On Easter Sunday, our family went to a World Heritage listed site for a swim and a picnic. On arriving, we found the area littered with empty bourbon cans, used diapers left in plastic bags, cardboard boxes and other miscellaneous rubbish aligning the babbling creek. There was a rubbish bin at the top of the flight of steps to get down to the waterway, so I gathered it all up and bunged it in the bin.
Which of course, got me thinking.
Littering like that is getting to be a rarity in Australia (thank fuck). Since the mid 1970’s, when the government instituted a massive campaign to Keep Australia Beautiful, the tendency to find random shit around has lessened considerably. It’s as ingrained into our national psyche as deeply as turning the tap off when brushing your teeth and watching out for speed cameras to report their locations to the local radio stations. So, finding that crap at the water-hole was disappointing to say the least.
A couple of years ago in Vietnam, we encountered a similar situation. We were visiting a waterfall on Phu Quoc Island, and noticed the locals sitting on rocks eating and drinking in the middle of the river…then chucking their cans, boxes of food etc straight into the waterway. Not just one family, but ALL of them. There seemed to be no regard whatsoever for the ‘natural beauty’ of the area, and that environmental impacts were just not part of the equation: Done with something, just dump it.
At another destination point on the island, we also encountered the dumped nappy bags, bottles and crap totally engulfing the area. What should have been a fairly pristine place was just a garbage tip.
Upon talking to a local person later that day, he told us that the emerging middle-class in Vietnam consider removing their own rubbish as ‘beneath’ them, that taking their crap and putting it in a provided bin was somehow demeaning. I sort of understood the concept, but couldn’t quite reconcile the notion of class privilege overriding the need to protect the environment, especially one that is nowadays quite dependent on the tourism industry. Many, MANY SE Asian countries are battling the rubbish problem, with single-use plastics contaminating waterways and land-areas, but it’s not only the tourists creating this problem.
It’s the local attitudes to littering as well. Surely they understand that excess rubbish is deterring tourism in those areas??
Anyway, back to my bogans at Crystal Cascades. Once I’d removed their rubbish, we managed to fit another family in to enjoy the falls, the wee fishes (Jungle Perch) swimming in the shallows, and the awesome ambience of being in the rainforest in the Wet Tropics. All I hope is that the reason they left their shit behind was that they had to leave in a hurry and were all stung by a nasty tree endemic to the area, or a stray crocodile chomped off one of their toes.