A World Suffering from the Pain of Plastic
Single – use – plastics. It is quite self explanatory isn’t it? Those everyday items that we use for a short amount of time, before we dispose of it; plastic bags, straws, cups, dishes and utensils to plastic drink bottles. Tons of plastic debris is discarded every year, all over the world, polluting lands, rivers, beaches and oceans and in many areas of the world, the plastic pollution in the ocean has reached crisis levels, with millions of marine species fatally injured by our selfish yet often unconscious behavior of using single use plastics. In certain regions, the ocean currents result in trillions of plastic items and trash into gigantic, swirling garbage patches, some even scaling up to be the size of Texas. All of these plastics will remain in the environment for up to thousands of years. At this rate, much longer than our own species will be here for. We are silently contributing to the ill-health and ultimately the demise of the human race, and thousands of other species.
However, there are things that all of us can do. Begin by becoming a more conscious member of our planet to reduce the exploitation and damage we leave on it. Think about what you buy, think about where it has been sourced, think about what you use, and think about what you don’t need to buy and what you don’t need to use. There are an abundance of alternatives to single use plastics in modern day society, and this abundance continues to increase; from tote bags to bamboo straws and cutlery, stainless steel reusable water bottles, wooden toothbrushes to wooden toilet brushes! Until we begin to live consciously, our planet will continue to suffer.
Small scale initiatives are vast, such as providing your local takeaway with a plastic container when you order your food to avoid the single use plastic or Styrofoam they may use, or taking your own flask/cup to the coffee shop when buying a takeaway coffee.
It can be difficult for communities that live in cities, far away from the ocean, to feel as though they are connected to this issue; the saying “out of sight, out of mind” comes to…well…mind. Of course, this is understandable because these people are not seeing it on a daily basis. In these situations, behavioural change will only occur through Awareness raising, education, and incentives.
At GVI Phang Nga, we do not need incentives. There is a big enough incentive on our doorstep. We are lucky to live next to the beautiful Andaman Sea, part of the Indian Ocean, with the coastal areas covered with mangrove forests and sea grass meadows. This part of the world is rich in coral reefs and offshore islands with spectacular diversity and topography. There are several Marine National Parks, 16 in fact, with 4 of them potential candidates for UNESC World Heritage Sites. However, nature has no boundaries; national park or no national park, the issue of marine litter and plastic pollution is an (imaginary) transboundary issue. Transboundary issues like these need to be addressed by us all. It is not something that one community, one province or one country can solve.
This Earth Day GVI Phang Nga took part in a very simple, yet impactful initiative. Staff and volunteers collected old t-shirts that were otherwise going to be thrown in the bin, and turned them into tie-died, strong, re-useable tote bags. The project worked extremely well and these bags will be used for laundry purposes, so that the families at the laundries can hand back washing in the bags and not large plastic bags they had previously been using.
We are slowly phasing out single use plastics on our base; staff and volunteers now take over their own stainless steel cups to the coffee shop across the street, and soon we hope to begin a large scale and long term initiative in partnership with Trash Hero Thailand, with the aim to drastically reduce the amount of plastic bottles used within the village.
Sadhguru, a visionary, yogi, poet and New York Times Bestselling Author, said in his “Message for the World” on Earth Day 2017, “If humanity has to live for a long time, you have to think like the Earth, act like the Earth and be the Earth because that is what you are.”
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