Wednesday, September 24, 2008


A personal commitment to keeping Jomiten Beach clean


In an ideal world, beaches would be pristine clean providing a welcoming and pleasing environment for visitors. However, in the real world they are often dirty and not particularly inviting.
For six years now, Gerry Rasmus an American from Hawaii has voluntarily spent between 7:00 and 10:00 am each day cleaning Jomtien Beach. We recently went to see Gerry in action. We were interested to observe him working, to hear about his background and how he got involved in keeping beaches clean.
Our conversation firstly led us back to Hawaii some twenty-five years ago. Around this time, Gerry was questioning the purpose of his existence. Out of this searching, Gerry became aware that his purpose was to concern himself more with the world, especially the environment. As this interest in the environment began to develop, he became concerned about the state of Hawaiian beaches. This prompted him to do a daily beach rubbish clearance.
Six year ago, having reached retirement age, Gerry came to live in Thailand. However, his concerns about the environment remained undiminished. He spent one year in the Isaan town of Buriram, where he daily cleared the river, which was being used like a rubbish dump.
From Buriram, he gravitated to Jomtien where he observed that things like plastic bags, plastic cups, cigarette filters were adversely affecting the beach environment. As a result, he began a daily beach cleaning programme with the help of his lovely Thai partner Fun.
Gerry stresses that thoughtless disposal of rubbish affects not only the beach but the ocean with garbage being indiscriminately thrown off boats. This has visible effects with rubbish appearing at the water’s edge and sea life dying through eating things like cigarette ends. Gerry often swims out to sea to clear unwanted rubbish from the water.
He also cites another contributory factor causing dirty beaches and oceans, namely the disposal of hazardous materials in gutters or down storm drains. Pollutants from the storm drain system drain directly into channels and creeks directly to the ocean. So Gerry’s message is before you pour anything in the gutter or drain, think twice.
A vision Gerry has is for colourful rubbish containers to be placed all along Jomtien Beach. He would also like the general public to be educated on keeping the environment clean and how this can be achieved.
Gerry has coined a phrase for the practice of cleaning beaches. He calls it waster/sizing, in other words cleaning beaches and getting exercise at the same time. We would commend Gerry for the work he is doing and hope that others will join him in waster/sizing so as to make Pattaya/Jomtien beaches amongst the cleanest in Thailand.



Paul Strachan

Environmental issues are now one of the leading priorities for governing bodies around the world, with concerns about global warming dominating the international headlines. Over the last few years heads of state right down to the man on the street have become more and more aware of the damage we are causing to planet earth.

Gerry Rasmus is campaigning to clean up the region’s beaches.
Natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis are a constant fear, especially as these are events that are beyond the control of man.
Thailand has had its fair share of negative focus affecting tourism in the last couple of years: the tsunami, of course, threats to tourists, the troubled South, and the political upheaval that saw the departure of Thaksin Shinawatra.
Pattaya, however, continues to prosper. We know businesses complain that trade is down but there is simply more choice and more competition, more bars, more restaurants, and a never-ending amount of construction work.
So still they come from all corners of the globe to sample the delights of Fun City. However, due to its rapid expansion it’s a bit like trying to keep a child in clothes: as the child keeps on growing the city weaves new fabric to sustain it; the child continues to mature and the city wonders why the clothes it made don’t fit anymore.
The problems created by this burgeoning growth involve each one of us.
Whether you are reading this on holiday, or have chosen to stay in this Land of Smiles, you may well question if Pattaya is the tropical paradise it at first appears.
When the rain comes everybody complains about the flash flooding and they see for their own eyes that the drains can’t handle the deluge.
The beaches still leave a lot to be desired. As for the quality of the water, the abundance of seafood that Pattaya offers may well be under threat from the kind of contamination revealed by a recent study that predicts with, until the rains come and the water erupts out of the drains like a geyser.
On the beaches, again on the surface they look reasonably clean but what lies beneath?
On a recent trip out to a beach just south of Pattaya a man who is fondly known as the Keeper of the Ocean, Gerry Rasmus was doing his daily workout. Every day, he says he "waster-sizes - bending at the waist to pick up the waste and get rid of both."
In the space of two hours Gerry had pulled out from the water literally hundreds of plastic bags. He explained that the bags cause a barrier that stops crabs from feeding: so, unable to eat, they die.
Discarded batteries leak their acid into the water.
Another man helping Gerry was Steve Martin (no, not that one) who was horrified at the amount of garbage that was coming out of the sea. Just think, the sea provides all those delicious fish, prawns, mussels and lobsters, but does it all seem so fresh and healthy when you think of the filthy state of the water?
Gerry did this work in Hawaii. He stopped smoking, gave up alcohol, and is trying to keep fit and at the same time do his bit to help the environment.
He is not alone in his quest: indeed his partner and another man were helping and after the first hour about 10 Thai children came to help.
Looking at the children Steve said that the answer is staring us in the face. The problem needs to be addressed at its root: Education.
If you look at a country like Japan, recycling is second nature. Homes have three different bins and everybody has a sense of responsibility. If schools here were to initiate a program where every lunchtime the children were shown what is recyclable (and therefore of value) and what is not, then that would help to instil ideas that would be carried forward into their adult lives.
Our litter has, by our own negligence, become a killer: a killer of marine life, a killer of our standard of living; and indeed for many it could be secretly killing our very livelihoods.
Only time will reveal the full injustices for which mankind has been responsible.
When we are gone our children and grandchildren will feel the true effects of their ancestors’ misdemeanours: as temperatures soar, pollution rules and the planet responds.
We could all work to prevent this now. To quote Herbert Spencer: "The great aim of education is not knowledge but action."


Pattaya Mail
Vol. XV No. 23
Friday June 8 - June 14, 2007

"Beyond the Beach" with Andrew Watson

Gerry Rasmus, "The Pollution Solution"

"Beyond the Beach" - Andrew Watson’s news series on Pattaya Mail on TV, starts with "The Pollution Solution", an interview with Gerry Rasmus.

Inevitably, it’s another beautiful Pattaya morning, the sun is out and there’s at least a hint of a breeze coming in from the bay. Andrew runs into an individual who embodies Mahatma Ghandi’s mantra, "Be the change you want to see in the world" and he does it, from the beach.
Gerry Rasmus is larger than life. He is from the United States and he spends his time setting an example to all of us on the Eastern seaboard by taking the most personal care of the environment which we treasure most here - the beach. He is a man with a message for us all and I think it’s going to be worth watching.
Andrew describes Gerry as ‘the Pollution Solution", a sobriquet Gerry is happy to handle. But Gerry’s life, we learn, hasn’t all been plain sailing. He bravely confides that once he was a "waste of skin taking up space". But by as long ago as 1980, Gerry had seen the light. He stopped drinking and became part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.
His effervescent character is nonetheless humble and yet it appears, his devotion to cleaning up the planet is not completely altruistic. The cumulative energy involved in picking up trash from the beach amounts to real exercise and Gerry has invented a name for it - "Waistercizing". And what to do with his collected garbage? Well it appears that there are many strings to Gerry’s net. He creates works of art with it all. So what’s his message, you might ask? Well it’s simple. According to Gerry, if all of us took just a little bit of interest in keeping things clean, the whole world might be a better place. And then something more - ‘love each other’ says Gerry.