If you’ve heard of Vunisinu, a tiny fishing village in Fiji, you’ve probably heard of it in passing. For most, the village is nothing more than a dot in the south eastern coastal mangrove swamps while flying in to SUV-Nausori International Airport. But for anyone interested in global environmental problems, pollution in all its forms being chief among these, Vunisinu is nothing less than a ray of light in a darkening, smog-encrusted world.
Like life on earth, it all began with the fish. Vunisinu’s thirty-six families entirely depend on fishing to make sure their survival. We’re not talking about a simple catch of three or four dinner-quality salmon every day: we’re talking about a steady diet of prawns, mud crabs, and other delicacies that could cost $50 in a New York restaurant for a single diner, yet all it plucked out of the ocean free by the villages of Vunisinu. Vunisinu is located next to a massive coral reef, one of the classic sources of life on earth, and a subject familiar to any steady student of global environmental problems, pollution, and other grim topics. The coral reefs are slowly dying, victims of global environmental problems, pollution, and other causes, as the villages of Vunisinu learned.
When the fish yields began to decline, so much so that villagers began to import canned seafood from larger towns nearby, the families of Vunisinu initially blamed poachers. Poachers in the mangrove swamps of Fiji are fairly aggressive, actually going so far as to blow up parts of the reef with dynamite and to directly poison the water to kill large numbers of fish and massive swaths of coral at a single blow. This alone might count for global environmental problems/pollution in some interpretations.
But the real global environmental problems and pollution were from another source: the villagers themselves. Modern plumbing in Vunisinu sent “gray water” (wastewater) directly into the swamps and the coral. Trash and runoff from local pig farms was also routinely thrown away in the swamps and the sea with no thought of the consequences. After all, Vunisinu is a rural community, far away from the obvious effects of pollution in urban environments. Who knew that throwing one’s trash in the ocean could cause such global environmental problems and pollution? Who knew that a coral reef would be so easy to kill?
Today, Vunisinu has cleaned up its act. Compost toilets maintained by the “Enviroclean” company prevent the flushing of wastewater into the ocean, and trash is now collected and composted rather than simply discarded in the swamp. For nearly ten years now Vunisinu has worked to maintain its coral and its environmental purity. And the results, thousands of mud crabs, swimming in the fishing nets, are not only wonderful to think about, but delicious on a family dinner plate.