As we mentioned in our first blog post, there certainly will be a direct, negative environmental impact from our trip. Carbon dioxide will be emitted from the planes we'll fly, the vehicles we'll occasionally rent, and from other forms of transportation we'll use. As we have plans to visit six continents, the carbon cost of our travel will be quite high. For many places we'll visit, there are legitimate debates as to whether tourism is beneficial or not. There is an environmental cost to make things we'll buy to bring on our trip (although we won't be traveling with much... more on that in a subsequent post).
Once we settle the details of our itinerary, one thing we'll do is to carbon offset all of our travel with TerraPass (http://www.terrapass.com/). We'll post our calculations.
We will also try to pay attention to the places we stay and the tours we take, doing the best we can to ensure they have environmentally sound practices. Tourism, when done right, can be very beneficial to a local environment. By preserving the environment, local economies can open themselves to a revenue stream from eco-tourism, which can be worth more over the long run than cutting down a rainforest, or poaching endangered species. In this way, tourism can help make positive environmental outcomes more likely.
Lastly, while we certainly have selfish motives for our trip, we are passionate about trying to use it to educate others (and our children) about environmental issues (see our first blog post). We're actively exploring how our experiences can be used by our local school district. We've connected with a great organization, The Wilderness Classroom (http://www.WildernessClassroom.com/), and are going to provide content to them and their network of nearly 100,000 teachers and students. The mission of Wilderness Classroom, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is to increase students’ appreciation for the environment while improving core academic skills. We'll write more about this in future posts.
Is it enough? Is paying for carbon offsets simply an easy way of using money to assuage some guilt? If we're really serious about the environment, are their better ways of making a difference than taking this trip? Perhaps. We claim no moral high ground here. These are only our choices and how we're thinking about and dealing with the issue.