The Reality of Our Polluted Seas
Weeks after the T10 typhoon swept through Hong Kong, government, nonprofit and community groups are still struggling to remove all the rubbish that was brought up from the ocean onto the beaches. It’s extraordinary what comes up on our beaches!
You Name It – You Can Find It On Our Beaches!
All sorts of plastic packaging, often with small holes showing where fish have taken a bite, thinking they found a meal…plastic that ends up on our plates and in our bodies when we consume fish. Styrofoam broken down into little pieces…covering the sand in a colour that in nature is reserved for snow. Endless straws, and plastic bottles and caps, cups and lids, shoes, plastic pellets and palm oil…but not just that! All sorts of toys, stuffed animals, pieces of furniture, decorations, cosmetics, clothes, toiletries, electronics, construction materials, medicines, stationary…literally there is nothing from our modern day lives that cannot be found on the beaches!
The Cleanup Challenge
With many beaches covered knee high in rubbish tangled up with wood and sand, cleaning up has been no quick and easy task. Several beach clean ups have had to be cancelled due to high air pollution; the pollution in our air is stopping us from cleaning up the pollution in our seas. Air pollution caused by factories producing goods that we consume which end up in our oceans and our landfill.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Yes, some of these things are considered necessary parts of our modern life. But are all these packaged sweets, crisps and soft drinks whose wrapping we find on our beaches essential to our diet or are they also harming our health? How much are the toys we give to our kids making them happy and how much are they overwhelming and stressing them, giving them more to tidy up and store, taking away time and space for creative play and connection? Are the decorations we put up an essential part of celebrating or are they adding pressure and distraction from the true meanings of festivals?
Mid-Autumn Festival Brings Pollution Problems
Early next month brings us the Mid-Autumn festival in Hong Kong. For many of us that means buying glow sticks and low quality battery operated and plastic lanterns for our kids to play with for a few minutes often on a beach. Environmental groups such as Plastic Free Seas and DB Green have already planned beach clean ups for the following morning to try to save some of the discarded toxic unrecyclable glow sticks, single use lanterns and candles from going into the ocean. The glow sticks saved from poisoning marine life will be buried in landfill where toxic chemicals will leak out and contaminate our soils.
Do we need to generate all this waste during a festival created around the marking of a season of nature and the admiration of one of the earth’s oldest natural wonders: the viewing of the full moon?
Create & Innovate for a Happy Lantern Festival!
Of course we all want to have fun, and yes, that’s important! So how about challenging ourselves and our kids to innovate and see what we can come up with for fun and laughter without adding more toxins to our air, seas and bodies? Perhaps we’ll be inspired to create our own lanterns? Or kids may want to whizz out their light sabers or re-engineer their flashlights? Chances are kids will have far more and wilder ideas. Or if we have to buy, how about investing in quality reusable cloth or paper lanterns or LED lights? Yes of course we will all enjoy sharing some food…but how many mooncakes and how much packaging do we need for a happy evening?
This year may we enjoy the Lantern festival with friends and family, celebrating the passing of seasons without adding to the pollution in our air and water.