“See-it-while-it’s-there” tourism

It used to seem like the environmental movement might just be a passing fad, like the Cabbage Patch Kids, the Chia Pet, or our obsession with the two Coreys. (I preferred Haim, what about you?) But apparently that environmental- consciousness aesthetic is here to stay, and its even made its way into the travel sphere.

A new article in London’s Telegraph documents an interesting new trend among travelers. Tourists are flocking to locations such as the Arctic glaciers, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Great Barrier Reef because of concerns that, because of global climate change or other environmental circumstances, such destinations may not last for long.

I guess I have two questions in response to this:

1) Are the polar ice caps, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Great Barrier Reef in such great danger that we all must visit them now or lose the chance forever? I realize that the answer to this question might be yes.

2) Is flying to these destinations, and thus emitting even more greenhouse gases, not just making the problem even worse? The article addresses just this concern, quoting the head of a conservation group who says, “It’s hard to fault somebody who wants to see something before it disappears, but it’s unfortunate that in their pursuit of doing that, they contribute to the problem.”

Perhaps the most telling part of the article is a quote from a tour company spokesperson, who says, “People who travel to the [the polar ice caps] are keen to help fight global warming. They go home and tell their friends they’ve got to do something.” (italics mine) I imagine that conversation with their friends as going something like this: “Hey, friends. I just flew a gas-guzzling jet halfway around the world to take a look at some melting glaciers. Please help me do a little something about global warming.” Something about that doesn’t sound right.