I saw a funny picture on the Internet yesterday. It was an immense tornado circling over Kansas just last week. The caption read ‘A new poll suggests the public feels Global Warming is real’.
Considering that fears about drastic climate change due to the overheating of the planet were first expounded by scientists over 100 years ago, how is it possible that ‘The Public’ have only just realised that this theory is very much a reality? Sunday the 22nd of April 2012 (yesterday) marked the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day, a celebration designed to educate the world’s population (using the catchy slogan ‘Mobilise the Earth) on the catastrophic effects of climate change and global warming. It is now the biggest civic observance in the world, working hard to convince ‘The Public’ to take their heads out of the sand.
The crew at Earth Day are mobilising billions of people across the world to participate in activities and contribute to their ‘Billion Acts of Green’, which is an amazing way for a regular Joe Bloggs to do anything, something, to make a change. But how far does this go? Are people using Earth Day to make themselves feel better about the rest of the year when they don’t cycle to work, don’t eat locally sourced produce and leave the tap running while washing up?
Perhaps instead of assuaging our guilty consciences by recycling for one day, we should take the time to think about the civic attitudes and environmental concerns that sparked off this global movement in the first place. It isn’t enough simply to say that we will ‘take shorter showers’, or, as I saw in one of the Acts of Green, ‘I will not flush the toilet for a day’. Fair enough, the water saved by doing this is pretty good, particularly if you live in a family of 3 or 4 people. But how sustainable is it? Wouldn’t it be better to, say, install a water-efficient showerhead as a more permanent measure, or instead of shortening your shower by 10 minutes for one day, make the conscious effort to shorten it for a minute or two permanently, saving you up to 150 gallons per month. Good for the water bill as well as the earth!
It’s just too easy to see Earth Day as a day where we can say that we are ‘environmentally conscious’. If you can walk to the shops instead of driving for one day, then why not do it every Sunday? Or every day? We can’t get complacent about this. This is especially true within the travel sector, where long-haul flights are massively detrimental to the environment. These flights are, unfortunately, an unavoidable part of running a tour operating business – this is why at Charity Challenge we have linked up with Climate Care to offset the emissions of the international flights of all our participants. By investing in development projects in areas like energy efficiency, renewable energy sources and forest restoration, we at least know that we are contributing something to the damaging effects that flying has on the environment. For more information on Climate Care and carbon offsetting, please click here.
To help foster understanding on the connection between Earth Day and the Charity Challenge mentality, we need to make all of our clients, charity partners and participants see that responsible tourism is not just a marketing fad for us. A good sustainability program can make a real difference to the planet, and most importantly, it really isn’t difficult to do. We source local guides and use locally produced food, which brings jobs and money into the economy in more than just a fleeting way. We strive to ensure that all the local accommodation used is ‘green’ and not wasteful of water, gas or electricity, and for each and every participant travelling with us, we make a donation to a local project or charity in the country they are visiting. These are just some of the things that we do – to read more on how Charity Challenge support Earth Day every day, and what you can do on your travels to contribute, please read the Responsible Tourism section of our website.
So to summarise, the crux of the matter is this – remember those cute but deadly Polar Bear babies in Frozen Planet? Imagine that the Polar ice melts and takes out Greenland in a deluge of water. No more fluffy bears, or Santa Claus for that matter. The weather in the UK turns weird… no wait, that’s happening already… and the price of fuel goes up. Oh, that one did too. All of these things realistically could and in some cases are happening! It may be too late to prevent it, but we need to try.
Join the global movement by visiting www.earthday.org/2012. And don’t stop there. Try to make Earth Day last EVERY day.