertise their products and lure customers. Without all those lights, we will lose some of our charm as a popular tourist destination. That could have far-reaching economic and cultural implications. We are treading a fine line between preserving our culture and protecting our environment.

As a solution, the government should encourage shops and businesses to start using more sustainable forms of energy. It should subsidise the production of low-voltage light bulbs as well as new LED tubes that serve the same function as neon lighting. These new "hybrid" models are more energy-efficient and also cause less light pollution.