Yi Peng Festival: I See The Light

A scene from the Disney movie Tangled

If you have ever watched the Disney movie Tangled, you would remember this iconic scene of lanterns floating to the night sky as Rapunzel and Flynn Rider sing a romantic duet of ‘’I See The Light’’. But did you know that you can see these lights for yourself in real life?

Next month on the 23rd of November, the Yi Peng Festival will be held in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Thousands of individuals will gather to release sky lanterns to make wishes for the future (Anand, 2017). Apart from the Yi Peng Festival, there are also other sky lantern festivals in the world, like the Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival in Taiwan and the Tsunan Snow Festival in Japan.

The magnificent sight from the mass release of sky lanterns at the Yi Peng Festival in Chiang Mai

Image retrieved from Flickr

But beyond the enchanting appearances of these floating lights, these lanterns pose a serious environmental threat. So much so that it has been banned in 29 states in America (Gabbert, 2015).

Sky lanterns are typically made of rice paper held together by a bamboo or wireframe and contain a candle or fuel cell that allows it to rise when lighted (Pittman, 2017). Though it is ideal that the lanterns fall to the ground after the flame extinguishes itself, they often fly into trees or land on buildings while lit, causing fires. Given the fact that we are unable to control the flight direction of the sky lanterns or where they land, these flying, burning litter can cause forest fires, destroying natural habitats. In 2011, a single sky lantern caused the loss of 805 acres of forests in Horry County, South Carolina (Brown, 2011).

The remains of the sky lantern could also be a danger to wild animals. According to a spokesman of the UK’s National Farmers’ Union, if the metal wire in the lantern is swallowed by an animal, it could pierce through the animal’s stomach lining, causing death (Hickman, 2010). The frames are a potential cause of injury and could also end up trapping animals (Payton, 2016). Furthermore, sky lanterns are a cause of concern when it comes to aviation safety (Hodal, 2014).

Knowing that sky lanterns could possibly kill wildlife or burn down forests, I will never be able to bring myself to release these lanterns. With all these negative impacts of sky lanterns, it is crazy to think that tourists pay up to 380 USD for the chance to release these lanterns at the Yi Peng Festival (Trazy, 2018). Perhaps if people knew about the consequences of launching sky lanterns, they would truly see the light and think twice before releasing them.

 

References:

Anand, S. (4 November 2017). Why Yee Peng Festival is Celebrated in Thailand

Retrieved from: https://wandersnap.co/blog/history-yipeng-festival-celebrated-thailand/

Brown, M. (20 July 2011). Myrtle Beach fire caused by “Sky Lantern”

Retrieved from: https://www.southcarolinaradionetwork.com/2011/07/20/myrtle-beach-fire-caused-by-fireworks/

Gabbert, B. (31 December 2015). Update on the legality of sky lanterns — banned in 29 states

Retrieved from: https://wildfiretoday.com/2015/12/31/update-on-the-legality-of-sky-lanterns-banned-in-28-states/

Hickman, L. (2 February 2010). Sky lanterns: beautiful, but dangerous

Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2010/feb/02/sky-lanterns-danger-farm-animals

Hodal, K. (5 November 2014). Thai authorities threaten sky lantern fans with death penalty

Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/05/thailand-sky-lanterns-death-penalty

Payton, M. (22 February 2016). Chinese sky lanterns are fire hazards and endanger wildlife, expert warns

Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/when-is-the-lantern-festival-in-2016-chinese-fire-hazards-endanger-wildlife-a6889301.html

Pittman, A. (20 November 2017). How Popular Sky Lantern Festivals Can Pose a Threat to Animals and the Environment

Retrieved from: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/how-sky-lantern-festivals-threaten-animals-and-environment/

Trazy. (19 October 2018). WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE YI PENG LANTERN FESTIVAL 2018

Retrieved from: http://blog.trazy.com/yi-peng-lantern-festival-chiang-mai/

4 thoughts on “Yi Peng Festival: I See The Light

  1. Joseph Eu

    Hi Si Hui,
    Thanks for the post! Personally, I’ve never released any lanterns myself. I would imagine that to people releasing the lanterns, to them, releasing it would bring them good luck. Therefore, I would imagine it would be difficult for them to stop this practice. That being said, are there any possible solutions to tackling this issue? Or would the only way to tackle it be banning the sale and use of it eventually? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Si Hui Post author

      Hi Joseph!

      Releasing of sky lanterns is indeed a very symbolic and traditional practice that people would not give up easily. In terms of solutions, some sky lantern sellers in Pingxi, Taiwan offer cashback when individuals return their extinguished lanterns, incentivizing individuals to pick up their sky lanterns when they are done (Adams, 2008). There is also a virtual sky lantern website set up by the Environmental Protection Administration of Taiwan which allows individuals to release online sky lanterns (Adams, 2008).

      In my opinion, a ban is not necessary if adequate preventive measures are taken. For example, the Pingxi local district office activated over 100 firefighters for the Lantern Festival in case sky lanterns caused any fires (Adams, 2008).

      Cheers,
      Si Hui

      References:
      Adams, J. (20 Feb 2008). Taiwan Lantern Festival causes concern for environmentalists
      Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/20/world/asia/20iht-lantern.1.10222525.html?mtrref=www.google.com.sg

      Reply
  2. huilin

    Hello Si Hui!

    I’m really glad that you talked about this because when my family brought me to release sky lantern in Taiwan when I was 12 years old, I wondered where would the sky lantern go – as a kid, part of me thinks that it will disappear into somewhere high up and never to be seen again so I’m really happy that you wrote about it!

    I’m not sure if I’m drifting too far away but I was just wondering what are your thoughts on tourists who travel to these countries that are not banned (e.g. Taiwan) and release these sky lanterns because it is like a must-do to them in Taiwan and something that they probably do not get to do back at home where it is banned? Really look forward to hearing your thoughts on this! 🙂

    Cheers,
    Hui Lin

    Reply
    1. Si Hui Post author

      Hi Hui Lin,

      What you mentioned is one of the greatest reasons why sky lanterns are still so prevalent despite the environmental risks. Sky lanterns are an important and prominent source of income for locals as a result of its popularity amongst tourists. With such a high demand for sky lanterns, it is even harder to restrict the release of sky lanterns.

      I do think that it is difficult to ban sky lanterns across countries or effectively enforce the bans. Thus, the next best option would be to mitigate the effects of releasing sky lanterns. I would encourage tourists to release lanterns at places where extinguished sky lanterns are responsibly retrieved and disposed of and adequate fire safety measures are in place.

      Hope this addresses your concerns!

      Cheers,
      Si Hui

      Reply

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