On my Asian trip (Thailand, Cambodia, Laos) I was shocked about all the trash and the consumption culture. I saw some extreme rubbish! Here are some dirty facts:
1. I literally hiked on trash
Now I know that Thailand seems clean compared to Cambodia, but even there I started my trip literally climbing on shit. I accidentally took the wrong route on the monk’s trail, which I was hiking in Chiang Mai and that was a huge mistake. That revealed a whole wall of tires, sofas, trash, cans and bottles, shoes, everything. And those being on a steep hill meant I was climbing on them to get to my goal. For a second, I was afraid of some dirty needles or whatever. I survived with scratches.
2. I kept holding my breath – air pollution is Scary
Many people in Asia have one extra piece of outfit that they wear – a respirator. At all the places with traffic, the air is disgusting. If you don’t have to suffer from that, just imagine the pollen season and your mucous membrane covered with impurity. Even in the countryside the air was quite rough. I should have picked and bought one of those trendy masks with different colours, prints, and patterns. Instead, I covered my nose/mouth with my hand at the worst spots. If you sometimes have thought those Asians wearing masks at the airports look silly, I was stupid this time not wearing it.
3. There is a huge disposable culture, careless attitude and no recycling
It doesn’t matter if people throw the trash on the floor or in nature (land or water). The common attitude is: I don’t give a shit. If I go and start cleaning the yards, they think I’m crazy. Everywhere in Cambodia, the beautiful green nature is covered with trash. They can’t see the difference because they don’t see the trash anymore. The biggest problem making the situation worse is that the disposable cup culture is so strong – and of course without recycling.
In the village school, I held a lesson about littering and was hoping to educate at least a bit, but I’m afraid the kids have learned the bad habit so strictly from their parents that it demands half a miracle that they start cleaning after them.
4. Everything is covered in plastic
Plastic is The Thing in Asia. You can already see it from the rubber guys that welcome you in every corner in Chiang Mai! Besides this, the most shocking thing is how much plastic is forming every day. I thought Europe is bad, but no I pull my words back. Yeah yeah, it’s hygienic but at the same time unfortunate that for example the straws are inside plastic (and that there exist straws in general), there are plastic seals in the water bottles, and everywhere they push even the tiniest useless plastic bags to you.
5. Burning the fields and trash happens all the time
There are two serious harms: the burning seasons of the fields when the farmers prepare the land for the next season and the widespread burning of trash. They even burn the bottles and all the hard plastic that release the poisonous toxics in the air. People are unaware. In the countryside of Cambodia people haven’t heard about the global warming or the climate change. They can’t possible think how the trash burning is affecting us. The most shocking is that the government doesn’t care and is not providing a solution to this enormous problem and the waste disposal.
6. I got annoyed about the airplanes
The very first thing that shocked me on my Asian trip were the planes that were landing and taking off just all the time in Chiang Mai. I couldn’t help thinking how many of those flights were actually full. I’m an airplane traveller myself and can’t say I’m an angel, but I‘m seriously thinking the flights should leave based on demand.
– – –
All in all, what is the solution here? How could the developed countries help the undeveloped ones to understand the current state of the warming world and support them building their disposal? It’s an unavoidable question – because Asia and similar companions can’t get their shit together alone. Any ideas? Let’s start thinking about this now and not any later.