Thai trip of stark con­trasts

Wanganui Chronicle - - News - By Ja­cob McSweeny

From a vil­lage grow­ing all of its food or­gan­i­cally to a “huge scar in the earth” coal mine — Whanganui man Tony Sund­man’s trip to Thai­land was one of stark con­trasts.

The YMCA youth work co­or­di­na­tor, based at the Grey St cam­pus, re­cently at­tended the global or­gan­i­sa­tion’s Green Am­bas­sadors’ train­ing con­fer­ence in Chi­ang Mai.

“It was good . . . over in a flash,” he said of the one-week con­fer­ence. “It was hot too, I think we maxed out at 37 de­grees.”

The con­fer­ence fo­cused on en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity and Sund­man spent each day do­ing ac­tiv­i­ties like vis­it­ing a wholly or­ganic vil­lage.

“At that vil­lage they grow their veg­eta­bles, then they take them to the mar­ket and then they sell them there.

“They school their chil­dren on site. It was a re­ally beau­ti­ful place. They had things like water pumps that were bi­cy­cles . . . so you pedal the bike and water comes up from the river.

“They looked like they were do­ing ev­ery­thing right . . . they were just glow­ing.”

The next day he and the other YMCA green am­bas­sadors were taken to the Mae Moh coal power plant.

“It was a 1.5km open cast lig­nite coal mine. It was about 17km long . . . a huge scar in the earth.

“The coal it­self is ac­tu­ally the poor­est burn­ing coal for car­bon emis­sions. Coal’s bad and lig­nite’s the worst.”

Sund­man spent the re­main­ing days do­ing class­work fo­cus­ing on lit­tle things that can be done to re­duce en­ergy use.

He said that gave him ideas of what to do at the YMCA in Whanganui.

“My first step would be to make a team . . . a green team who meet up maybe once a month and dis­cuss projects or ways to i mprove green ini­tia­tives within our or­gan­i­sa­tion and pos­si­bly the com­mu­nity.

“The more peo­ple on board and pas­sion­ate about it the bet­ter the re­sults are.”

Sund­man also said a lot of peo­ple re­cy­cled but didn’t know how to do it right nor why they were do­ing it in the first place.

“I need to cre­ate in­for­ma­tion boards around the re­cy­cling ar­eas of what can be re­cy­cled, why it’s im­por­tant to re­cy­cle . . . maybe images of an­i­mals that are af­fected by pol­lu­tion.

“So when they go to the bin in­stead of just chuck­ing in, there’s some­thing to read, some­thing to learn.”

Of t he 40 to 50 green am­bas­sadors there, Sund­man was sur­prised he was the only one from Aus­tralia, New Zealand or the Pa­cific Is­lands.

The bike at the or­ganic vil­lage pumped water from the lo­cal river when it was ped­alled.

PHOTO / TONY SUND­MAN

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