Sunday, August 31, 2008

Global tourism is a big source of pollution (and global warming, maybe)


Elizabeth Becker has a provocative editorial in The Washington Post today (Aug. 31, 2008) about “global tourism” which she calls a “planet-threatening plague.” The article, on page B01, Outlook, is called “Don’t Go There: The whole world has the travel bug. And It’s Ravaging the Planet,” link.

Cruise ships – floating hotels – are a particular culprit and tourism accounts for 5% of the planet’s pollution. I’ve never taken a cruise, because I don’t like to stay in the same “space” – I remember Roger Ebert used to sponsor movie cruises in February every year.

She talks about the ease with which luxury hotels got to build right after the Indian Ocean tsunami, and about the damage done to historical structures and towns in Cambodia after the Vietnam war wound down.

It’s odd that she says that travel and tourism are cheap – when you consider the run-up on oil prices this year, and all the airline fees and the end of many discount fares (although they could come back).

It’s true, that when I came of age, the possibility of going on a “self-date” hundreds of miles away for just a weekend gave me a sense of independence – that I needed as a social bargaining chip.

It’s also said that for the three nights after September 11, 2001, when air traffic was grounded, the nighttime temperatures, without airliner contrails, were 2 degrees F lower.

We heard talk of curtailing personal travel before, during the Arab oil embargo of the 1970s, and after the second oil crisis (Iran) in 1979.

This time, it sounds like a sustainability issue. Apart from cyberspace, lfe could get much more local for the next generation.

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