How Traveling Opens Your Eyes to Climate Change

My passion for the environment began in elementary school, revolving mostly around wanting to save the pandas and polar bears. Eventually, that grew to include the planet as a whole once I realized we were nothing short of f*cked. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence, there is still a substantial percentage of Americans that do not believe that man-made climate change is real.

While this is disturbing, upon further thought, it is not entirely shocking. Many people choose to believe things that fit their worldview, and the snow in their backyard and their orange president on TV tells them not to believe in it. As frustrating as it is that America as a whole cannot get behind wholeheartedly fighting climate change, I can’t blame those that refuse to believe in it.

As someone who lived in Missouri for six years, indifference about the environment is the norm. You’ll actually find people purposefully revving their pickups to let out more emissions just to piss off us tree-huggers. In Missouri and most of the central U.S., climate change will never severely affect us, so why bother doing something about it? Aside from human selfishness and indifference, in rural America, there’s just too much poverty to even begin caring about the environment. If you can barely afford food for a week, where are you going to get the money to donate to environmental causes or buy a Tesla?

Again, it’s hard for me to fault people for their indifference. The purpose of me writing this is the idea that traveling can be what opens more and more people’s eyes to the effects of climate change, how those effects can resonate around the world, and how going green is not a bad thing.

I consider myself to be a sustainable traveler, and everywhere I go, I take note of anything remotely environmentally related. From green public transit to little eco-friendly advice hanging in bathrooms, I’ve noticed that most countries have at least taken initiative to do their part. Countries like Costa Rica and Norway are almost entirely running on renewable energy. Others like Sweden have to import trash because they’re managing their waste so efficiently.

Traveling opens your eyes to how the world sees certain issues. You also see how each country is impacted differently by the changing climates. I was born in the Philippines, and it seems that each year, the typhoon-prone Philippines is hit with a massive storm. Four years ago, we were hit with the strongest typhoon in recorded history. Storms happen all the time in the Philippines, but the latest barrage of typhoons have been devastatingly powerful, upending hundreds of thousands of lives and keeping millions of Filipinos on edge. Is climate change a factor? Almost definitely.

When I was in Peru, I was able to go to the newly-discovered Rainbow Mountain. It was a breathtaking sight to see, a colorful mountain range that literally resembled a rainbow. According to my guide, this was only recently discovered because the snow that had been covering the mountains for its entire history had melted within the last few years.

I went to La Paz, Bolivia where the city was under a severe water shortage. The surrounding snow-capped mountains that had provided water to Bolivians for thousands of years were becoming not-so-snow-capped.

Chains of Pacific islands like Kiribati and Fiji are all under threat of possibly going underwater in the near future. Already, parts of these and many more island chains have started to go underwater.

For Americans and citizens of other developed countries, climate change is not a threat. Whether you choose to do something about it or not, it is your choice. For others in climate change stricken areas, indifference is not an option. Action is their only choice, but when you consider that many of the most affected are also the least responsible for climate change, it becomes clear that their future is in our hands.

When one thinks of the word “refugees,” one probably imagines those fleeing from a war-torn country, or maybe they’re trying to escape from a cruel dictatorship. Few probably think of those whose lives have been devastated by climate change.

According to the United Nations, there were 20 million people displaced by climate change in 2008. Almost ten years later, you can safely bet that that number is significantly higher.

I know indifference is the easy way out, but ignorance is not an option anymore. Whether you believe in climate change or not doesn’t matter because it is happening all over the world and destroying lives all over the world. Imagine if the place your family called home for generations is facing the threat of going completely underwater, and those that have the most power to make a change are turning a blind eye. That is the reality that millions of people face across the world. Unless Americans can unite to implore our climate-denying government to do our part in saving the world, there will be no one to help us when the ocean begins to take our coasts.

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