The majority of the second half of my month in Cambodia was spent on the small island of Koh Rong Sanloem. The island is an interesting place. Only recently populated, most of the island interior is still forested, and most of the coastline is untamed.
The village we stayed in – M’Pai Bay fishing village – is mostly made up of hostels and bars, primarily staffed by volunteer backpackers. The island is extremely welcoming. Everyone seems to know and get along with everyone else; unsurprising, in such a small community. The beach is dotted with bars and places to eat; as you sit with a beer watching the sunset over the ocean, it’s easy to understand why people would want to stay.
Unfortunately for me, my time on the island was not all given over to leisure. We had travelled to Koh Rong Sanloem to partake in some beach conservation work, in association with one of the local dive centres. Most of our work was fairly simple, but extremely satisfying.
We did a number of beach cleans – the amount of rubbish that can be picked up from simply walking up and down the beach is astonishing.
The majority of the trash we collected was plastic; bottles, bags, polystyrene. The rest was debris from the local fishing industry. On several occasions, we had to dig out full plastic bags full of rubbish which were half buried in the sand by the tide. At other times we had to untangle old fishing nets which had washed up and ensnared the roots of mangrove trees.
Yes, plastics are a problem. Yes, many corporations and governments still refuse to address the issue. But there are many individuals and charities still fighting to save our beautiful planet. And there is a lot that we as individuals can do as well!
By supporting an environmentally friendly lifestyle in addition to lobbying for our politicians to take climate change seriously, we can help to keep the Earth healthy for the next generation, and for generations after that.