1 July 2008
Is Travel Destroying the Environment?
Travel and mobility play crucial roles in our lives as Americans in this day and age. Airplanes, automobiles, trains, and boats allow fast and easy transportation to virtually anywhere in the world. However, they are playing chaos with the earth’s climate. One might ask themselves, is it still possible to see the world’s amazing places without creating lasting harm to the environment?
Travelers hold a unique perspective on the global environment. Some go to great lengths, literally, to climb Kilimanjaro, snorkel around the marine life of the Great Barrier Reef, or lie around on the exotic beaches of Southeast Asia. So they are among the first to notice when things in the environment are not how they are suppose to be, such as, a lengthening and strengthening hurricane season that destroyed the entire city of New Orleans, or the glaciers that are slowly melting away.
Whether you want to call it global warming, climate chaos or a low point between ice ages, there’s no longer any disagreement that something isn’t right. A February 2007 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, as is now evident from observations of increases in global average air and ocean temperatures, widespread melting of snow and ice and rising global average sea level.”
For the traveller these changes create a sense of urgency, how does one see some of the world’s amazing things before they are lost forever? But if numerous numbers of tourists were to suddenly decide they had to see the Great Barrier Reef before warming ocean temperatures kill all of its coral, it would merely accelerate the damage.
There’s no getting around it. Just moving about does harm to the environment. Cars use gas, planes use jet fuel and ships pour tons of sludge into the ocean. The thought that travellers might be part...