Poisoning Paradise: Cape York’s Chilli Beach
The dire state of Chilli Beach, a remote beach on Australia’s Cape York, is shocking to many visitors: the flotsam and jetsam is impossible to miss.
Chilli Beach is one of the remotest places in Australia. Fringed with coconut palms and golden sands, it is situated at the end of a very long unsealed road, 700 km north of Cairns, the gateway to the iconic Great Barrier Reef.
Despite its location in the Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park, a quick stroll along the sand reveals that this tropical paradise faces greater dangers than lethal crocodiles or jellyfish. That’s because coconut palms are not the only things introduced into this ecosystem in recent times.
The first thing that hits you is the rubbish washed up on the shore: thongs (the footwear variety also known as flip-flops), household and personal items, fishing nets, countless containers. A closer inspection also reveals micro-particles in the seaweed on the beach.
Tourists have left their wry comments on the state of this paradise. Someone decorated a couple of palm trees as thong totems, someone else transformed a log into a dragon using scraps of fishing nets.
This tide of plastic is not local pollution. The two nearest communities do not contribute to this garbage nor is there any evidence that visitors to the national park leave this kind of calling card. The labels of some of the plastic products reveal they have come from other countries far, far away.
Given the fact that only substances that float reach the shore, it is disturbing to contemplate what lies on the seabed and the bottom of the ocean or is suspended in the water itself.
As follow-up posts on ThinkBrigade will explore, this is a global phenomenon that is not only creating visual pollution but is also threatening indigenous wildlife such as birds and fish. Ultimately, those at the top of the food-chain are also risking their health as our waste comes back to poison us.
Follow-up posts will analyse:
- How the Ghost Nets programme is using art to fight beach and ocean pollution.
- The latest science: A report on ABC TV’s Catalyst programme Plastic Oceans which explores the global implications for wildlife and humans and looks at the floating islands of garbage on our oceans.
Photos used in the video were taken in August 2012. Thanks to composer/writer Dexter Britain for the use of his aptly named musical piece Seeing The Future.