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For hundreds of years the celebration of Christmas has encouraged a tradition of giving, the exchanging of gifts amongst friends and family. First signs in history of this seasonal activity were actually from a Bishop living in Turkey over a thousand years ago known as St Nicholas who would give gifts to the orphaned children and homeless that lived nearby. This then later led to the modern day tradition of which we now know as Father Christmas, other aliases included Santa Claus and the ancient St tree

The idea of giving for Christmas has created a multimillion dollar industry, where retailers can expect consumers to pay for the latest thing in hopes of making their loved ones happy. On average people spend approximately 700 dollars a year on gifts for family and friends. A country like America would be looking at over 500 billion dollars in retail sales during the Christmas period shopping

Now this shows that the people of the World are giving, but what affect do this vast generosity have on our planet.  To accommodate the influx in consumerisms manufacturers must meet the demand, with many items being mass produced, at large quantities. Using harmful methods to create items from materials that can have lasting effects on our environment.

Some of these items maybe treasured for years to come, however the reality of the situation is that over 28% of the gifts received are returned. Or the alternative being maybe worse where the latest action hero figurine made from long lasting plastic will be unpopular within a few months, and need to be replaced by a new one to keep up with the trends.ToyBoxChristmas

Retailers and the media have over the years made it difficult to not need or want the latest products on the market. Consumers led to believe they need to own an item, even if the one they had before was ideal for the job. Reality being that we live in an age where many products are designed not to last, so each year you feel you need the new iPhone with the not so latest upgrade.

So on top of purchasing many products that you probably never needed or that only gave you joy for a few months. The event of Christmas leads to so many other wasteful products, whether that be the endless amounts of wrapping paper thrown out after the presents are revealed, or the festive decorations that fall apart after a couple of seasons. 

108 Million Roles of wrapping paper and almost 200 million batteries, get disposed of during the Christmas period and end up in landfills.  So this season of giving does result in a high level of waste, and despite the act of giving being a selfless act. The impact it has on the environment is very much a selfish act by waste

However it doesn’t always need to be so, as over recent years a lot have become more conscious of the waste created and started using alternatives to the necessary things needed for the festive season. For example using plain paper wrapping, which can be easily recycled, instead of the colourful foil covered non-recyclable traditional wrap, and more people are trying rechargeable batteries, which have a longer life span than the alkaline commercial wrapping ideas

Along with being more consumer conscious and purchasing sustainable products instead of short lived items, and even maybe looking at buying used items that still have all the great qualities of new ones. The options are out there to make an impact over Christmas, although maybe changing the lives of others as St Nicholas did but in a more positive way. By reducing what is thrown away we save the lives of many on the planet, directly or indirectly.

Christmas a time for giving…………………………..

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Imagine your whole reputation depicted by one famous movie. After millions of years swimming on this planet, evolving in to a smart and gifted organism.  But then shamed for the image created during one movie scene.

It is known for being one of the best suspense filled movies of all time, however with its success came great cost. When asked if sharks are dangerous most would say YES!

But why I ask myself, after having the opportunity to swim with sharks, some of which known for their aggressive behavior. I felt that the label of killer is a little vague. After all a toaster could be dangerous or even a cow.  In fact you are 24 times more likely to be bitten by another human on the New York subway than by any shark in the ocean.swimming with sharks

Yes they have big teeth and, they are master predators, add this to the fact some species can grow quite big. However despite what has been emphasized in movies, humans aren’t really the best choice of snack for a shark. Our own feeding habits of processed commercially produced food make us a very non nutritional meal, for a growing predator.

Yes sharks have been known to attack humans, and over the decades people have lost their lives to these attacks. So let’s take a look at why if we have no nutritional value would a shark decide to eat a human.  Well let’s look at it this way, if you were hungry and you came across a burger, looked good and tasty amongst other similar looking burgers.  You wouldn’t hesitate to take a bite, to then only discover that, that one burger out of all the other beef burger was made from the neighbor’s cat.  Horrified by this and knowing eating cat isn’t as nutritional as the quarter pounder you normally eat, but it’s too late that hungry bite was a third of the burger.

Now go back to the issue sharks face most days, when they visit a place that should be abundant with the food they normally eat, is of short supply and then the issue of things that look like food and move amongst their food is adding to mix.  In this example you could associate yourself as the cat burger amongst all of the other burgers.

Trying to explain why something would attack you for no reason, and then come back with how it was an intelligent creature. Seems to contradict the fact, but as mentioned unless humans and sharks start to develop telepathic abilities, it would be difficult to not make those mistakes.

As statistics of sharks attacks globally show, they occur in the same areas and these areas are also renowned for being big fishing communities, or surfing communities, add on top of that they are normally areas with a large population of the shark’s natural prey.

Despite humans being known as the most intelligent organism on the planet we seem to lack empathy and understanding, with which we are not alone, and that for millions of years the planet has survived in a balance of realizing each organism plays a vital role on this life vessel. We all have jobs in maintaining the healthy function of this planet.

So asked if a species that is known for being a nasty devil like organism is actually vital to the planet, well you could put it down, to how important sharks are to the oceans. The reason we have life on Earth is down to many things, although one of the most crucial is the 70% water coverage we have on the planet.  Providing us with over 50% of the global oxygen, and absorbing excess heat, and unwanted gases. Life could not exist globally without the oceans, and so how do sharks help. Well it is not just the water that provides us with the things we need, but more so what lives within. Like any habitat it is filled with many life forms and all of which have a role. A food chain creates that circle of life, where populations are maintained, and balanced to insure life of all the organisms living within the habitat can prosper.

Now where do sharks stand in the oceans food chain, predators like sharks, are good at what they do. Most shark species will be at the top of their respective food chains, and being at the top has great responsibility.  Responsibilities include controlling population numbers of species below, eating diseased or injured animals, which would cripple their community.

With all this in mind, and the constant decline of shark populations attention is needed.  If shark were to disappear from our oceans, food chains would collapse resulting in the decline of all species within them. That would include even the microscopic organisms that provide us with such an abundance of oxygen.

The oceans should be considered as a whole, and the impact on one species can cause an effect on all, since the increase in human population many species have suffered. Sharks amongst those greatly affected by habitat decline and over fishing techniques.

Whether it be for their fins, their blood, or killed to make an area safe for humans, they are being brutally murdered globally.  Not only does this make no sense in maintaining a healthy ocean, but also consuming such an organism can come with great personal health risks.  Any apex predators in the oceans contain high toxic levels of mercury, which without being a doctor I can say it’s not good for you.

So coming back to the original topic, changing the image tainted for decades. Here at Big Blue Diving Koh Toa for the past 6 years we have like many dedicated an entire day to sharks.  Swim for sharks is not only a fundraising event but also an awareness raising on the worlds sharks.  Teaming up with charities, and inviting the local community to get involved, it is a busy day of swimming, partying and celebrating all things shark.swim for sharks 2018 70 x 70

Each year we print event T-shirts that can be sold, and then profits donated to the selected charities. This year we took the famous image from the movie originally mentioned and for once aimed to use its popularity for something that would help our sharks.  Changing people’s perception is always going to be a challenge, but knowing how important sharks are I feel it is a challenge we should all accept.

Here at Big Blue we work closely with local charities such as Koh Tao Whalesharks, and Shark Guardian, both of which are dedicated to educational awareness, and the monitoring of local shark populations. We were happy to announce that just like previous years the day was a success and we raised over 4,000 US dollar, along with the attendance of over 100 people on the day.Swim 4 sharks 2018 500x281

Concluding this article, I hope the points made were clear and that from what I have mentioned, anyone could make a personal conclusion on how they feel about sharks.  Education is the way forward, and I feel the ability to educate others could be our greatest gift. However a gift for good or bad, that is down to you.  For thousands of years people were told the world was flat, and that you could simply just fall off the edge. For 20 years you thought sharks were only here to kill humans, and by going swimming in the ocean, you could end up disembodied by a hungry shark.  Well now with a little more info I hope the perception of sharks will change. As I for one, I think, it’s a little unfair that sharks cannot sue Hollywood for the images created, like any celebrity could.

Thank you for reading

Earth Day 2018

Another successful community event, where tons of trash was removed from our seas and lands. An event that has been happening globally for over forty years, and here on Koh Tao we celebrated with the help of hundreds of volunteers.

 That helped to not only remove the unwanted trash from our sea and land, but also helped to categorize the trash. So we could gather a better understanding of what had been so easily discarded on to our beautiful planet Earth.

Using PADI’s Project aware Dive against debris format we were able to add our efforts to a global effort to create awareness about the amount of single use plastics we have entering our oceans every day. Items that cannot be recycled could massive problems for the survival of our oceans and the animals that live with it.

So once again that our awesome volunteers from all over the island for helping us on Earth day, and we look forward to next year.  

Koh Tao Waves goodbye to plastic.

Since its existence plastic has had mixed reactions, whether it be a lifesaving discovery or a burden on our environment.

The first ever plastic based synthetic Bakelite was created by Leo Hendrik Baekeland in 1907, made from phenol and formaldehyde.  However the discovery of materials such as plastics, were being used from as early as 1839 by Charles Goodyear who used rubber from the rubber tree, and also an apothecary from Berlin by the name of Edward Simon discovered polystyrene.

From using rubber the first ever plastics were made using very natural materials like Alexander Parkes who demonstrated during an exhibition in 1862 that Parkesine an organic material from cellulose could be heated and then hold its shape. Add then alcoholised camphor, in 1868 John Wesly Hyatt was able to make billiard balls without using ivory.

As the science progressed so did the plastics, its durability and strength was something that could be used for many applications. Despite starting its life constructed from natural sources, the advances in science meant the creation of unnatural manmade substances like the famous PVC polyvinyl chloride CH2=CHCLTypes of plastic symbols Credits iStock Thinkstockcom ID 25726818

By the 1960’s the popularity of plastics had increased, and by 1985 you could find plastic bags in over 75% of supermarkets instead of paper. Due to the lower manufactory costs, of making a plastic bag as opposed to a paper one.plastic bottles 500x281

So where do we stand now, on the brink of a plastic legacy. Most plastics would take from 450 to over a thousand years to decompose, due to their strong chemical structure.  And so with this knowledge many would try to eliminate the plastic waste by burning, and with such a low melting point the chemicals used in their creation would then be released in to the atmosphere. Poisoning entire communities, and having drastic effects on their health.

Burning PVC Plastic releases Dioxins, that are considered a carcinogenic, and hormone disruptor. A primary cause of Cancerous diseases, which give people the symptoms of cyanide poisoning.  Headaches, weakness, nausea, and shortness of breath.

So going back to the title of this piece I bring us back to the small island of Koh Tao in the southern gulf of Thailand. Approximately only 5km in length with a population of little over 1,500, it has a vibrant community of locals and tourists.

On a small island plastic pollution can be a big problem, efforts to recycle have fallen short and the local garbage site can be seen increasing daily due to throw away plastic. As an Asian culture that has a very much laid back easy lifestyle. The introduction of plastic came with a flourish and replaced a lot of very natural based materials. For example instead of wrapping in plastic, banana leaf was an easily accessible material that could be used to wrap almost everything.  Instead of a plastic cup, cups were made from bamboo shoots, something found abundantly across Thailand.straws 500x281

Before long the impact of single use plastic was seen across the island, the local bars would give a customer 5 plastic straw with every cocktail bucket. These plastic straws then fall from over flowed bins, on to the local beaches, then consumed by the ocean to spend their life at sea. Or end up consumed by marine life, which will then have a severe effect on their health.

So with a community in crisis, despite their frequent clean up attempts. Action needed to be taken, and so as a joint effort by local and Foreign residents. Solutions came forward, if we could not eliminate the objects made of plastic. Then we would find alternatives, so that those objects were no longer made from plastic.

Straws made from metal, paper or bamboo can now be seen at many of the bars and restaurant, many bars and residents now buy water that is refilled in glass or metal bottles, and finally the many shops that no longer give customers a plastic bag free, encouraging them to bring a long a reusable shopping bag.Straw alternarives 500x281

Although this is still far from a plastic free utopia, it can be seen as a start to change for the better. With some of the cleanest beaches in Asia, this small islands community has certainly made a great attempt at getting clean.  

 So as conclusion whether burned or left to decompose plastic is poisoning our planet, and so like our predecessors were named for their greatest discovery, like the stone or bronze age. This era of man could come to be known as the plastic age, and could well be the only thing left as our legacy.   It will be down to us to change, and from the success of this small island. It can be seen that it can work.

Thank you for reading

Rachel Linartssairee beach 1

Conservationist living on Koh Tao

New Year Revolutions

Over the past year many things have been accomplished and achievements have been made both locally and globally for conservation.

More people actively getting involved with survey work, joining in with beach and underwater clean ups, and the global awareness of plastic pollution.

So for the preservation of our beautiful planet it has been a year of change, however as with every New Year we look to the future and the newer achievements that can be made.Beach clean 500x244

So as for the title of this piece, Big Blue Conservation looks forward to a prospective future. Excelling on the great work done over the past year by our fantastic volunteers.

Removing tons of trash from our beaches and dive sites, helping out with a blossoming coral nursery, and working on materials that can educate others.

So we thank all our volunteers from 2017, and our resolution is to repeat and excel for the future of Koh Tao.