Is Europe As Clean As It Looks?

Yesterday, over lunch, we got talking about plastic bags – me and my mates. Here, in Thailand, they put take-aways in five to ten plastic bags. They even have little ones for quaint sauces. Those bags accumulate and get washed up on shores or blown between the muddy legs of browsing water-buffaloes…but don’t worry. No one cares. It’s the same, I think, throughout Asia, and I remember off Phu Quoc, Vietnam’s biggest island, swimming underwater and seeing plastic bags coming at me like fish.

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Me and my mates are European and we talked about clean nuclear power, and the rest. English hedgerows are also well protected from plastic bags, and the Med., where I swim, near Viterbo, Tarquinia, Italy, is nice and clean. I was about to celebrate education and the rest of that crowd when I got to thinking about the little fishes of the sea…are they more or fewer in the Mediterranean…?….when I got to thinking about English song birds, especially those in the Essex countryside before and after the Second World War…have they been obliterated? I got to thinking about all those skylarks that used to sing for me when I was a boy and walking rural. They don’t trill anymore. Sparrows and starlings? More or fewer?

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When next you admire a plastic-bag-clear English hedgerow, think twice. Something has happened to decimate the small bird-populations (and make the crows, kites, and magpies cackle), and paradoxically, here in Thailand, despite the plastic, there are more birds, butterflies, and varied flora and fauna than in all of progressive Europe. I think.

Or, if I’m wrong, I wait to stand corrected!

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What do you think?

Written by Jonathan Finch


  1. Nuclear power appears to be clean but there is no safe threshold for ionizing radiation and no secure way to guard and protect its waste products, some of which remain toxic for thousands of years. Fukushima should have been the ultimate warning that this technology is not a viable alternative.