Most of Kiribati looks like paradise on earth with its aqua lagoons and coconut trees, unfortunately on Tarawa there is rubbish on so many of the beaches. I’ve spoken about it in a previous post but the pollution on Tarawa is so in your face that I feel the need to yap on about it again.
An old family friend recently made the comment that before Kiribati starts to play the sympathy card to the rest of the world it needs to take responsibility for its on contribution to the country’s environmental problems. People throw empty coke cans out the window, people empty their rubbish on the beach and the big yuck factor is that the majority of the people use the ocean as their toilet.
Two weeks ago I went for a swim in the sea at 5am. It was dark and the only light was from the moon. It was a Saturday morning and as I went stepped onto the beach I stepped in a big pile of poo. Human poo. On my foot. Now, I can deal with a lot. This year I’ve worked in high pressure media corporations where I’ve worked for 30 hours straight, I’ve travelled through Italy in a van with 3 boys for three weeks, I’ve ended up getting in the car with a man in a turban who spoke Japanese in the middle of the Sahara because I didn’t want to pay for a guided tour (yes, I know, idiot), I’ve gotten stranded in Cologne, I’ve waded through snow, hell I even managed to survive living in London when the royal wedding was on. On Kiribati I’ve dealt with pigs in the house, no toilet paper, lizards running over me while I slept, using one bar of soap to share between 8 of us plus using it to do the dishes and clean our clothes. You would think that stepping in human poo would be like water off a ducks back to me. But no. What did I do? I squealed like a 15 year old girl in the schoolyard getting a jam sandwich thrown at her by the hottest boy in the school. ‘Ewwwwwwwwww!!! Yuuuuuuucccck!!!!’. Very classy and mature (and no, I didn’t pash the perpetrator behind the bike sheds).
Stepping in shit. It’s never fun. It also makes me look like an idiot while I’m trying to gracefully dive into the water at dawn like I’m living paradise when really my whole foot has got human shit on it.
The rubbish on Kiribati is an urgent issue and in my opinion a more urgent issue than the rising tides. Most beaches are the same and the rubbish alongside the wharf in Betio is horrendous. With most things, I really do believe that education is the key. Don’t throw rubbish out the window of the car. Install more rubbish bins along the roads. Set an example. Fine perpetrators for christ sake and then use the money to try and fix the problem. Get a rubbish collection going in each town. Teach people how to recycle. I don’t know, I’m not the most qualified person to be coming up with solutions so I’m hoping that there is someone in the new parliament that sees Tarawa the way that visitors see it – a once beautiful atoll ruined by plastic, oil, shipping containers, rusted cars and human waste. I understand that it’s incredibly hard to change the perception that the ocean isn’t a toilet especially when access to fresh water is a problem.
Though, admittedly I did find this sign in the middle of Bairiki which is a main shopping town.
As much as I love Kiribati, people aren’t being educated enough on how to look after their home. I’ve seen the country decline over the years as the rubbish has accumulated and it’s incredibly frustrating.
However, on a slightly positive note Unicef have just done a survey of childrens perceptions and knowledge of climate change in third world countries in East Asia and Kiribati was one of the focused countries.
“Engaging children in adaptation and disaster reduction strategies will be critical to future success. Children have unique perspectives on their environment, which makes them a vital player in improving community capacity to address climate change risks,”
Here is the report.
Once again, lets see how this is goes when the new government has been finalised. Oh and presidential candidates will be announced this Friday. If I could make one small request? I’d love to be able to do a graceful dive into the pacific without wondering whether I’ve mistaken poo for shampoo.
And yes, you don’t need to tell me. I’ll stop talking about poo. Apologies.