Risk yet to be socially realized: Light Pollution in Hong Kong

Principal Investigator
Grant Awarding Body
Research Grants Council
Grant Type
Faculty Development Scheme
Project Code
Amount awarded
Funding Year
Duration of the Project
36 months
Start date
Completion Date
Risk has often been seen as an objective fact. However, risk does not exist in a vacuum. Risk necessitates a socio-cultural process before it can be socially identified and realized. Risk realization involves the media, the experts, and the government for message dissemination and risk identification. In order to be brought into being, risk has to be presented and re-presented. There is a growing body of useful study into many aspects of risk, and this project will add to that body, advancing the study of risk through a unique case study: risk that has been scientifically proven but is yet to be socially manifested - the problem of light pollution in Hong Kong.

This project aspires to investigate these questions: as a case in risk study, why isn't light pollution, a scientifically proven risk, formulated socially in Hong Kong? What are the factors hampering light pollution as risk from its social manifestation in Hong Kong? How can this problem be brought into being the future? To answer these questions, the project will study the discourse of light pollution, that is, how is light pollution discussed by different stakeholders? What are their respective stances and arguments? What are the concerns? What are the roles played by the experts, media, NGOs, and the government? What are the power dynamics? Further, looking at the problem of light pollution from a different angle, one can see that, unlike other pollutions, light pollution has a positive side. Light represents prosperity, progress, and civilization. In the specific context of Hong Kong, light is a spectacle; Hong Kong is famous for its sparkling night view of Victoria Harbour and for its use of massive, multiple, neon signs. This leads us to a more theoretical question: in what ways is light pollution a problem associated with an obsession with the visual, a problem highly related to modernity and postmodernity?

The project will contribute pertinently to the study of risk with a unique case study featuring a scientifically proven risk that has, thus far, failed to be socially formulated in Hong Kong. With risk more thoroughly understood, we would be able to better understand how to respond; we would be able to suggest in what ways the problem of light pollution can be further discussed and managed in the future.