These are a sample of things I have legitimately collected from beaches on both sides of the world.
I don’t believe taking a small piece of dead coral from a beach has any detrimental effect on the environment. I say this, because I made a comment somewhere about how a tiny piece of sun-bleached coral had been confiscated at customs when I declared it. The argument was that tourists doing on islands like those in Vanuatu will effectively lead to whole beaches being depleted of sand, the cycle of sand-formation being damaged by such thoughtless people. Is there any evidence for this idea that a few tourists can disrupt the cycle of sand-creation (which takes place over vast periods of time) I wonder? What is the research in peer-reviewed journals on this – how on earth would you even begin to prove such a hypothesis? We live in an age where what people believe is often stated as being in some way factual.
Nope, customs don’t allow these sorts of things in because they are worried about the beaches of Vanuatu. There is a list of things that are not allowed past customs, and coral is one of them. The customs guy agreed that as it was dead coral from the beach, it shouldn’t be an issue, but because I declared it, and coral is a protected species, even though it was not a living organism at the time I found it, it still could not come in. That is why it was taken away, and I was not fined. Had it been live coral, I would have been. Shells are not allowed because the country is extremely protective of its own flora and fauna, and shells have the potential to contaminate shellfish in national waters, which is a big industry here.
The biggest threat would not be tourists carting the odd shell or bit of coral away with them, it would be the death of the coral reefs themselves, which has little to do with tourists, but the fishing industry – particularly Japan’s, but also other trawling fleets operating out of Asia. Compared to the damage done by that, the little tourists might take is going to be negligible. This sounds more like anti-tourist snobbery to me, which is not unusual amongst ex-pats living in countries frequented by tourists. When I had to spend a lot of time in Spain, I avoided British holiday-makers like the plague, and here I tend to avoid any visiting Poms I might come across, if I can.
The ecology is damaged in the Pacific, just like everywhere else, despite what the glossy brochures might try and sell you, and regardless of any band-aids people might try and put on it. The water might look clear, and the fish amazing while snorkeling, but the radio-activity from experiments starting in the 1940’s, and the disaster in Japan last year all has a toll – it all had to go somewhere; then there’s trawling, off-shore drilling, etc. Anything individuals might do, like pick a piece of coral on the beach, is going to be pretty insignificant compared to that stuff. What we used to sometimes do in the UK, given that a FAR BIGGER PROBLEM IS PEOPLE’S RUBBISH is take plastic bags with us, and collect up the crap other people leave behind. That is a positive way of doing something constructive about a REAL PROBLEM.
If theories about global warming and rising sea-levels are to be believed, it is academic anyway, because in a few years, the beach won’t be there anyway, it will be underwater. The projected rate of increase in ownership of computers, internet access, and related technology over the next decade suggests that countries will need to double the number of power stations they have now in order to feed the demand for server-farms, ISP’s, as well as domestic computing. That power has to come from somewhere, and although countries like Norway and NZ with small populations and huge national resources can tap green energy, we still have coal-fired power stations, as it is not enough. An over-populated country like the UK, with fewer such resources, no chance – same for those countries that are developing technical economies. The only realistic way to provide enough energy is burning stuff, and/or atomic energy.
So, the only way to help the environment realistically is to stop talking about how to do it on-line, log-out, and keep the laptop/PC/smart-phone turned off. But, I’m not holding my breath waiting for the stampede of environmentalists going off-line.
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