I had often hoped and dreamed of visiting white beaches around the world, untouched by humans - except for my little footprints romantically imprinted onto the sand for a few seconds before being washed away by a frothy wave in its ebb and flow of the shoreline, swimming in glimmering turquoise waters with gorgeous tropical fish and pastel colored corals. Instead, I stood with my mouth open in shock on a little known beach on the Island of Phu Quoc Vietnam, that I'd trekked miles to get to away from the madding crowds of Saigon and sadly looked down at twirly pink and yellow straws from tourists' tropical drinks, once brightly colored shredded plastic bags and dozens of bobbing empty pop bottles washing onto shore and choking up the estuary.
When I was visiting Vietnam in September I was devastated at the plastic waste swept up onto remote beaches that from a distance looked pristine. I didn't swim because I couldn't bare “plastic seaweed” swirling around my legs. My heart ached and I felt like a petulant child whose paradise had been ruined by...mankind.
The locals say it's from "other" countries - partly true, the currents sweep garbage from shore to shore. However, it was evident there was a gap in education of how cities' and towns' littering had an impact on the whole environment. In Halong Bay the garbage from fisherman boats has been an issue for a long time. Chunks of polystyrene and plastic water bottles float like swimmers in the once fish filled waters. Some Hotels & Resorts make a concerted effort to reduce waste but it is all for naught when you see the garbage dumps overflowing with piles of plastics and no recycling programs in place. One big rainfall and the garbage plastic pile flows from the city and town rivers to the sea. Returning to Canada made me grateful. The city of Vancouver is so beautifully clean. I am thankful for the regulated recycling programs and national mandates for clean air and water. What I'm not happy about are the non biodegradable plastic bags and food containers used in most shops.
Whilst traveling I became acutely aware that what we once thought was so great and inventive - the initial wonders of plastic - is impacting us badly especially seen in developing countries. Consumerism encourages waste and disregard for the environment. How can environmental issues like global warming and air pollutants be taken seriously when abolishing non biogradable plastic is such a low priority.
I have a long way to go myself in refusing plastic options however I’m more aware than ever of the massive damage being done to our planet. Being in alignment in all aspects of my being means taking steps to make the social and environmental choices and changes. It means making tough ethical choices, being responsible for decisions I make every day. Reusing bags, water bottles, eating less meat, driving less, choosing food and clothes as ethically as I can. My challenge is to not accept plastic anywhere and carry my reusable bags. It's a habit I quickly slip out of when I'm in a rush. Just this one time ... I tell myself. No harm really. Really?