A gorgeous natural cove in Thailand fell prey to being loved to death. Made famous by The Beach, a 2000 film starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Maya Bay saw thousands of visitors daily to its idyllic teal-tourmaline waters, hugged by verdant arms. But last year it became off-limits to tourists so the area’s decimated corals could recover. In May this year, the country’s national parks department announced the shores would remain closed until at least June 2021.
“We need more time to allow nature to fully recover,” parks director Songtam Suksawang told CNN Travel.
In its heyday, the bay received an estimated 5,000 visitors per day, or 150,000 a month. By comparison, Tahoe sees up to 11.8 million visitors in the month of July alone. Is there a chance we’re loving the Jewel of the Sky to death?
Our feature news story this month touches on this issue garnering attention on the global scale: overuse of places we love. One tangible result and the focus of Moonshine’s piece are piles and piles of trash. Under foot, on the street, and insidiously difficult to control. While on the surface Tahoe is cleaner than many places on earth, trash is undeniably an issue. From overfull main-street trash cans to beer cans strewn about an abandoned campsite, we’ve all seen it. And now, at least one long-term effect has been documented — we know we have microplastics in the lake. At the moment, humans don’t know how to get them out.
When we have an issue, our kneejerk reaction is to throw more at the issue. More attention, more talk, more money. But are we solving the problem?
Undeniably it’s complex, but must we keep exacerbating the issue? Marketing the area more extensively, approving more development, encouraging more people to visit, live, and recreate, because more money means solutions. But goodness, restaurants have a fire marshal limit for a reason — sometimes enough is enough.
More people, more revenue, doesn’t necessarily equal success. We have both in spades here in Tahoe, but why then do we have overflowing trash cans? Backed up traffic? Agencies and businesses that can’t find enough staff?
We need fecund solutions. Ones that don’t ask for more, but better.
We can’t shut the doors to Tahoe like Thailand did with Maya Bay … or could we …
Could we not use the agricultural check station for something useful like testing people’s knowledge about fire safety, trash ethos, and driving savvy — i.e. would you stop in the middle of a street in your town?
Barring that, a shift in attitude to “less is more” would allow nature to do its part to heal the effects humans have on it. It’s like Megan Seifert realizing that more of the same in science education wasn’t going to cut it — the underlying philosophy had to shift.
After all, if Tahoe — the land, water, air — is trampled beyond repair, all the money in the world won’t fix it.