crime against the planet in a supermarket

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I shop for my grocery in a local supermarket, and it absolutely pisses me off when I see tourists (and expats) who hail from developed countries using plastic bags at check out. Where are your re-usable shopping bags which you use back home in your own countries? Too bulky to carry? Too inconvenient? You forgot to pack it?

Those are poor excuses when you can make a difference to the environment of the place you are visiting. You can promote the use of shopping bags and reduce waste. As far as I am concerned, the irresponsible use of plastic bags is an affront and an act of crime against our planet.

People from the ‘first world” should know better.

And it seems that tourists bring mess and destruction to the places they visit. The fact that the local people are messing up their environment is no excuse for the tourists to do it.

Sure, tourism contributes to the economy and create jobs, but at what price? Tourism, without proper planning and leadership, leads to environmental degradation. The local authorities of developing countries often do not regulate and legislate and it becomes a free for all. Even with legislations, they are often not enforced due to the usual corruption and incompetence.

Bali, Indonesia, like so many other enchanting, developing countries which are popular tourist destinations, is straining at its seams. I am trying not to look at the breaking point but it will come soon, if it hasn’t already, when the infrastructure (lack of) and the environment will not cope with the ever-increasing tourists influx.

The mentality of most locals and the tourism board is to grab and attract more tourists and businesses without due concern for the environment. Rampant unbridled development degrades coastlines, exhausts fresh water supplies, pollutes the environment, and sadly, turn the Island of the Gods, the ‘paradise’, to trash island. The tourists, ironically, by their presence, are transforming the landscape of this place from something they come here to appreciate and enjoy to one where the beaches, rivers, beaches, coral reefs, are choked with garbage.

Of course, there are eco-friendly tour businesses. They are so rare. I am talking about the real ones. Many with the eco-friendly label are just trying to assuage their own guilt, and the guilt of their customers, or worse, to deceive, by performing lip-service and green-washing. People are often short-sighted creatures unable to see beyond the benefits of making your business green since it is often more costly to start with and logistically less convenient.

At the moment, the southern districts ( where hotels and resorts are concentrated) are having water supply problems. Water pipelines are built to channel water from the north central Bali to the south. Water used to irrigate farmlands are dwindling because of this. To add to the depletion, water is also being bought by private companies for the bottled water industry. The demand of bottled water for domestic consumption is already high, not to mention the ever-increasing visitors. Many rivers in northern-central Bali have ceased to flow!

Tourism has its repercussion on the local folks. Balinese who previously have owned land or have lived in tourist areas are being driven off their ancestral lands by land-grabbers and the inflation of living costs targeted at tourists and expats.

And the paradox is almost everyone owns an iphone, and yet, struggles to have homes with proper sewage and garbage disposal facilities. Local people clamor for western goods, as they move away from their traditional way of living. They become perpetually caught in the vicious cycle of being impoverished consumers of first world goods they can’t quite afford.

Tourists should be discerning and patronize environmentally responsible business practices. They can make a difference. And they have the responsibility to not worsen the environmental status of the countries they are visiting.

So, I digress from my shopping experience and plastic bags, but they are all symptoms of the same illness.

So when I see (overweight) tourists, towing their (very overweight) kids, slobbering on their ice-cream, faces smudged and dripping with chocolate fudge and vanilla, at the check-out counter in the supermarket, purchasing bottled waters, sodas, chips and other processed foods in plastic wrappings, using single-used plastic bags  – my rage meter goes way to the top , for various reasons, one of which was the consumption of one-use plastic bags and packaging. This apathy, or lack of awareness,  in these ‘educated’ first world people,  would rank as one of the worst criminal acts against the environment.

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