Beach Clean Up and “VIS”

marinepollution #sustainability #keepoceansclean
It’s Sunday, November 1st, another lovely day on planet Earth. Kaya sent me info about the NextGen Wanli Beach clean-up and I decide spontaneously to join. In this age of instant connections, I am instantly connected and find my way to the Nanjin Fuxing MRT station, Exit 7, looking for Marcin (pronounced marchin’ – polish) with the rainbow bag who is our lead for this activity. He brings a team who is great at ushering us 13 volunteers to the bus that takes us for an hour+ long ride to the coast.

The streets of Gihou around the Fish Market are busy! This is a local food heaven and many people are trying to find a spot in the local restaurants and along the market tables. Choose your fresh live fish and seafood and have it killed and cooked right there, in front of you. Not for the timid, but those who like it fresh! Large family groups are sharing feasts. Oh, I want to join! But it’s only the start of our shift so we take 10 minutes to look around and grab a snack before we head to Guihou Beach on the other side of the Fish harbour.

Boy, is it ever a mess! So much styrofoam – large pieces, small pieces, tiny pieces and micro plastics mixed in with syringes, lighters, tar/oil balls, plastic straws, spoons, sticks, packaging, countless bottle caps, and so on… All of this of course mingling with natural coral, bamboo and wood bits, shells and rocks. We’re equipped with gloves, tongs and bags, but the tongs prove somewhat inadequate for the tiny pieces. Shovels and large strainers to get all the small bits would be more useful and I make this suggestion for next time! A moment of discouragement passes quickly – let’s just do what we can. Get creative. I use pieces of wood and bamboo to scrape styrofoam bits into heaps and gather these with my hands into the bag (after making sure there are no sharp bits like needles), leaving the coral and rocks on the beach. Yep, apparently there’s a bit of a drug problem in the fishing community… something not talked about openly. We fill many bags and carry up large items while locals stand above and take photos of us doing so. Hmm, curious to be the attraction… A few join, kids ask questions, and we’re hoping that we’ll inspire… community engagement is an aspect of NextGen’s work.

Who are NextGen? Here’s a snippet from their linkedIn page: A think-tank and policy incubator working to make Taiwan more sustainable, diverse, and inclusive. Marcin is a research fellow and our activity a ‘service learning project’. In total, we collected 487 kg of marine debris – everything from styrofoam and hard plastics to syringes and an oil drum. (If you follow the linkedIn link above and scroll down you’ll see his post about our day.) #marinepollution #sustainability #keepoceansclean

Wanli Beach on the other side of the Gihou Fish Harbour is looking pretty good – no wonder they sent us to Gihou Beach.
(At VIS -photo taken with permission of the kids)

Sustainability seems to be in the air… Today (November 2), we visited some of Kaya’s teacher friends at VIS High School = Very Interesting School. It’s a new and experimental school designed to prepare middle and high school students for top colleges and universities around the world while introducing them to global issues in order to foster the next generation of leaders and innovators. (That was a long sentence.) Tall order and indeed a very interesting school! Small class sizes, student driven and project-oriented work. The school is only a year old and supported by the National Taiwan University. Just entering the space my curiosity is tickled. Not your usual classroom set-ups. Not your usual teachers. And get this, Julia (one of the teachers) is from Vancouver and went to Quilchena Highschool. Small world.

Andy, one of the students introduces me to their plastics recycling centre – very cool. I add my bubble tea cup and am instructed on where to put what. They sort plastics 1, 2 4 and 5 (these don’t emit toxic fumes when melted; #3 apparently does emit toxic fumes), which are shredded finely and later turned into plastic tiles or plastic bricks by “Taiwanderful” Students are coming up with projects and Andy wants to build a boat with these tiles – figuring out how to do that is part of his project. As well as matching as many values as possible on the board.

I get really excited when I see initiatives and projects like this 🙂 Like, Really Excited! Especially, after a day of beach clean-up! I used to work as an administrative manager at UBC (The University of B.C.), and one of the many hats I wore was Sustainability Coordinator for my department. Learned a lot during that time and was able to educate and implement many changes. 🙂 Though I enjoy retirement, the enthusiasm for this subject matter remains.

Seeing the big pile in the end was very satisfying. Can we please find something to replace styrofoam in the fishing industry?!

On this note, what does get to me here in Taipei is the air pollution, much of it caused by scooters (which as before mentioned, I like to ride myself)… apparently, there are 15 million registered scooters in Taiwan! I wonder how many unregistered on top of that? And there is a small but growing percentage of electric scooters like gogoro. I have a dream… If every single scooter was electric… oh my, what a difference it would make. Public transport here is fabulous, and getting around on scooters is necessary. Add to that electric buses… paradise. Maybe the wealthiest Taiwanese can subsidize GoShare?

Here’s a student’s “story map” I found on arcsgis that can help us understand why there are so many scooters on the roads.

Taipei MRT – different times of the day. My station is Wanlong on the green line.

It’s amazing how busy the main roads are. And how easy it is to get away into quiet side streets or parks – NTU (National Taiwan University) has a fabulous walk and bike-friendly campus. Da’an Park is one of the largest in town (situated in the Da’an neighbourhood). I generally feel very safe here (except in the middle of a zillion scooters) and like to explore little alleys and narrow connecting walk-ways – just heightened awareness required when on a bicycle or scooter. The night markets are such a treat. Jingmei is a very “local” and cheap one close to my neighbourhood. I’ve only scratched the surface of the markets – there are so many and I’m planning to experience as many as I can. 🙂 Some of these photos are from a gentle hike at Xianjiang Scenic Area, just a 20 minute walk from where I live.

Yesterday, Kaya and I ran errands and then ended up at CKS monument (Chiang Kai- Shek), which amongst other things, houses a gallery with changing exhibitions. Photos to follow. And today, I cycled south along the river to Maokong Gondula, went for a hike on top and visited the Taipei Zoo down below later on – just fabulous!! Next post…

5 thoughts on “Beach Clean Up and “VIS”

  1. I’m so impressed that you joined in the beach clean up! And also that school, and the students, sounds amazing. It’s so encouraging to hear of what the NextGen is doing.
    Those bikes are really cool. Don and I for sure would ride them by the rivers.
    Alison

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    1. I sure would like to do more while here… we’ll see how that will line up. I was super inspired by both initiatives and hold them in my large vision and prayer for the world. Community level is where change happens and works its way up slowly… some places slower than others. So nice to be so far away from the madness in the US right now… xo

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