An overarching theme that keeps coming to my mind during this trip is the dichotomy between the environment and society. As a Buddhist culture, Thai culture greatly values the natural world and all of its beings. However, I have noticed that in both city and hillside, the filth is exceptional. I wonder where the disconnect is between the Buddhist way of caring for the Earth and the reality of Thai culture’s practice of environmental care.
Something that surprised me is that I have not seen any campaigns or signs for being “green” or environmental well-being like we often see in America. In parallel to the lack of social action, there is very limited infrastructure in place to help promote “green-living.” I have noticed that they only fly large planes here and that they often fly at half capacity. I have noticed that the number of cars and motorcycles/scooters far outnumber the number of bicycles or people walking. I have noticed that the streets are full of trash and that the only cleanly sidewalk that I’ve walked on thus far is our hotel’s.
I think that the lack of environmental effort here is rooted in larger-scale developmental and governmental progress because no country would, or could, prioritize environmental issues over high rates of poverty and homelessness. Lastly, I recognize that my perspective is severely skewed by my privilege of growing up in a country that has the ability to make environmental well-being a priority and that my observations are by no means shaming the Thai culture. I believe that many people are in a position of privilege to help preserve our environment and that we should do everything in our power, so those who are less fortunate can live on the Earth too.
Oddly enough, I haven’t taken any pictures of the filthy streets… So here are some pictures of how beautiful Thailand is (plus me and an elephant)!