Travel to exotic locations is a privilege, not a right, and in terms of carbon impact, a typical 747 aircraft burns 4 litres of fossil fuel every single second! A flight to Australia from Europe creates 4.5 tonnes of carbon. By comparison, traveling 2000 km by car emits less CO2 than one transcontinental flight, and the average emission per capita globally is around 1 tonne. In the face of these devastating statistics, it may be a good idea to ask ourselves if we care enough about the Earth to just STAY HOME!
Going away on "retreat" from the ecosystem where we actually live is a strange phenomenon, coupled with the promise that we will make a "special connection" with nature that somehow doesn't exist at home. The lure of exotic experiences is a big draw, such as enjoying "rhino tracking" or “respectfully encountering dolphins in the wild." Yet isn't it possible to find the magic and mystery of nature - and the beautiful creatures of Earth Community - right in the ecosystems of our own home places, that need our care and attention?
Travel to exotic destinations is made possible by socioeconomic privilege, and especially the wealth accumulated by the boomer generation. We hold a lifetime of conditioning that prompts us to enjoy our wealth and privilege, with exotic travel being one of our most popular normalized pleasures. (Next to body care, fancy clothes, restaurants and live entertainment, that is!) We have also been indoctrinated to admire the ultra-rich and emulate their jet-setter lifestyles (whether or not we will ever be ultra-rich). We have to ask ourselves if members of the nature-relatedness field really want to follow these aspects of the capitalist paradigm, that promote the excess consumption of both material goods and experiences?
Instead of fleeting encounters with Indigenous folks, a better approach may be to contribute to the cultural survival of specific Indigenous nations from afar, and practice good Allyship to support healthy boundaries and the principles of non-interference. In addition to Indigenous groups in Hawaii, the Kogi in Colombia have recently asked North Americans to JUST STAY HOME. Their beleaguered ecosystems are becoming more and more fragile, and it is increasingly seen as an extension of socioeconomic privilege to assume we can travel anywhere just because we feel like it, and insert ourselves into the precious homelands and narratives of peoples in other places.
If you are a member of the Ecopsychology community and decide against traveling to an exotic location for nature connection, a public statement outlining your objections, including your assessment of the carbon that has been offset, would be most welcome. And thank you for your inspiration!
Pegi Eyers is the author of Ancient Spirit Rising: Reclaiming Your Roots & Restoring Earth Community, an award-winning book that explores strategies for social justice, uncolonization, ethnocultural identity, building land-emergent community & resilience in times of massive change.