Bad habits travel far
Posted on March 30, 2011
Category: Sheree Marris
Last week I returned to Vanuatu to finish filming the final scenes for a marine conservation DVD that I am working on with the youth on a small island called Pele.
Like Victoria, litter is of a major concern in Vanuatu especially given that a majority of the income derived in the region comes from tourists wanting to see pristine coral reefs, not beaches littered with rubbish.
Villagers have been guilty of throwing waste such as banana leaves and other forms of litter into the sea, but they are not responsible for the majority of the litter found washed up on their shores.
Most has travelled thousands of kilometres along the ocean currents from places like Australia, New Zealand and America. Who would have thought the mindless actions of some could have far reaching impacts?
A recent United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) assessment of the Pacific region highlighted that rubbish is fast approaching climate change as a key threat to the future of small island states.
An additional problem is that waste disposal on these islands isn’t easy, and in the case of Pele it is non-existent.
For Pele this means the only methods of disposing of rubbish is by burning it, causing toxic chemicals to be spewed into the atmosphere. As such, the youth on the island have realised it is up to them to make changes to help protect the fragile coastline and marine environments on which their livelihood depends.
Young people are educating their local villages on the need to reduce waste and litter ending up in the ocean. To illustrate the magnitude of the problem we organised a ‘Too Lovely Too Litter’ style clean up event with a backdrop of turquoise waters dotted with coral reefs and creamy white sands.
That small activity has started to create a new level of awareness, highlighting the scale of the problem, what the local villages can do and the potential impacts that litter can have on the livelihoods of these smaller and remote communities if they fail to act.
The Too Lovely to Litter campaign has now gone global, demonstrating the need and appeal of this exciting project. Can we build on this to make a more formal partnership to our sister nations in the Pacific and how can we help each other and share successes and resources? Where to next and how do we make sure that the message ‘Too Lovely Too Litter’ remains in the hearts and minds of people all around the world for a sustained period of time?
Please, keep supporting the Victoria’s Coast Too Lovely To Litter campaign.