There is really no way to escape the horrid filth and debris that we have unleashed to the environment. If you ever venture in the outskirts of the city and into the rural countryside, you might expect to see pristine rivers and spotless beaches. But no, sadly, that is not the case.
Just recently, researchers and scientists discovered that Henderson Island — which has been uninhabited for roughly 600 years — is drowning in countless pieces of plastic. Despite it being one of the most remote places on the planet, the ocean’s current washes garbage from western South America to this secluded island.
During my trips to some Philippine islands, I’ve been secretly doing some kind of twisted easter egg hunt. On every beach that we would stop over, I’d quietly look around for garbage and junk that have been left behind by recent tourists. Among the rocks, dead seaweed, and driftwood, I’d find heaps of trash. Most of which are plastic.
I am not an environmentalist, but with all the beaches that I’ve explored, not once have I seen a place that is free of cigarette butts, plastic bottles, or tin cans and this is highly upsetting. As a species, we may have this innate desire to get rid of garbage in the easiest way possible. Back then, this wouldn’t have been a problem because organic trash would just decompose and rot. That was the case until the invention of plastic.
Time to go against the flow
As humans, we tend to imitate the actions of those people around us. If we start by being the difference, people around us will pick up on our actions and they will most likely do the same as well. It’s hard especially since we are hardwired into letting go of trash as soon as possible. But maybe it’s time to take responsibility. Maybe it’s time to go against our so-called “instincts”.
As travelers, we often claim to be “non-conformists” yet the moment we see other people litter, we immediately think that “oh look, they’re littering so it’s fine if I do the same.” Once we start to admit that we are part of the littering problem, the desire to change will come naturally. I won’t be delving into the intricacies of human psychology (the internet can help you with that) but think about the “broken windows theory”. Basically, it says that people are more likely to deface something that has already been defaced. So if you want to keep a beach in good condition, start by not littering at all! It doesn’t matter if it’s just a small piece of wrapper, once people see you drop that crap, they’ll start doing the same. It’s a domino effect.
Awareness is the key
By now, we all know that people litter for reasons of convenience. Who would want to be weighed down by junk when they could easily toss it away and forget about it? To change this attitude, we have to ask ourselves:
“Which is more important, my convenience or the long-term effects of this piece of trash to this beach/mountain/landmark?”
It’s good that most people are changing the norms. Even young travelers are beginning to see the effects of littering and how much it affects the ecology of their favorite travel destinations. Online and offline campaigns have been pushing the idea of cleanliness which resulted in the reduction of unfettered littering.
The crux of this article is to simply tell people to stop throwing shit to places where shit don’t belong. Take your trash home or put them where they should be: inside a trash bin. It may seem like a small act but trust me, your action could save thousands of animal and plant life. Let’s all be responsible travelers and help protect and conserve our lifeline, mother nature.
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