This week, we are watching the latest shit show.
Last week, I promised myself a 1-month break from my weekly essay.
Only a few days ago, I was sharing with friends just how grateful I am for our clean beach this summer. I even managed to get myself down the hill and enjoy some time relaxing in the sea last week. I fed my habit of collecting nurdles on the beach from the container spill 10 years ago — the spill that birthed Plastic Free Seas, marking their anniversary with a beach cleanup already on the calendar.
It seemed we were in for a great beach summer of fun in the sun.
Sure, there’s been the usual variety of plastic shit washing up daily and being vigilantly scooped by cleaners so we can pretend the plastic disaster we are facing is not actually happening. Still, I was feeling pretty good about my decision to take a break and enjoy the sand for a change.
Then, early Sunday morning, a friend posted a picture from the beach in a local Facebook group asking about the peculiar white substance washing in on the tide. Questions were asked and before long, our Gary Stokes had uncovered the answers.
In a container ship collision last Thursday, 9,000 tons of palm oil spilled into the waters off the coast of China and no one seemed to see the importance of letting us know it was headed our way. I am still trying to get my head around that figure.
My social feeds began filling with pictures of people playing on beaches surrounded by big gobs of the goop. I wondered how we had become so desensitized to pollution that no one was questioning the hazards of these mystery blobs.
I read as people commented with relief that at least it’s edible, joking that restaurants would be scooping it up for cooking. But it’s not. A quick search confirmed this is not the first palm oil spill and details of the damage caused by recent catastrophes are easy to find.
The oil absorbs the dumped chemicals from our careless, wasteful lifestyle before it hits the shore. It is highly toxic to children and dogs. Fish are eating and dying it. These poisons are being infused into our food chain. At 34 degrees, the perfect temperature, the palm oil melts when it hits the sand and drains down into the cooler layers where it hardens again, The shit is being absorbed into our environment and the hazard will become invisible.
The news report casually mentions that cargo ships collide regularly so I wonder what other shit is out there that this shit has absorbed by now.
While the beaches are getting most of our attention, I wondered about the impact on the rest of our coastlines and surrounding waters. I wondered whether we would have heard about it if it hadn’t reached shores on a summer weekend. I wondered why no one had been warned just how toxic it is until late afternoon when red flags were finally hoisted and the beaches began to be closed. I wonder why nearly a week has passed since the spill and there has been no mention in any of our 24-hour news channels.
Today, volunteers are out in force trying to shovel as much shit from the sand as they can while the full moon tides wash more of it in. It is expected to reach our shores at full volume this weekend. As it rots in the heat, coastlines become rancid. Dead fish are already washing ashore.
Palm oil is already high on our shit list and living around it is getting more difficult. You will find it among the ingredients on the labels of foods, cosmetics, personal care products, shampoo, candles, laundry detergent and household cleaning products. I have seen it on the label of natural handmade soap.
This latest shit show is another opportunity to take a good look at the environmental damage caused by the vast plantations converting diverse ecosystems into acre after acre of mono-culture, destroying everything in its path. Slash and burn farming methods cause the fires that regularly turn choke our skies with thick smoke. Entire species are at risk as their homes are destroyed.
Yes, I was going to take a rest.I promised myself and I gave you a heads-up last week. I had already switched off my computer for the night.
Each time we see another episode of the shit show, we can use the reminder to inform ourselves about palm oil and plastic pollution.
How will you use the power of 8:8:8 to raise your awareness?
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“It’s easy to talk big, but the important thing is whether or not you clean up the shit.” Haruki Murakami
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Events in our community this week
2 (7-9pm) Zero Waste Living | Mettā| details
12 (8am-1pm) Nature & Forest Therapy Guided Walk | Kembali | details
12 (9am-7pm) Food’s Future Summit | foodie | details
Join as a community member for access to event details — it’s free.
September 4 Best Practice in Sustainable Construction
September 4-9; 24-29 Hong Kong Young Leaders
September 14 Mindfulness in the City
November 17 AIDS Concern Gala Dinner
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