Though the French Polynesian fairytale is still ripe and glittering, modern ways of life are visually taking their toll here. I get the feeling that people think they are so far away from everything here in the middle of the vast Pacific ocean, that environmental problems will affect them. But imported goods flood in everyday. People stare at their cell phones and drive big cars and enjoy flashy new gear just like everywhere else in the world. Recycling programs have failed from the outer islands, as shipping recyclable goods back to Tahiti is too expensive. In the wave of the green revolution, they are a bit behind the modern world’s recent rush yet further advanced than what I saw in Kiribati, where the concept of non-biodegradable trash, itself, was absolutely foreign. People there would pick up every leaf and natural debris in their yard–not a scrap of coconut husk or flower petal anywhere–while cans and plastic wrappers lay strewn about and along the sides of the road. The new debris wasn’t part of old traditions; they weren’t yet sure how to categorize or deal with it. Here in French Polynesia, no one leaves trash in their own yards, but kids throw candy wrappers right where they’re standing and some people leave their trash on the side of the road after a picnic or throw it out of car windows. The reef too, shows signs of human impact. Only in the infancy of modernization, Kiribati’s pristine reefs and large fish populations seemed told a story of shorter impact of modern human life, while the Society Islands’ reefs in comparison due to tourism, a greater population, and more modern ways of fishing, show greater effects of pollution, development, and overfishing.
On my way to surf I stop and collect plastic bottles and bags in the lagoon. I’ve noticed a few others doing the same. Soon people will catch on, like they are little by little, all around the world”¦It seems that both locally and globally, humans must tip the scales until the results of our actions are drastic enough for our short-term minds to grasp. When our survival or comfort demands it, we will have the attention of the world’s most intelligent brains and cooperation of the masses. The results of the Presidential election seem to echo a call for change. I haven’t come across a single person here (me included) who isn’t thrilled by the election results. (It’s amazing how closely the rest of the world follows U.S. politics, while most Americans would probably have trouble naming any another foreign country leader!) Although in the years before I sailed away, I felt “like a prisoner calmly preparing to jump off a train that was on the wrong track” (a quote from Thor Heyerdahl), I’m now more hopeful that we will soon focus the human genius on finding ways to live sustainably and get back on the RIGHT track. Obama’s election makes me think that in future I will answer more proudly when people ask me, “D’ou es tu?”.