Is Travel Causing the Planet’s Demise?

Is travel ruining the environment? John Rosenthal in his article, “Is Traveling Destroying The Planet?” ponders the question.

I’m thinking back to years ago when I visited the Grand Canyon and had to compete with monstrous RVs for parking spots. But, then, there’s the time I caved to luxury on a trek in Nepal. Four days in, I paid for a hot bucket of water for a “shower.” Even though I had read that the wood burned to make the hot water was a deforestation project of sorts, I succumbed to the notion of “just this once.” I did make sure I relished extra hard the feeling of being clean. Besides, it was Christmas.

I’ve heard that hunters are among the biggest environmental champions because they know that if they don’t take care of their natural surroundings, they’ll lose their pastime. So, perhaps those of us who travel are more sensitive to the earth we walk on, rappel down, whitewater raft through, climb up, or buzz by in some form of transportation to get us from here to there.

If we didn’t travel, what then? Parts of India were in a panic after 9/11 because tourists weren’t coming. My mom, who visited us that December to January was the only person on her group tour to the Taj Mahal and Jaipur. She felt compelled to buy not one marble inlay table, but four, and loaded up her bag with marble inlay boxes for everyone she knew. She might have been the only customer for days.

Seeing the Amazon Rainforest, perhaps leads to us wanting to save it. India takes care of the tiger preserve Ranthambore National Park, that Erik Olsen wrote about in one of his Gadling posts, partly because it’s a money maker. When I visited Ranthanbore, one of the people piled onto one of the big trucks without a prayer of seeing a tiger, I bought a hat and gloves from someone in a village we passed since before sun up its wicked cold there. After our hotel dinner were the requisite traditional dancers for the evening entertainment. Each activity put money in people’s pockets.

In the US, tax money is funds national parks and forests. This is one of the reasons why the Wayne National Forest has ORV/ATV trails. People who can get far into the woods in an afternoon, particularly people who can’t walk that far, have some desire to protect it.

I do wonder about the space travel trend? Charles Simonye, an American tourist billionaire just returned from his two-week trip to a space station. At what point will it cost less than $25 million to take in a space station for summer vacation? Drop the price to even $10 million and several celebrities are in. How long before there are trips designed purely for tourism?

I don’t have any answers, but reading John Rosenthal’s article got me to ponder some more about thoughts that travel through my head when I’m traveling.