Listen to yourself and what you really want to do – Jareerat Petchsom
“When I went back home, and I walked along the beach, the beach was changing. Before it used to be really beautiful, with really white sand, but now it’s full of micro-plastics.”
Making social changes
Jareerat Petchsom describes herself as an “ordinary woman” who is passionate about travel and conserving the environment.
Born in Thailand’s southern province of Chumphon, Jareerat’s interest in conservation began in 2005. It all started from her school activities, where she wanted to explore the world outside her school.
She saw that joining the environmental group would be her ticket to getting out of school and having fun. The expectation of fun, however, turned out to be something much more.
“This was like a real opportunity, the only opportunity to get out of school and to see the world,” said Jareerat. “My teacher and everyone around me taught me a lot about the environment, but there is much more to the beauty and the fun of exploring nature.”
The dark side
After being exposed to both the beauty and the apparent environmental issues, Jareerat, also known as Baitong, learnt that the biggest problems for the environment all come from human beings. She also thinks that climate change is a wake-up call for people to stop polluting the planet.
“[Climate change] is trying to knock on our doors, asking us to stop doing that. The world cannot take it anymore. We see that every day, not just every year, it’s changing every time.”
To solve the problem, Jareerat believes that education should be reformed, to make positive changes in society. She also feels that people are doing things, such as waste separation and ending the use of plastic bags, because they’ve been told to do so, rather than understanding the importance of it.
“Many people do not know why we need to separate the garbage. We do not know why, but we do it because someone is telling us to do that. When we do not have the knowledge, we don’t do things because we really understand it.”
Realising the importance of education, she founded her own environmental camp to educate the younger generation, called Eco Young Camp. She also runs Baanbaan, a Facebook page that educates people about sustainable living.
“I would say it was really successful, because they really understand it. Even years [after the camp], their behaviour is changing, they do understand why they have to separate the garbage and why they have to care about the turtles in the ocean.”
She also reiterated that people don’t need to do anything big to save the environment, as her point is that going green is to start from simple things.
“We don’t have to do anything fancy. You don’t have to plant 10,000 trees somewhere. You just start with yourself first.”
Overshadowed by celebrity
Jareerat was recently named this year’s Environmental Ambassador for the Green World Foundation, for her strong advocacy on environmental issues.
Despite her advocacy at a very young age, the newly-appointed ambassador admits that fame can have a huge impact on getting the message across.
She recalled when she was named the “UN Sustainable Ocean Ambassador” in 2019, alongside famous actor and singer, Pakin “Tono” Khamwilaisak, who advocated for marine and coastal environments.
She then realised the differences between a “celebrity” and an “ordinary person” expressing the same message.
“I do understand that, in Thai society, if you’re not somebody famous, nobody will listen to you. I’m just curious actually, why is my voice not loud enough? Even though I gave the same message.”
Realising that her voice may not be loud enough to be heard, Jareerat still continues to advocate for environmental changes. She also decided to take part in beauty pageants year after year to make a name for herself, which will help spread her message even better.
Competing in this year’s Miss Earth Thailand, Jareerat said that the purpose of the competition suits her values and what she stands for, compared to other stages on which she has competed, such as Miss Universe Thailand.
“I’m really excited about that, because Miss Earth is concerned about environmental issues for real. I’m going to use this platform to tell people what I am doing. I still believe in that process of the beauty pageants, where women can do something much more than being beautiful.”
“Listen to yourself”
When asked what empowering Thai women means to her, the Miss Earth contestant thinks that listening to women’s needs and providing more opportunities for women to become leaders are the most important things.
Moreover, everyone should listen to themselves and what they really want to do in life. At the same time, Jareerat also thinks it is okay, if you realise in the end, that what you’re doing is not right for you, because at least you have tried.
“You can be anything you want to be, and you can do whatever you want to do,” she said.
“These are old sayings, but it always works, because we’re not really doing it. We’re trying to be someone else. We have a lot of distractions, from social media, from society and even from our family. Don’t let them tell you who you should be.”
By Nad Bunnag, Thai PBS World