There are tourism activities that I cannot seem to understand. One of those include people who ride elephants, even though it is bad for the animals. In Taiwan, one of the biggest tourist attractions is to go and let lanterns up in the sky. It is something famous and it is something that tourists come to do. They write their wishes on the lanterns to the gods, and sending them off, hoping for something good to come out of it.
Honestly, I think this activity is nothing more than a tourist trap. Something to attract people to bring their hypothetical wish giving. Do people really believe in this? Honestly, I believe some people do, but that is not what my rant is all about.
The Pingxi Sky Lantern Festival:
Lantern festival is in February, around Chinese New Year. People send out thousands of these paper lanterns in the sky. It is a huge event, not only to the Taiwanese, but to many others too. Often, it is good to appreciate cultural traditions, but this one, should not be tolerated. It may look beautiful seeing all those lanterns in the sky, but we all know, what goes up, always comes down.
The Lanterns in the forest:
Last Saturday, Sarah and I went out to help clean up the Pingxi forest near Shifen. The area is beautiful with an awesome waterfall. However this time, we were not there to enjoy the scenery, but to clean-up after these left over lanterns.
With a group of 15 of us, we went out to clean the forest. It was going to be a three-hour clean-up. It was hot and humid, and we had already seen people getting ready to send out more lanterns.
Our leader gave everyone trash bags. I took four but what I didn’t know was that we would need more.
Just walking 10 meters into the forest, we were already collecting lanterns. Tonnes of lanterns you could see in the trees, out of reach. There were lanterns in the river; lanterns in the trees; everywhere we looked, there were lanterns.
We had a mission. I had my personal mission to try to fill up all the bags. (Like I said, it was hot and humid).
Going into the forest became a depressing site. There was just so much to pick up. The bags were getting filled up so fast that I started to make trips back and forth to drop off the big bags of trash. Sarah on the other hand was off in the trees, grabbing as much as she can. She was not cheerful. She gave me the comment, “I am so depressed.”
We have hiked these woods many times before. We appreciate the nature of Taiwan, however, it was super depressing to know that the livelihood of the people in this town was based on sending thousands of lanterns in the sky, only to litter the beautiful environment.
We had gone an hour and half and we had all the bags full. It was crazy and depressing that we had finished all our bags so fast. After we gathered all the bags together, we had to journey down the road to put them all in an area where they would be collected by the garbage truck.
While we gathered together, we set out to weigh how much trash we had collected. That specific day, was the ‘Taiwan clean-up day,' where people all around Taiwan volunteered to help clean up the beaches, forests and mountains. All this effort just to keep Taiwan clean and a friendly environment for all.
One by one the bags were weighed. One by one the weight got higher and higher. In the end, we had collected 196 KG.
Sarah's Facebook Post
“How often to do we criticise others for trashing the environment but then we just walk by and do nothing about it? I will admit, I often do that but today, I took a stand with my husband and said, “No. Today is going to be different.”
Today on Taiwan National Clean-up Day, we got down and dirty and helped clean up the many half-burnt, non-biodegradable lanterns that were left on the mountains and rivers in the Shifen area. We didn't even have to walk 10m to find SO many lanterns that were left near the railway tracks, stuck in the mud on the trails, hung up on the trees, drifted on the side of the river, and SO many others that we couldn't reach because they had landed in unreachable areas.
The sad thing is, while we were cleaning, more lanterns were being sent up into the air. It was super depressing, because the trash was never ending AND the problem continues to exist!
I know there are families in this area that live off from this business but there's got to be another way; another solution. But for now, all I can do is to inform and educate others to:
‘Stop for one second and think about where your lantern goes when you let it off in the air.'
This is a tourist activity but you don't “need” to do. There are other attractions which are just as beautiful to visit like the Shifen waterfall or the old street for some local delicacies, but it's time to tell your friends, visitors and yourself that the lanterns need to stop! OR go and let one off but pick up “your” trash after!'
Sorry for the rant, but I hope you can understand how important this is! 196 kg of trash in 2hrs speaks for itself! “
Stop the Littering
We should all realize that the trash we leave is not good for the places we like to visit. We have to realize that some traditions and things that people say to go and do in a place, is just not worth the instagram picture or experience.
Please do not send up anymore lanterns. Please do not leave trash on the ground. We are all here to visit the great places around the world but let's keep it clean.