Many years ago an intrepid adventurer called Thor Heyerdhal mounted an amazing expedition to cross the pacific on a raft called the “Kon-Tiki” to prove that people from South America, Peru in this instance, could have crossed the thousands of miles of ocean on rafts made with the basic technology of the time. He made it in 101 days or thereabouts. What he recorded then and reemphasised on his second expedition across the Atlantic on “ Ra” was that at no point on the oceans surface, even a thousand miles from land is free from waste.


What a sad story that is: that we care so little, have so little education and so little discipline that we simply move our non-biodegradable garbage from land , where we can see it, to the sea where we can’t. Well now we can, it gets thrown up in piles on the beaches, it tangles our toes when we swim, it suffocates the fish when they can’t see the transparent plastic bags, it strangles dolphins in discarded ropes and wires. It is a tragedy, a disaster, a sin that mankind has committed on the earth.

This isn’t the first generation that has had to deal with pollution, after the Industrial revolution in Western Europe, the cities were deluged with waste , rendering even the British Houses of Parliament unfit for occupation due to the horrible smell from the river Thames which flows by its stately walls. But they cleaned up their act , cleared the skies from smoke , and rivers from sewage , and across Europe there are stringent, strict, enforced laws on the disposal and collection of garbage , with major amounts being recycled .

Not so here. There is a serious consequence to the booming consumer society, with food packaging being everywhere and almost impossible to dispose of, with plastic bags, bottles and containers part of the way of life, and the technology of disposal still medieval. We throw garbage into rivers, into bays, into the sea, then expect the sea to dispose of it. It doesn’t.

We love the coastline, we love to walk at dawn and dusk, we love to paddle and to play. Now we must learn to love. To dispose, to pick up not throw, to shout at people who do. To support the great organisations that help: Bye Bye Plastic Bags, the Coca-Cola/Quicksilver Beach Clean Up, The Coral Reef Foundation, Waterman’s Week by the ROLE Foundation. Watch out for them and support or Thor will return and strike you with his hammer.

Alistair Speirs.


You may also like Life on Bali’s Coasts, a photographic essay. 

Alistair G. Speirs

Alistair G. Speirs

Alistair G Speirs, OBE, is the Publisher of NOW! Magazines. He has been in the publishing, advertising and PR business for the last 25 years. He started both NOW! Bali and NOW! Jakarta as each region's preferred community magazine.