Reality Tours Open Eyes Around the World

Haiti Capital 2010

Haitian capital post-quake 2010

This travel company was recently brought to my attention, and I’m loving them: Global Exchange.

Their Reality Tours take clients to rich and intriguing destinations we might not even know we need to add to our bucket lists. North Korea, Afghanistan, Rebuilding Nepal, Iran (all places I would LOVE to go) and so many more, but the genuinely exciting part is the context in which you travel. To explore and discover human rights causes, or sustainability efforts, or post-disaster recovery, or food scarcity programs, women’s rights—it is issue-based travel and connection.

The company’s tag line is: “…an international human rights organization dedicated to promoting social, economic, and environmental justice around the world.” Their experiential education excursions connect deeply to communities and issues, and help make a real difference while fostering true understanding far more deeply than the levels we glean from most media. Over 100 trips a year to 40 destinations means you can absolutely find a trip that is meaningful and supports the issues about which you are passionate.

In addition to travel opportunities, their robust website offers plenty of other ways to get involved (including great “5-Minute Actions“), events, thoughtful blogs from past participants, and other programs. Go explore. Fair warning, you may disappear down the rabbit hole of intrigue the way I did, fantasizing about my next opportunity for impact travel.

Being Ahead of Schedule Is Bad – Earth Overshoot Day

earth-spaceOuch

We keep getting more efficient at screwing ourselves up!

Most often, in life, it is beneficial to be ahead of schedule for things–better than the alternative, being late. Well, when it comes to annually using up our world’s resources, the early bird doesn’t get the worm…the early bird probably only gets hungry, and thirsty, and hot, very hot.

Earth Overshoot Day should be sometime in early October, this red-letter-in-a-bad-way day, but this year, 2015, it happened yesterday, on August 13 (six days ahead of last year–a bad trend). Yikes!

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. The Global Footprint Network measures humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services, and at some point on the calendar, we get to the point where we are in a deficit compared to what can be provided, so we are technically drawing down resources and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We owe the world, and that tipping point date gets earlier every year. In banking terms, we are drawing down the earth’s principal rather than responsibly living off the interest.

Ecological overshoot is a non-sustainable way of life and possible for only a limited period of time before we degrade the system so far that we end up with water shortages, desertification, soil erosion, reduced cropland activity, overgrazing, rapid species extinction, collapse of fisheries, and increased carbon concentration…sound familiar?

Our global overshoot has nearly doubled since 1961. According to Global Footprint Network, we are now living large, literally, as it would take 1.6 Earths to actually support our current consumption, and predictions state we would require two entire planets to support our usage trends by mid-century. Only 14% of our world lives in countries with more biocapacity than usage footprint, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Chile, and Brazil. The United States is squarely in the not-so-happy red zone, using more natural resources than we can possibly provide.

TAKE ACTION:

Check out this interactive footprint calculator to discover how much land area it takes to support your own lifestyle, discover your biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what you can do to tread more lightly on the earth.

The Power of Generosity | Service Space

This TED Talk by Nipun Mehta, the founder of Service Space, is from 2012….and well…it kind of sums up all of the things…

World Elephant Day and You

Today, August 12, is World Elephant Day.

ivory decoration with World Elephant Day text overlaidThere are lots of recognition events around the world, and a flurry of social media about them.

#WorldElephantDay is the Number One trending topic on Twitter.

The recent Cecil the Lion travesty has brought new attention to the plight of endangered and overly hunted species. Elephants have that extra strike against them of the voracious ivory trade that this nothing of slaughtering them for their tusks.

Currently in the United States, import and trade of African Elephant ivory and Asian Elephant ivory is prohibited (there are some cases where transport is allowed of antiques and family possessions acquired before the 1970s), but other nations still consume ivory as a weirdly valued status symbol.

Since the Cecil and the Dentist dust-up, many international airlines have now banned transport of endangered animal trophies and products on their flights—a good deterrent to poachers placing a price on the heads of elephants and other threatened species.

There are some wonderful elephant volunteer situations in East Asia and Africa, to help support the species and care for orphaned and injured elephants. Here is a list to get you started (and if you can fit me in your suitcase when you go to volunteer at one of these, I will ABSOLUTELY come along!)

Elevate Destinations Kenya Private Elephant Adventure

GVI Thai Elephant Project

Elevate Namibia Conservation Safari

Elephant Nature Park, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Tanzania Elephant Conservation Service and Safari—Elevate Destinations

 

I Love This Video–Fiverr Has So Many Unexpected Oddities

Fiverr.com is a hoot. I’ve found everything there from hand-knit zombies to logo design.

And this video I commissioned for, yep, a whopping five bucks.

Happy Friday!

Carnival Cruise’s Fathom Line – Cruising With a Social Mission

Adonia for Fathom Carnival Cruise

The Adonia

The cruise industry gets lots of grief for the huge impact they have on the environment, burning vast reserves of fuel to move their skyscraper-sized vessels through the seas. There’s also lots to pick on about port villages created just for them and the impact that has on local communities and cultures, the insane amount of food waste on a sailing, and more…but I’m a firm believer in pointing out what companies are doing right, wherever I find it. Especially when it concerns making a positive difference in the world.

Carnival is launching a new cruise line called Fathom Impact + Travel, with the specific mission of taking guests on vacations where they will volunteer at social projects. The first voyage will be on the 710-passenger “Adonia” bound for the Dominican Republic in 2016. Once they arrive in the D.R., passengers will participate in projects including English language instruction, reforestation initiatives, water purification projects, and help harvest at a women’s cocoa co-op. Their model of “Impact Travel” is scaled for growth in subsequent years, with a target of 35,000 volunteer visitors in year one.

Fathom Cuba is also the line that will handle the new cultural exchange voyages to Cuba, specializing in person-to-person experiences and cultural immersion with humanitarian projects.

I, of course, have concerns as I do with any large scale drop-in volunteer gig, about the sustainability of projects and community impact in the down times when no boatloads of passengers are there. I’d love to go on a Fathom voyage and get a deeper understanding of the long-range plans for the brand’s evolution. If you go–please let me know about your experience in the comments below or contact email. I love that the company sees that the market is there for this kind of travel on a large scale. That says something positive about travel in general, and our priorities as members of a global family.

Best Shark Week Finale – Volunteer for Sharks

shark turning in shallow dappled waterWe’re coming into the home stretch of Discovery Network’s Shark Week, that ratings bonanza that strikes gold in the channels’s viewership numbers and strikes fear in the hearts of some swimmers (though we know you are waaaayyyy more likely to die of the flu or crossing the street than of ever having a dangerous encounter with a shark). Let’s face it, if they wanted to, they could snack on us quite a bit, but they are absolutely human averse. They could never really even the stakes, however, considering  the millions of sharks we slaughter every year for their fins and cartilage—often unnecessarily cruelly.

so let’s look at some ways to counter the Da-Dum, Da-Dum Jaws soundtrack that thunders in your head every time you dip a toe in the surf (or jump in a pool or fill your bathtub). Volunteering with this world’s amazing shark populations is a great way to counter the press-inflated stories about shark attacks and understand these magnificent creatures. I’ve been lucky enough to have experiences with different sharks, from Great Whites to Whale Sharks to nurse, black-tip reef, and others…and look forward to many more. Sharks rock!

Enkosini Eco Experience in Gaansbai, South Africa, as well as White Shark Projects (who I dove with, in that same shark-heavy zone of South Africa near Gaansbai, known as “Shark Alley”) are eco-focused, environmental leaders, and have lots of openings for dedicated volunteers.

I’ve had the memory-of-a-lifetime experience of being in the water with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme and can’t recommend volunteering with these folks enough. Science rules the excursions, but the pure joy of encountering such grace will be what you carry with you long after you get home (see previous blog posting here).

I’m a big fan of Earthwatch, and find myself extraordinarily intrigued by their shark study volunteer expedition in Belize.

Frontier Gap has a shark conservation volunteer program in Fiji, helping research species and increase international awareness and understanding.

How about a volunteer gig at the Bimini SharkLab – it’s a biological field station always looking for dedicated volunteers.

This is just a small sampling of shark volunteer options around the oceans of the world…dive in and find one for your next vacation. Tell Ian Ziering and Tara Reid we’ll meet them there.

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