Saturday morning was the last I spent at my parent’s house, after three months of living there. They live by the water and I have been getting up early some mornings to go for kayak on the lake. It ain’t a half bad way to start the day.
I was paddling down my favourite creek, whilst idly thinking about how much I was going to miss living in the area. That week had been a neighbourhood dump week. People collect old furniture, appliances, toys – anything they don’t need or want and dump it outside their homes for the council to pick up. It’s pretty standard practice across Australia and quite fun if you’re a bit of a scavenger. One man’s trash is another’s treasure, as the adage goes.
There is a street that lies parallel to my favourite creek and the people on that street had thoughtfully dumped their rubbish right next to the water. This meant that the creek was littered with old stuffed toys, jewellery cases and Christmas decorations that had blown into the water – not to mention the normal amount of rubbish, such as plastic bottles and crisp packets that you can find there on any given day.
I ended my last kayak on the lake in a huff, having fished out all the rubbish I could reach with my paddle, to throw in my own bin once I got home.
“Why am I even bothering with this?” I couldn’t help but wonder, because you see, it is an endless cycle. You can pick up all the rubbish you want, but someone will surely come along and mindlessly trash the place once you’re done. You can clean up a beach, but plastic is already rooted in the ocean and more is guaranteed to wash up onto the shore. You can resolve to take three pieces of rubbish from wherever you go, but it’s never enough.
The sad truth of the matter is that taking care of the planet is not a priority for most people. I’ve seen some actually go out of their way to litter. I remember having a conversation with a good friend, many years ago. He’d just finished a packet of chips and had meticulously folded the packet up into squares.
He then proceeded to stuff the packet in between the slats of the bench we were sat upon, despite the fact that there was a bin about three metres away. The way he was trying to force that thing into the bench was taking way more effort than throwing it into the bin ever could.
I gazed at him, in open wonder, before telling him to get off his toosh and put that rubbish where it belonged. It boggles the mind.
In all honesty, the more I travel, the more I find the situation to be hopeless. There is rubbish everywhere. We are choking the planet with it. And I don’t doubt that we’ve gone past the point of no return, where cleaning up the planet for good is concerned.
Yet, I do strongly believe in the sound of one hand clapping. History has proved time and time again that the actions of one person alone can make a difference. Luckily, there are plenty of people worldwide, who are passionate about preserving the beauty of this planet, each in their own, unique way. The people advocating environmental clean ups. Conservationists worldwide looking after animals all shapes and sizes, from the White Rhino, to Australia’s own Regent Honeyeater bird. Those of the zero-waste movement who encourage others to strive towards having as minimal environmental impact as possible. This is all admirable stuff.
I spent a really long time feeling overwhelmed, when faced with the problem of “saving the planet”. What could I do? I eventually decided to settle on limiting my use of plastic – a feat which was way harder than I initially thought, but not entirely outside of the realms of impossibility, as I’m also beginning to realise.
I recently ran a series on my blog for the new year, highlighting simple ways in which any traveller can reduce their environmental impact. The reception was really quite good – encouraging or what?! So, I’ve decided to make the series ongoing. I’m not doing nearly as much travel this year as I did last year (which is not a bad thing, believe me) but I have enough ideas to post something on the topic at least once a month.
To sum up this post, I’d like to return to my original question – why bother with plastic free travel? Particularly when it seems that no one around you cares or can be bothered themselves.
Well, quite simply, the earth is beautiful and worth saving.
Isn’t that reason enough?