Thai National Park Mails Trash Back to Litterbugs
A national park in Thailand has come up with an innovative way to make sure guests clean up their own trash: mail it back to them.
Thailand's Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-archa issued a stern warning to visitors of the country's Khao Yai National Park last week.
The post also included a picture of an abandoned tent filled with discarded plastic bottles and other rubbish.
The next day, Varawut revealed he had made good on his threat.
"The garbage that tourists left in the park is now packed into the box. It's ready to be returned to the owner of the garbage already," he wrote in a Sept. 15 post, according to a Travel and Leisure translation. He also posted pictures of the collected trash and a shipping box with the address marked out.
The trash was shipped back with a special message for its owners.
"You have forgotten some of your belongings at the Khao Yai National Park," the note read, according to The New York Times. "Please let us return these to you."
Park officials were able to match the trash to their owners by checking rental equipment forms against a prescription bottle left in the tent. The offending visitors have also been blacklisted from returning to the park for overnight visits.
Varawut explained that abandoned trash could endanger wild animals, who might eat it by mistake when foraging for food. He said littering in the park could carry a fine of up to up to a 500,000 Thai Baht (about $16,000 U.S. dollars), a prison sentence of up to five years or both, Travel and Leisure reported. He said anyone caught littering would be reported to the police.
Khao Yai National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site about 100 miles northeast of Bangkok. It is the oldest national park in Thailand, according to BBC News, and is famous for its wildlife and landscapes, including waterfalls.
The lockdown initiated due to the coronavirus pandemic was a boon for the animals there, as elephants began returning to their old paths in the absence of human visitors, The New York Times reported in July. Other animals like the Asian black bear and a type of bovine called a guar emerged from hiding too.
The park reopened to visitors July 1, but limited the number to 5,000 at a time, The Washington Post reported. The Thai tourism board praised Varawut for reminding the returning visitors how to properly respect the park.
"We applaud Khao Yai National Park and The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment for their commitment to maintaining the beauty and wellbeing of our country's natural resources," Charinya Kiatlapnachai, director of the tourism authority of Thailand, told The Washington Post in an email. "Thailand's national parks and wildlife have had time to recover from damaging results of tourism such as littering over the past six months and this gesture has the best of intentions to ensure we all do our part to help our country remain clean, safe and beautiful."
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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