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.
Anand, S. (4 November 2017). Why Yee Peng Festival is Celebrated in Thailand
Brown, M. (20 July 2011). Myrtle Beach fire caused by “Sky Lantern”
Gabbert, B. (31 December 2015). Update on the legality of sky lanterns — banned in 29 states
Hickman, L. (2 February 2010). Sky lanterns: beautiful, but dangerous
Hodal, K. (5 November 2014). Thai authorities threaten sky lantern fans with death penalty
Payton, M. (22 February 2016). Chinese sky lanterns are fire hazards and endanger wildlife, expert warns
Pittman, A. (20 November 2017). How Popular Sky Lantern Festivals Can Pose a Threat to Animals and the 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/