Hell in the Pacific?

‘Old war movie’ gurus may recognize the reference. While more is yet to come on the war relics that still refuse to dissolve into the jungle and out of sight, this highlights another issue that one might not expect to find in paradise.

Hell in the pacificOur third full day in Palau we found ourselves out again with Ron Leidich, biologist and founder of Planet Blue. We wanted an opportunity to continue planning the possible kayaking routes we could take after a week of diving. We were graciously given the time as we explored Blue Devil’s Beach (a.k.a Lee Marvin Beach – named after the 60’s Hollywood heart throb). In addition to getting a chance to snorkel, we helped clean the beach for the arrival of some guests traveling through the World Wildlife Fund for a week long guided expedition with Ron.

I pick up trash anywhere out of habit, beaches, even parking lots. I can’t leave it! Palau’s shoreline was no exception. Despite the remoteness, Palau isn’t immune to the traces of human activity even oceans away. The currents carry debris from any number of sources. We grabbed flip flops, nylon rope, plastic scraps and cans. I had held out hope that we wouldn’t see litter but, pollution knows no bounds. Plastics never disappear; they just breakdown into smaller pieces. While you didn’t have to look as hard as I would’ve hoped to find garbage, it felt encouraging being among Palauans who work hard to leave no trace and pick up the traces of others.

We noticed more recycling bins around Koror than I see in Boston, and the dive operations promoted the same ideas. For a relatively new independent country, Palau appeared to be on the right path with environmental and conservation efforts. A friend of ours told us about a family picnic day where they came across a beach positioned at the receiving end of currents carrying forgotten and poorly disposed of trash, maybe from ships, or other continents. 7 full garbage bags later and there was even more.

That litter blowing down the street always ends up someplace – even if you don’t know where.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvery lives in Boston, working for EPA New England as a Public Affairs Specialist, doing Superfund  Community Involvement. Currently Jeanethe is also working on web and social media outreach for EPA’s Office of Web Communications in Washington D.C.