The Normalization of Environmental Pollution

On a recent trip to Móng Cái in northern Viet Nam on the Chinese border, I had the chance to spend some time at a nearby beach. Above and below are photos of some of the items that were either left there by tourists or that washed up, e.g., country of origin, China, which you can see off in the distance.

I felt sad seeing this total disregard of our natural world and knowing that most, if not all, of the people there viewed it as normal. I can only imagine what the water quality was like, probably akin to swimming in a sewer. This is a difference between local (Vietnamese) and foreign tourists. Most of the latter do not view a beach strewn with garbage and polluted water as normal or desirable.

If Viet Nam doesn’t deal with this national crisis, the number of tourists will decrease in an industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and contributes a sizable percentage to the country’s GDP.

Later that day, at another location, a man threw an ice cream wrapper on the ground even though there was a trash can a couple of meters away. Incensed, I walked over, picked it up, calmly but firmly said, “Don’t be lazy,” and put it in the nearby trash can. He and millions of people like him are the reason why there is garbage everywhere in Viet Nam.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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