They’re calling it “last-chance tourism“–the last chance to see the icy landscape of the Arctic and the species that are adapted to it, before climate change destroys it all.
And they’re right. The Arctic is undergoing massive changes, and models project it will be ice-free during the summer tourist season by the 2030s, or at least the 2040s, which means that the “last chance” isn’t going to last long. And so far those models have been UNDERestimating the melting that has occurred. As the ice goes, so go the species that depend on it and the climate that supported it for millennia. And it is happening because of our use of fossil fuels.
So, ironically, last-chance tourists will be powerfully contributing to the very demise that they are witnessing, for Arctic travel uses a huge amount of fossil fuels and also because it is inevitable that as more ships travel through the region there will be spills of fuel and other waste products into this uniquely sensitive ecosystem.
But perhaps there is also a small sign of hope in this. Perhaps if enough people take one of these “last-chance” tours during the next few years (got a spare $30,000 or so per person?) their own eyes will finally tell them that yes, indeed, disaster is heading our way. And perhaps they will tell all their denying family and friends, and show them the pictures, and this personal interaction will finally do what every national academy of science in the world has been unable to do–persuade people of the truth. And then, maybe–just maybe–enough people will demand action that no climate science denier can EVER AGAIN attain elected office.
If all this happens fast enough, and other economic trends in the energy industry continue to work in favor of renewable forms of energy and against fossil fuels, then perhaps we can at least make the coming decades and centuries a little less devastating for the grandchildren of the world, their descendants, and all living things.
There’s no longer any more than a small chance that we will keep warming below the 2 degrees Celsius threshold that all the nations but the United States say we MUST NOT exceed. The time for effective prevention passed us by while the free market fundamentalists spent hundreds of millions of dollars to spread fake news about the science in a successful attempt to keep fossil fuel profits going as long as possible. The question now is not whether we will avoid disaster–it is already upon us, as this past year has demonstrated to all but the most obtuse–but what degree of disaster we will leave to the future. We have a short time—perhaps as short as two or three years, or perhaps as long as fifteen years—in which to begin an urgent, rapid transition away from fossil fuels for even a modest chance of staying below the 2C threshold.
As of now, not a single U.S. politician in either party has the guts to tell the public the truth and follow through with the required action. The Republicans are actively, gleefully doubling down on the dinosaur fuels of disaster, and the Democrats are a pack of cowards. The reality is, we are heading toward a climate that will tear the fabric of nation after nation, as the disasters rack up increasingly exorbitant costs.
Perhaps “last-chance tourism” will indeed provide one last chance of gaining enough public awareness to make a positive difference in the lives of generations to come. Otherwise, it is nothing more than a celebration of ecocide.
it’s 3:23 in the morning
and I’m awake
because my great great grandchildren
won’t let me sleep
my great great grandchildren
ask me in dreams
what did you do while the planet was plundered?
what did you do when the earth was unraveling?
surely you did something
when the seasons started failing?
as the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?
did you fill the streets with protest
when democracy was stolen?
what did you do
–Drew Dellinger, “Hieroglyphic Stairway”