Please Pass Me My Shades

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I used to look at the Hong Kong skyline, blazing in the night, and see a thing of beauty. Now of course—having become a good, bottle-recycling, plastic bag-declining, yoga-practicing bourgeois—I see nothing but wasted resources. Check out those untold tons of carbon, emitted so that the names of evil multinationals may be burned into our retinas, the whole garish night long. How regrettable that Citizen watches have commissioned one of the world’s largest neon signs (an eye-watering, 100m-long outrage in Causeway Bay) right here. How gross that Hong Kong should hold a previous Guinness record for the same, in the form of a 7,000sqm. lighting display put up by the tasteful people of the Sino Land Company in 2001.
What does a brand demonstrate by having its name in lights except its own drastic failure to understand modern priorities? What does it say when an entire city institutionalizes energy wastage and light pollution? For that’s exactly what has happened in Hong Kong, in the form of Symphony of Lights—a reckless, power-squandering son et lumière that takes place nightly on the harbor front. According to Guinness World Records, Symphony of Lights is the world’s “largest permanent light and sound show.” Oh great. How fashionable, how environmentally sound of us. Would you believe that the Hong Kong government’s Tourism Commission, and the Hong Kong Tourism Board, actually spruik this vulgarity as a celebration of “the energy, spirit and diversity of Hong Kong”?
A celebration of rapacious consumption and institutional cretinism, more like. Symphony of Lights coordinates simultaneous lighting displays, energy-sapping searchlights and pollution-producing fireworks from 43 separate buildings—including all of the city’s major commercial landmarks—at 8pm, every night of the year. Forty-three buildings!
This is Hong Kong’s own chuckle in the face of climate change, and insults our other efforts to save energy. Why does the government bother to tell us to set air-conditioning thermostats at 25.5°C, for instance, when Symphony of Lights eats its way through enough watts to power-up rural Guizhou for a month? Lights on, as they say, and nobody home.

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