Wednesday, September 24, 2008



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."

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