Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Earth Day: Reflecting on Winter Break in Thailand

Student blogger Brandy Darling (HNC Certificate '20 + SAIS MA '21) reflects on her nature-filled winter break trip to Thailand in light of Earth Day 2020. 

Earth Day 2020. The 50th year anniversary of a new environmental revolution. People all around the world participate in a movement to create a healthier and cleaner world. In 2012, more than 100,000 people rode bikes in China to reduce CO2 emissions. I enjoy being in nature, and being in a big city makes me crave alone time in a scenic place. Even though there are a great number of big cities in China, there are many scenic destinations across the country, such as the Tianshan Mountains in Xinjiang, the beautiful beach of Yalong Bay in Hainan, and even the parks on Chongming Island near Shanghai. Holidays and weekends at the Hopkins-Nanjing Center are great times to explore nearby Chinese cities and towns. For this past Winter Break, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to travel to another Asian country: Thailand. Flights from China to other Asian countries are cheaper than if you were to fly from the United States. 

(Left) The natural beauty of Phuket, Thailand.
 Sunset on Patong Beach.

For two weeks, I took a solo trip to Patong Beach, Phuket, Thailand. Phuket is the largest island in Thailand and Patong Beach is the biggest tourist attraction of the thirty-six beaches that span the entire island. The opportunities to enjoy nature in Phuket were endless, especially because 70% of Phuket is covered in mountains. My favorite days were the trips that included traveling to smaller islands. There, I could partake in water sports like parasailing and jet skiing without the crowds. Thailand is made up of over one-thousand islands, and many of these islands are within a 30-minute boat ride of Phuket and are home to diverse species of animals and plants.

Enjoying Thailand from the sky
while parasailing.

I traveled to many different islands, such as Racha Island, Phang Nga Bay, and Naka Island. One island that left a deep impression on me was Coral Island. Before we got off the boat, the crew said: “This will be one of the most beautiful islands you visit, however, you cannot swim or snorkel here.” He explained to us that in 2004 a tsunami destroyed all the beautiful coral and deposited rocks, so it is very dangerous to swim or snorkel. Many researchers thought that the coral would heal itself and be fully revived in a few years, but it has never grown back. This could be due to the debris pulled into the ocean from the tsunami, or overfishing which is destructive to coral. Protests and awareness through Earth Day are for this reason: for people to take action. We could take measures, such as cleaning beaches and using safer fishing practices, to save coral reefs which are important marine ecosystems. 

Due to my interest in environmental protection, I am currently taking African Development and Environment in Chinese, and the Economic Instruments of Pollution Control in English. The African Development and Environment class is especially interesting because we talk about how tourism in African countries are largely dependent on the natural world. However, climate change is rapidly changing ecosystems and depleting important resources. As a result, many African countries are struggling to turn to more diverse, sustainable ways of developing. Unfortunately, environmental control is very political. One way we can genuinely make the Earth cleaner is by appreciating her and taking steps in our individual lives to reduce waste. My trip to Thailand was filled with breaths of fresh air and calm blue seas. Once we learn how to work to make the environment cleaner, the Earth will share the rewards back with us. 

(Left) Taking in the view on Coral Island.
(Right) Boaters and beachgoers at Raya Island.

Written by Brandy Darling, HNC Certificate '20 + SAIS MA '21