What Does Our Search For “The Beach” Really Cost?
One of the themes of this blog is wonder, especially the sense of wonder and awe at our amazing Creator, the amazing creation and the amazing people in the creation. I think that there is a longing within us all to experience places and people that fill our need to wonder. In developing countries ecological tourism or eco-tourism has been touted as an income earner that has minimal environmental consequences. In this blog, Joe Oh, who is interning with me this summer and recently returned from a semester in Thailand with the International Sustainable Development Studies Institute, shares his impressions of the environmental consequences that tourism has brought to one of the perfect beach locations in southern Thailand.
In a movie called, “The Beach”, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, an American college student named Richard, goes to Thailand with the intention of experiencing something radically different from his familiar life. One can relate to this, for many desire a great adventure, a paradise, escaping the mundane routine.
But at what cost, this perfect getaway…
Most would imagine that the only cost is their money. Enough money for traveling expenses, for renting a nice bungalow or a hotel—-and it’s “good to go.” But the reality is that there are so many more costs than mere money. In Thailand, by visiting different islands and talking to the natives in the Adang Archipelago, one of the biggest tourist attractions for exotic getaways—-I found out that people who come for vacations have changed the island. It is true that living in one of the hottest destinations for people who are looking for beautiful beaches and snorkeling among colorful coral reefs has been a huge income earner for the native islanders but it is slowly destroying their environment and their island.
One of the problems is that barges come into the island bringing in materials to build hotels, and are destroying the coral reefs in the process. The trash that is created by tourists is another huge issue—- it’s polluting the island and even getting into the ocean.
I am not saying that people should not have an amazing vacation at an exotic island, but we need to understand the true cost of things that we enjoy and understand how our actions affect the livelihood of others. Just because one is on vacation and just because one has “spent good money”— doesn’t mean that he or she can do whatever they want. The place one vacations in is a home to others; therefore, he or she should respect that home and not abuse the environment around it. People still believe in paradise, but it’s not some place one can look for. It’s not where one may go, but it’s how one feels for a moment in their life when they’re part of something. And when one finds that moment… it lasts forever. We are part of this world therefore we need to take care of it, for we are indeed stewards of God’s creation, earth.