Living at the beach supposed to be amazing, a treat, a life goal. Basically, it’s everyone's dream, but what if I told you that the dream is broken? I know you’ll think I am crazy. How can I put the word sad and the word beach in the same sentence, right?
All over the world, visiting beaches is a common summer experience and every country has a popular holiday season. Europeans go to the beach between May and September and they go to exotic countries around Christmas. Israelis travel in October, Thais in April. With the exception of some locations with seasonal openings, the best beaches are always crowded, 365 days per year. The world loves going to the beach.
Life at the beach is amazing, isn't it? Picture yourselves on a tropical Island: wake up late, get out of your bungalow, look at the palm trees, listen to the sound of the birds and waves, run on the white sand and jump into the crystal clear water. I agree that a holiday at the beach is freaking amazing. However, living on the beach is a completely different experience.
This topic is quite challenging and it can be difficult not to sound like a cliche. I’m not a reporter I am only an umpteenth witness to the problem. Do you have an idea about how much rubbish comes from the sea? Hotel staff cleans up the seafronts of your favorite beaches every day. They start early in the morning before the tourists wake up so no one realizes the magnitude of the problem. The beach always looks stunning to guests. I always knew this was an issue. Who doesn’t? The issue of climate change and pollution has been widely reported. I was aware of it but I couldn’t picture how bad the situation was until I moved to a beach. It doesn’t really matter where I am writing from, my location doesn’t matter. This is a worldwide disaster. Sadly, it’s happening everywhere.
When I talk about rubbish I'm not just referring to some bottles or plastic bags that wash up. The water is, literally, full of shit.
I personally dragged an armchair out of the water. How is this possible? Who can fucking dump that into the water? What is wrong with people?
In the past few years, I have traveled the world and seen a big difference in how countries handle their rubbish. In the clean and organized Germany, you can put your plastic and glass bottles into a dispenser and get paid for recycling it. In Cambodia, one of the poorest countries in the world, rubbish is everywhere. In Japan, there are no rubbish bins on the streets but everything is extremely clean because Japanese people always carry their trash home. In some Japanese cities, there are 44 different recycling categories.
I’ve had the privilege to spend time with amazing cultures like the aboriginals in Australia and the Karen hill tribe in Thailand. Both of those communities have almost lost the capability of surviving in nature, they buy and eat western processed food and outside of their huts trash is everywhere. Recently, I worked with some Burmese people who’ve come from one of the world’s most repressive and abusive regimes. They have no understanding of hygiene or recycling. Traveling and sharing my life with different ethnicities has taught me a lot about this topic. I realized that many minority groups don’t know anything about the environment because no one is teaching them. The developed world has no interests in sharing this kind of knowledge. In fact, the third world countries on top of their own waste production have become the dumping grounds for developed countries. Much of the water pollution comes from those places where rubbish gets to landfills, then into rivers, then into the oceans. It is a vicious cycle and ridiculously, everything will come back to the sender.
Sihanoukville province, photo Credit: Red Shark Charters
Chotika and I are always supporting each other, so of course, we teamed up for this cause. We often clean up our beach corner which is the same size of a 70 sqm apartment. We separate the woods and the seaweeds from the trash and just in that little space, we collected almost 1 full bag of rubbish every single day. Now, if I imagine the length of the whole beach, and the amount of waste we found in our small piece of paradise, and I multiply the trash we have collected, I have a crazy amount of rubbish bags in front of me. It is very upsetting.
Fortunately, there are others like us but not enough. I met young parents bringing their kids there to do exactly what we did, they make me think that there is still hope for us to change our behaviors. We still have a chance to change, we could still try to clean up the ocean if everyone put some effort into this massive issue. We must change our mindset and start to use less plastic. We urge you to teach the young generations what they must do to repair the damage we have done to their future.
Written by: Marta Sailis