Historically, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the environmental movement of 1970. This was an important catalyst that increased public awareness and understanding of environmental issues which were previously unreported and thus widely underrated and unknown. It is a day to recognise the single planet we share as earthlings with all animals, all life forms and all ecosystems. This is our planet, and as sentient, conscious beings, it is our responsibility to protect it from ourselves for the good of all its inhabitants. Unfortunately, it is clear that due to human activity, human industry, human populations, human emissions, and human society, our planet is in decay. There is an overwhelming amount of undisputable research showcasing the negative effect humans are having on our planet to a point where these changes are thought to be irreversible. The importance of Earth Day is not only to recognise, reduce, and reverse these impacts; but to also come together as a community to work as one for a singular cause that benefits our home, our Earth.
As a small island we have a very close community on Koh Tao, and being a semi-isolated island we can reasonably control and manage the impact we have whilst living and diving here. That being said, there still ends up being a lot of trash disposed of irresponsibly on the island allowing it to carelessly scatter and pollute our paradise both on land and at sea. In addition to other trash and waste that washes in from other areas, there is a constant need to organise clean-ups such as beach clean-ups, street clean-ups, snorkel clean-ups, and dives against debris. Therefore, with a bit of thought, and a lot of planning, it was the initiative of our very own Master Divers manager Elaine, and Matt from Crystal Dive, that lead to the huge event of Earth Day 2016.
Over 25 dive centres and 300 divers and environmental enthusiasts joined together on Earth Day for an island wide clean-up of unprecedented proportion. A land based clean up started at 9am in 7 different areas targeting any plastic, glass, metal, trash, or any other man made waste that littered the beaches, streets and local landscape. An unbelievable amount, suspected of being over 2 tons of was collected in only 2 hours. That’s the same weight as a male Great White Shark! A build-up of trash can quickly overwhelm a fragile ecosystem to the brink of destruction, and therefore it is so important to remove trash from our environment before it causes danger or damage to local wildlife through ingestion, entanglement and pollution.
As the sun rose to its midday peak, divers and snorkelers encircled the island to conduct an underwater clean-up at over 30 dive sites collecting 1,254 in only 2 dives! Ocean debris has a huge impact on marine life and coral reefs both locally and globally, and so the removal of over ton is amazing and prevents further damage to marine species and their vulnerable habitat. Ocean debris, specifically plastics, kill over 100,000 marine creatures and 1,000,000 sea birds every year. Plastics also break down into smaller micro-plastics that are ingested by fish, causing not only harm to singular fish but a toxic accumulation to build up in the food chain. This poisons the food source for many predatory fish like sharks, and additionally poisons the very fish we catch and eat ourselves.
Not only was this Earth Day event about cleaning up Koh Tao and raising environmental awareness, it was also about coming together as a community to support one of our friends, Chad Scott. Chad has spent the best part of the last decade on Koh Tao working with the environmental organisations Save Koh Tao to do exactly that, save Koh Tao! We love this island, however our daily life here and our daily diving do have a visible effect on our environment. Chad has been working tirelessly to reduce this effect, educate others on environmentally friendly habits and has succeeded in setting up independent projects, such as artificial reefs, to increase the marine diversity and sustainability of the island. Devastatingly, Chad has recently been diagnosed with Leukaemia. This event was not only to raise money towards his treatment, but to show the love and friendship to him from the whole of our island community.
So after all the hard work in the heat of the day, it was time to have a well deserved Earth Day after party and fundraiser! Over 600 people turned up to support Chad and to celebrate the day’s achievements giving the party an incredible community vibe. Food stalls were set up to feed the masses serving delicious traditional Thai food, burgers, hot dogs, vegan burgers and incredible amazeballs of all flavours, with all proceeds going to Chad. Entertainment was provided by staff and volunteers from Master Divers, New Heaven dive school and Big Blue who all set up creative game stalls to raise money with the chance of winning prizes donated from Project AWARE and various dive schools. Further money was raised as Heidi, and our local PADI Managers Gio, Neil, and Tim all bravely shaved their heads to draw in generous donations! The night could not be concluded until the renowned raffle was drawn, giving ticket holders the chance to win huge prize bundles including: luxury accommodation, scuba equipment, restaurant vouchers, bar tabs, diving trips, clothing vouchers, and even course fees and PADI membership fees!
This was the largest community event and fundraiser of the past year, and in total raised over 730,000 THB for Chad’s medical treatment. Incredible! Earth Day could not have been celebrated better than by cleaning up our beloved and beautiful island as one community, whilst also supporting a friend who has done so much for us and Koh Tao as a whole. We hope this love, respect, and environmental awareness and motivation remains at the heart of all who live here into the future, and we look forward to planning our next event!
A final thank you to the dedicated Earth Day organisers Elaine Brett, Matt Bolton, Jennifer and Simon Dowling, Steve Williams, Natalie Hunt, Natalie Alderton, Rachel Linarts, Kirstie Magson, and Guillaume Fargues, the event could not have run without you! We wish Chad all the best in his recovery, and look forward to his return to Koh Tao in the future.
[Pictures by Mac8Media]