Militancy for an Existential Cause: Environmental Protection in Vietnam

Photo taken at the Golf Valley lagoon, which drains into Xuan Huong Lake. Credit: Paul Olivier

Here’s my latest essay for CounterPunch. Check out the first two paragraphs and follow the preceding link if you wish to read the article in its entirety.

While most people use Facebook, the third most popular website in Vietnam, to post photos of themselves and their exploits, often depicting an idealized reality, there is an expat in Dalat in the Central Highlands who uses it for an entirely different, more meaningful, and less glamorous purpose.

He has posted thousands of photos of what he calls Dirty Dalat, liberally sprinkled with warnings about climate change, the use of pesticides and antibiotics in farm animals, and memes such as “Humans are true weapons of mass destruction,” which most of his posts confirm. The content is not fun, entertaining, or amusing; no hearts or laughing emojis. But it is important, real, and never ceases to appall those of us who are deeply concerned about these issues.

On a personal note, I’ve been to Dalat (Đà Lạt) many times. I love the scenery and the climate. It pains me to see the countless examples of human disregard for nature. Xuan Huong Lake (Hồ Xuân Hương), the heart of the city, is beautiful from afar. Up close it smells like a sewer, dead fish, floating garbage, and all.

As Paul has documented and anyone who walks around the lake at night can see, men are busy catching fish, which they presumably sell at the market to unsuspecting customers. As with dioxin exposure, the effects of eating contaminated fish are long-term. Once people ingest this poison, the clock begins to tick. This is one reason why I eat very little fish in a country in which fish is an important part of the cuisine. It’s not an exaggeration when he refers to this lake as a cesspool filled with human waste and chemicals from agricultural runoff.

Here’s a December 2022 article that Paul wrote about these and other problems in Dalat: Beyond the hype, a dirty side of Da Lat.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

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