Green salvation, one bag at a time

Green salvation, one bag at a time

South America and Africa are on fire, the icecaps are melting and sea levels keep rising. Natural disasters have become more common on every continent and July 2019 was the hottest month on record globally. People are dying while thousands of animal and plant species are disappearing forever.

What else needs to be said or done to make those still in denial about climate change to see the reality we are living in? How are we going to explain to our children why we have destroyed the only livable planet we know?

Many people have been cheering the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg for calling attention to the crisis we face. Thousands followed her 15-day journey across the Atlantic aboard a zero-emissions yacht -- no fuel-guzzling airplanes for her -- to attend a UN climate summit in New York.

It was great publicity for the cause, but she could have died at sea, and then what? And not every green campaigner has zillionaire supporters with yachts. She could have made her point to the world from home in Sweden via video-conference. Still, I'm glad she reached her destination safely and I agree with what she said when she got there.

"Our war against nature must end," she said after arriving in New York last Wednesday. It was almost as good as the "our house is on fire" speech she gave earlier at the World Economic Forum in Davos. But even after that awe-inspiring speech in January, she still has to sail almost 5,000 kilometres across the Atlantic to keep up the good fight.

"I'm not that special," she said. "I can't convince everyone. I'm just going to do what I want to do and what will have the most impact. My message for [US President Donald Trump] is to listen to the science and he obviously doesn't do that."

The same goes for all the other deniers out there, I guess. But there's no point complaining about Mr Trump or waiting for his government or others to lead us to the green promised land. It's up to each and every one of us to do what we can to save our planet right now instead of arguing with these people. At least we would be able to tell our children, "I tried." I even dare to hope that we might one day say, "I did it, I helped saved the world".

Here in Thailand, the government has made a good start with its commitment to ban plastic-foam food packages and some other types of single-use plastic products by 2022. "The most important thing is to change people's habits," Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said ahead of International Plastic Bag Free Day on July 4.

Now, I rarely agree with what Gen Prayut has to say but in this case he hit the nail on the head. Thailand is one of the biggest plastic polluters in the world, and the government can pass laws and make rules, but if people don't change their habits, we won't see much difference.

Under Thailand's 2018-30 roadmap to reduce and then end the use of disposable plastics, 2022 will bring the end of plastic-foam packages and single-use plastic items, including lightweight plastic bags, straws and cups. This year the government started banning plastic cap seals, microbeads and oxo-degradable plastic bags. It has also set a deadline of 2022 for all plastic products and packages to be recycled.

What we must do now is keep up the public pressure so that this government will do everything it has set out to do. But changing our own habits is a must as well.

Using our own bags for shopping is a good start. We can also patronise businesses that are going green by eliminating plastic packaging and wrapping. Their competitors will start to notice and they too will start to green up. Together, we can hasten that change.

Some of the developments I have seen online include the use of banana leaves instead of plastics to wrap cakes (Rabbit Mafia Cake & Coffee in Rayong). A phad thai shop in Tita Chari Street in Phichit serves meals in bamboo threshing baskets. If you can't visit these shops, share the pictures to inspire others.

No gesture is too small, believe me. As Mother Teresa once said: "We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop."

Erich Parpart

Senior Reporter - Asia Focus

Senior Reporter - Asia Focus


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