See the world ethically!
Travel’s great – that’s why we love it. The benefits of travel are significant and well understood, in terms of opening our minds and hearts, exposing us to different ways of thinking and living, and promoting a greater understanding of the world and our place in it. One of the best ways to lessen, if not eliminate, cultural misunderstandings and global tensions would be for many more people to visit another country and spend time getting to know its people, experiencing its culture and seeing its sights. It would likely make the world a much better and more tolerant place.
Something else we’re passionate about is protecting the environment, because the negative effects of Climate Change are becoming more and more obvious. It’s clear we’re not talking about changes that will occur in the distant future, we’re talking about today. Whether it’s Hurricane Irma, the dying out of the Great Barrier Reef (the largest natural eco-system in the world) or the record-setting fires we’re experiencing in California, it’s become obvious that the situation is critical. Traveling by plane, car or even train can create significant amounts of pollution, thereby making the environment worse, so what is eco travel? Or an eco-tour? How are we going to travel in a sustainable way?
Well, think exploratory expedition of the urban jungle and do a tour with Real San Francisco Tours. All of our experiences are 100% sustainable, being based around walking, cycling and/or public transport, so they’re all, effectively, eco tours. It also happens to be the best way to learn about and experience a city, which is why we’ve always done it that way since we first launched, in 2013. This is the whole idea of eco travel, to always create minimal, or no, pollution when traveling and mitigate whatever emissions we do create.
However, we wanted to go further, so in 2017 we partnered with Climate Cents, a Los Angeles based non-profit that does amazing work right here in Southern California. It’s a great example of how the climate crisis affects so many elements of society. The projects that we’ve supported include fitting solar panels at youth homeless shelters in Venice, restoring kelp forests in Santa Monica Bay and tree-planting to create urban forests in the San Fernando Valley. We donate $1 for every guest booked on a tour to Climate Cents, and since partnering with them we’ve raised over $6,000. For me, this is the true meaning of eco-travel and giving back to the community.
Unfortunately, doing something positive about the environment doesn’t end with coming on an eco-friendly tour with us, however it’s not always clear what actions we can take. Climate Change is such an enormous, multi-faceted, problem that it’s easy to feel that there’s nothing that we can do, as individuals, that would make any difference. Luckily, that isn’t the case – because there’s lots we can achieve on our own. If you think about it every single movement in human history started with just an individual, so why shouldn’t this one start with you?
WHAT CAN WE DO?
1. Try to steadily reduce the carbon emissions that our lifestyle creates and switch to using only renewable energy, if we can.
2. Encourage our friends, family members and colleagues to get involved in climate activism (we’re often much more influential than we think and not everyone cares as much about this as us).
3. Advocate for climate change solutions at local, state and national levels by writing to our representatives at the various levels of government. Only government can make the necessary systemic changes to society and the economy. We have to make government.
4. Support a Climate Change non-profit. Even a small donation helps a huge amount.
A natural consequence of concern for the environment, and learning more about the climate crisis, is a feeling of hopelessness and even pessimism. Is it too late already? Have we doomed ourselves and future generations to a practically unlivable planet? Well, I'm a naturally optimistic person and I think it's far too soon to give up. Environmental scientists often talk of negative tipping-points, the moment at which change becomes inevitable, such as the extinction of a species, because the population is just too small to maintain genetic diversity. However there are positive tipping points too, and one of the amazing things about nature is how resilient it is and how it thrives - when humans just leave it alone.
In amongst all the stories of climate doom and gloom there are some very positive developments too. Just to take the example of coral reef destruction (mentioned above) there have been three new developments in the last two years that have been hugely positive. First, the discovery of pristine coral reefs in Tahiti, second the speedy recovery of coral reefs in Fiji that were devastated by tropical cyclones in 2016, and lastly the discovery that even bleached coral reefs do provide a rich environment for sea life. It seems there is still hope for eco-travel and life on Earth!
Some final thoughts on eco-traveling... I read a great article, in Afar, by Eric Wiener recently - A Travel Manifesto: 5 Ways to Be a Better Traveler - that encapsulated a lot of my own thoughts on the subject and could also be read as a blueprint for traveling sustainably. He makes the very sensible point that travel, pre-pandemic, was in many ways becoming unsustainable, and he makes several suggestions that could go a long way to fixing that, at least on a personal level.
- Travel selectively - you can't go everywhere. By trying to see everything, you run the risk of seeing nothing.
- Travel purposefully - even if that's as simple as traveling with the intention of having an open mind and a kind heart.
- Travel slowly - because speed is the enemy of attention. Loiter and linger in each place.
- Travel empathetically - expand yourself, not by turning inward but by interacting, always respectfully, with others.
- Travel joyfully - expectations are the enemy of happiness. Travel, at its best, should not only be meaningful, but fun. Otherwise what's the point?
I feel that if you follow these principles you'll be traveling sustainably and ethically, regardless of whether you do an eco-tour in each place you visit. And, ultimately, that's what it's all about.
Thanks for reading this and being interested in such a hugely important issue. Please let us know if you have any ideas for ways that we can do even more to fight climate change, we’re always looking new suggestions,
- Damien, founder of Real San Francisco Tours