Literally.  Everywhere.

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.

Lagoon side on Tarawa - looks are deceiving!

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.

Rubbish on the ocean side of Tarawa

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.

Sign in Bairiki

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.

Edge of a primary school ground on Tarawa

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.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Jacob says:

    You can never talk too much about poo. I think the sign is a good one because it shows that if you don’t litter you get to wear a shirt.

  2. Also, if you stop scratching your bum the pigs miraculously somehow get in the pen. 🙂

  3. Kevin says:

    Rubbish is definitely a huge health, environmental, and tourism problem in Kiribati, but even if people started recycling and using trash bins, where would the goods go? Is it economically feasible to ship the waste elsewhere?

  4. I agree. The biggest problem is actually getting rid of the waste and it’s not economically feasible to ship the general rubbish elsewhere. I think (and someone can dispute me on this) the problem got worse in the late 80’s when more cars and tinned goods or food in plastic packaging started to arrive in large amounts. Recycling does need to be promoted more and the island needs to start thinking of ways to reduce this waste, especially ways for the island to reduce it’s dependancy on fuel. Generally speaking there is usually one wrecked, rusted out, broken down car for at least every fifth household on Tarawa. There is also a horrendous amount of shipping containers piled up in the towns (especially Betio) which people are living in between. I do think it is feasible to get rid of the containers eventually. Supplies arrive on the island but I think they are the wrong supplies (i.e. packets of Twisties, disposable diapers) and the containers that bring them in are hardly ever taken off the island. I know it’s a big change to make and it’s a long process and I’m not too sure how it would effect Kiribati’s relationship with China and Taiwan since they provide most of it. To be honest I don’t even think Kiribati are prepared to stop these imports for their environment at the risk of losing support from both. Thoughts?

  5. Dennis Pack says:

    Rubbish … when you look at it, you realise it is all stuff (crap!) that has been shipped here by greedy businessmen out to make a buck … with no concern what-so-ever for what the stuff does to the people and the environment. Not only has rubbish accumulated, teeth have rotted, diabetes has increased, as well as many of the other maladies associated with western “food”.
    My solution … put the rubbish back in the containers that brought it here, and ship it back to where it came from! And charge fees to those that ship the crap here that cover the expense of shipping their wastes back. Charge additional fees for educating the people … or, better yet … ban the crap!
    For thousands of years, I-Kiribati had no such thing as wastes. What wasn’t able to be eaten by humans was food for pigs, chickens, and crabs … any thing else left over was already part of the environment. On the outer islands there is very little rubbish, except what was left by OTHER countries fighting wars on Kiribati soil … and not cleaning up after … Why should a country with very few resources have to clean up a mess left by other warring nations?
    I did talk with a local today who is organising scout groups that will focus on cleaning up their immediate neighbourhoods … he has my name and number, and I’ll be there to help when I can.
    Some times I quite embarrassed/ashamed to be an I-Matang.

  6. source says:

    I had been wondering if you ever thought of switching the page layout of your blog? It is very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could create a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two graphics. Maybe you could space it out better?

    1. Hi,
      Thanks for the feedback! The reason I haven’t written for while is because I’m working on a whole new layout. I won’t be changing previous posts but this whole site needs to be updated. Please keep checking in!


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