2016, washed ashore a remote island off the coast of Mexico. Secret and partially protected it was a spot of paradise the soul longs for. An under crowed yet daily changing island that will be completely different within five years. Already so much has changed in the past four years so it’s community members tell me. More people have come and even more as the travel trail whispers spread. I hope the population limit is somewhat controlled and people are conscious about their foot prints they bring and leave here. Environment education is key in small remote communities.
The trash is typical here. No structured systems in place to cope with it on the island or getting off. Both the island and it’s wild life are under threat, not just from the tourists but from the corporates also. In Early 2017 a fire found to be started intentionally, spread across acres of untouched mangrove. Conveniently where some fat cat pockets want to build gross and destructive all inclusive tourism resorts. With some locals welcoming the prospect of gain a few extra hundred pesos a month, they will loose what wealth they may not see yet. It costs a lot to transport the waste off of the island and no one seems to make much progression in dealing with except from burning it all 24/7. They burn everything, everything. Some of it is dived at the trash site and a few hotels do try to separate it to some degree, but the piles just continue to grow.
It was my first week, I had walked the beach numerous times seeing bits of trash rolling and floating, it wasn’t even high season. Sure you pick up what you can but at first it was never ending. I spoke with the owners of a hostel I was volunteering at and they gave the go ahead to use some of our time to rally a beach and street clean up with staff guest and anyone else on the island willing to join in. We started close to hostel and spread over time, actually I remember the first time we ever did it we collected 27 sack of trash. We went on clearing school fields and local soccer pitches locals would use as a hang out littering the area with their bottle tops and more even though there were bins provided less than five metres away.
At first people would laugh at us, point, stare. Weeks later we were applauded, offered food, drink and verbal thank you’s. For me the nicest thing would of been to join us but I have been told I have high expectations of the human race. Three weeks in and not a native local had joined, It was up to us nomadic locals to make the change. By the end of my six months things had changed slightly. Maybe not enough for my liking but it was a start.
There was however some hope. Their was a local food and juice bar which had made an incentive for people to raise awareness and help clean up the problem of cigarette butts. For every 2 litres you would get $50 pesos of anything on their menu. This was really fantastic for some local children because they don’t have much money, it’s the honest truth so it was a treat and there was plenty to be picked up. Of course I had to support it so I did it too. It was a great treat to have one of their awesome smoothies and I was so happy that what we had started was starting to be noticed. After the juice bar the two local cell phone shop started to offer free charges or something similar to those who would take bottles of the butts their too.
When you go to these places of paradise think about the impact you have, how much waste you contribute too, impact on the marine and wildlife and also the local humans. Be conscious about what products you use, especially shampoos, gels and sunscreens. They all end up in the ocean.