I have always been a little worried and some call me nuts about doing the best I can for the future of our planet. I recycle and drive as little as possible. While I admit I have a magazine and New York Times subscription, I do not use plastic bottles, I do not have a microwave, and so on. But I know darn well it is not enough.
For my twins B’nai Mitzvah (a combined Bar and Bat Mitzvah for twins or others holding it together), we were living in Austin, Texas. We had a dinner before their evening service for 100 people. Afterwards, we had a celebration with food stations and drinks and what not for 200.
We sourced all the food and drinks from within 75 miles. Weused invitations that were seeded and could be planted to grow wild flowers and paid to offset the carbon foot print of those who traveled. In the end, we had only had 1 bag of garbage. The rest was recycled and composted. But I have always known I can do better.
We work hard and value the travel we get to do. Picking locations like Alaska that are perfect for us are so important. But this also means we follow what is happening in various parts of the world. Like the low salmon production in Washington State and the chemicals that have lowered the hatcheries. This in turn leaves little for the whales to eat and thus, calves are dying off. Soon we will have no more orcas in the area. Plus, the chemicals are causing the milk of the orca mothers to literally poison their young.
We have been to Belize and seen the masses of trash from cruise ships floating miles from shore. Some masses are so big they take over small islands. We have seen turtles and sea birds suffer and die from balloons and plastic bags. And we have personally been involved in the rescue of hundreds of sea turtles and hatchlings from both red tide and communities that do not support a lights out policy in season.
Then along came the past twenty days…
We arrived in Alaska on August 14th. On the flight up, the effect humans are having on our environment was very clear when we saw the wildfires and their destruction from above. These were not wildfires that help sustainable forest management plan. No, these were due to hot, windy, and dry conditions during a drought that create a tinderbox people can set ablaze.
From the moment we arrived in this amazing state of Alaska, we heard and saw so much worry and stress from the locals about the damage, we as humans, are causing. The people that we met in Alaska really helped me understand the importance of making a difference due to their passion. They have seen year over year the destructive changes occurring and yes, it is visible from one year to the next.
What is happening in what some refer to as the last frontier has struck me the most. It has taken me to this point where I must both share and do more personally. I do not know where to start other than with myself and those I know and those I can share with.
So, I’m going to give you first what I found on my trip and second, the ways I plan to make a difference going forward in my everyday life.
How Alaska is being impacted…
Just like in Washington State, we are loosing salmont and their deterioration affects so much, including killer whales that will soon be gone. There are more regulations on fishing and although it effects the livelihood of these communities and families, they understand and respect it. But just regulating fishing for a year will do nothing. We need major changes from each and every one of us. For example, your carbon footprint plays a role in the waters warming and thus changing the cycles of life for the salmon.
We traveled with the Boat Company to visit glaciers. We anchored far away in a little inlet for the night and woke up and boarded our skiffs to see the glacier. Two things struck me the most. First, Evan our guide, stopped the skiff and showed the five of us (we had our Orvis guide on our boat, too) where the glacier was last year.
It was not even the amount we have lost due to the global warming that broke my heart, but Evan’s face, voice, and eyes as he told spoke about the glaciers. You saw the despair in this man who year after year has watched this much-needed glacier to the world’s ecosystem disappear.
The second was the other “eco-tour” boats and then tours I saw after we docked. The Boat Company has been, since it started, a true steward of the environment. We did not get close, we did not approach the icebergs, we did not touch, we just sat in awe of the glacier. We watched another boat from an “eco-tour” that was not a metal skiff like ours. But it was a rubber-sided small boat loaded with 20 people. It zipped around very close to the glacier and many of the large icebergs.
Tourism plays a huge role in the environment and especially in Alaska. While Alaska needs the tourism, it can also destroy the environment. Pick your tour companies, ships, and hotels wisely. Know their true practices.
Flying out and landing on a glacier and then starting a fire to grill salmon, NOT GOOD. Watching a glacier from afar, GOOD. Being on a whale watching boat that is working with another boat or two to chase down the whales, NOT GOOD. Whale watching on a boat from afar and being patient, GOOD! Know before you go.
The best way to explain the greed is through projects like Pebble Mine. We have allowed greed to take over. Then we wonder why we do not have fish, why prices of fish rise, and how we kill off animals and marine life. I flew over Bristol Bay one day on our way to fly-fish. from about 500 feet up we looked down on hundreds of Begula Whales feeding and enjoying the Bay. They could all be gone! We need to stay informed and be less greedy.
Yes, we are already planning a trip back up to Alaska. It touched us like no other place we have visited has. We have also already started to support projects we feel are important. But I know it is not nearly enough…
What I am going to change in my everyday life…
Better Educate Myself
I pledge to stay informed and really dive into all aspects of the effect humans are having on our environment. And I’m going to share what I learn with friends, family, and you! Passing on my learnings is one of the best ways to affect change.
Not only am I going to educate myself, but I’m going to get active in my community and in the political arena. I’m going to work hard to make sure that the towns where I live enact policies that protect our lands and residents. I will also work to elect politicians that believe in climate change and will work to save our environment.
Decrease My Carbon Footprint
This is the one thing besides education we can all do. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Plant a garden
- Continue to eat more local and organic
- Buy less stuff and repurpose what I have or buy used; this includes clothes and furniture
- Travel smarter – take fewer, longer vacations so I fly less and find more drivable vacations
- Change my driving habits – I know I cannot give up driving all together, but I can change the car I drive and the amount I drive by bundling what I do. I said no to a meeting this week, because they could not change the day to the one I would be in the area. So, instead, I did it on the phone.
- Unplug my electronics – you still suck energy just being plugged in
- Eat less meat
- Turn off the lights and use LED bulbs
- Ensure all new appliances are energy efficient
- Watch my water usage – I’m serious here. The past 2 years we’ve had droughts and had to conserve water. And just look at the wildfires in CA and the droughts around the world.
Not Beat Myself Up
We cannot all do it all so I will do what I can and not beat myself up. Any effort made will have a positive impact.
It is crazy to think that heading off on your August travels can make such an impact on you. But it did in so many way. I want to be sure my children’s children and their children have a healthy planet with an abundance of natural resources and wildlife to enjoy. We not only need it for our happiness, but our survival.
Have you ever had a trip change your life?
I am a home cook that does things my way. In my kitchen, I make breakfast, pack lunches, prepare snacks, and cook dinner. During the week, we eat real food that is homemade, organic, and local. On the weekends we do explore more of our local restaurants. I bake my own bread, juice fresh oranges every other day, and make my own kombucha and other weekly favorites.