Croatia is a country truly blessed with natural assets from its pristine coastline to crystal clear lakes. The tourists rave and the travel writers gush about the physical attributes which set this country apart and underpin its very economic survival.
Most people in the world are aware of the clear waters of the Pacific Ocean but they are like minestrone soup compared to the Champaign sweet waters of the Dalmatian coast. The inland lakes, too, are amongst the most beautiful in the world. Standing by the shores of the Plitvice Lakes and looking one hundred metres out and being able to see the submerged part of a dead tree is an experience which could only be described as surreal.
It is this environment that the visitors come to see and their input is the lifeblood of this country - they drive employment for all, particularly the youth. They help keep families together by ensuring young people can find employment close to home. They enable many families to generate income from their properties in areas where no other reliable source of income exists. And the good news is that the number of tourists is rising annually. The bad news is that they may stop coming. It seems inconceivable that all this could change and the tourists go somewhere else. Well humans are just brilliant at taking things for granted.
Years ago, Australia too was unbelievably pristine and my city's harbour had dolphins, penguins and occasionally whales. But years of selfishness and neglect lead to that much rubbish being left in public places which ultimately ended up in the sea, that the government was forced to mount nationwide television campaigns and community groups were formed to clean the country up. Slowly but surely people, and predominantly the young people of the country got the message and much of the unnecessary rubbish pollution stopped.
Walking and swimming around Dubrovnik I see a lot of places which are out of sight to the tourists and it is here that the seeds of disaster are being sewn as many locals will happily leave household and building rubbish in public places. The worst offenders of all are the smokers who are busily killing themselves and happy to throw their butts on the street - where on earth do they think they will end up ? - In the sea of course.
On the subject of just how short sighted smokers are I am reminded by the recent death of Vesna Volovic at 66 years of age which was due to a smoking related illness. She rose to international fame when, as a hostess on the then Yugoslav airline in 1972 she survived a 10,000 metre fall from the sky when the plane blew up mid flight. On waking from a coma her first words were “have you got a cigarette?” So, having survived the impossible she went right on killing herself.
The supermarkets continue to feed everybody's plastic bag habit and their final resting places is one of the biggest polluters. It is unbelievable for me to see young people, the very group who has the country’s future in their hands, on their lunch break from school walk away and leave piles of plastic bags and wrappers. The “orange men” who walk the streets of Dubrovnik sweeping them up can't keep the problem under control.
There are lessons about rubbish pollution to be learnt from other parts of the world. Take the Pacific Ocean. It is inconceivable that such a giant body of water could be strangled by pollution but yet it is happening. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area much larger than the Mediterranean where the sea is choked by floating plastic. Right on our doorstep we have a problem which sends us a reminder card every summer when the currents change. On a couple of days large volumes of floating plastic rubbish descends on Dubrovnik from Albania. At my local, Dance beach, it is so bad you can’t swim through it and it takes the guys days with fishing rods and hooks to clean it all up.
So if that's the future do we really want to go there? People who ruin their own environment would have to be called Dodos, after the birds that as we know are now extinct. Not for the reasons all the scientist will tell you, that they were too stupid to get out of human's way but because they were sick all of the time. Yes they were stupid and lazy but the Wizard knows that the scientist have missed one important point and the real story is that they kept rubbishing their nests and they eventually all got sick and couldn't get away from hunters if their tried. It's all about attitude really. We all have to make an effort to stop being lazy or complacent.
If smokers weren't so lazy and walked their butt to a rubbish bin or if everybody disapproved of throwing butts on the street things would change. If the builder knew that someone would take his number plate and report his dumping and that there was going to be some action taken to fine him things would change. At the end of the day it’s up to us all to save the tourism industry.
This is a very beautiful country let’s keep it that way before it's too late.