Posted by: Dudley | November 15, 2008

Barack Obama, global warming, and sustainable, responsible travel

First of all, I am really gratified that the U.S. has finally elected a President I can be proud of.  I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 8 years (at least), trying to explain to non-Americans that a great many of us here in the United States are not thrilled with our government either. I’m glad to be able now to lift my head, look people in the eye, and say with some confidence that I think now America can and will be a much larger force for good in the world.

Another subject on my mind more and more of late is the state of the world’s environment and the negative effect travel has on it and on indigenous cultures. I’ve always been concerned that by promoting and facilitating travel by Americans and other Westerners to far-away and often remote locations, I’m bringing negative influences from the developed world to communities which, though they may not have a very high level of material comfort, do still have a traditionally strong sense of community and family.

I know there are benefits to be derived from adventurous travel to distant locations – benefits to the local economy and benefits in terms of positive exchanges between peoples of very different cultures and world-views. I’ve always believed that these exchanges were essential to creating bonds of understanding between people and that the odds of this contact being positive could be increased by facilitating the exchanges through education and discussion before, during, and after each trip.  So by providing these education and discussion opportunities, I hope and believe that DreamWeaver can avoid or offset any negative impacts and encourage positive exchanges.

As I mentioned above, I’m also increasingly concerned about the effect of air (and other) travel on the world’s climate and it’s contribution to general environmental degradation. Some time ago, we here at DreamWeaver considered adding a fee to all of our trips in order to contribute to organizations that invested in carbon-offsetting activities such as tree planting and carbon sequestration programs. At that time,  I was told that many of these programs actually didn’t do as much good as they were touted to and that it was mostly a “feel-good” gesture which did more harm than good because it allowed people to continue their consumption patterns without guilt. Not that I think we should all feel guilty about our travel, but I do feel that we should make a real effort to find ways to reduce our carbon footprints and to compensate for climate unfriendly actions by participating in climate-friendly ones. As it turns out, a lot of work has been done recently in the carbon-offset domain, and there are now several organizations which offer good, scientifically -justified programs allowing people to offset their travel and other lifestyle choices with contributions to programs which truly do offset the negative effects of our carbon footprints.

Carbon offsetting is a way to neutralize the carbon emissions you generate when you drive or fly. You can buy a certain number of “offset units” equivalent to the carbon the activity creates, and hence become “carbon neutral.”

Starting January 1, 2009, DreamWeaver will be adding a fee to each trip which will vary according to the distance travelled by car and air on the trip. Please see our website for more details (soon).

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Responses

  1. Hi Dudley,

    Great post about sustainable travel. While it’s true that travel (especially flying) contributes to global warming and pollution in a big way, it’s important to experience different cultures and environments. It’s a necessary evil in my mind but one that can be offset. Does DreamWeaver have a carbon offset provider in mind? I’d love to work with you on an offset program – let me know.

    Cheers,
    – Jason Fitzgerald
    Carbonfund.org

    • Hi Jason,

      Sure, I’d love to hear more about your carbon offset program. I’m in the process of choosing one. I’m a very small tour operator and can’t afford to have much of a calculator on my site, but I’d like to just add the amount necessary to the cost of each of my trips to offset the carbon produced by the international flights.

      Can you give me some ideas on how best to proceed?

      Thanks,

      Dudley


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