One of the the best books I picked up recently (so good it appears a couple of times in my own forthcoming The Green Devotional: Active Prayers for a Healthy Planet) is by Alex Steffen. World Changing: A Users’s Guide for the 21st Century. It contains much material that has appeared on their website.
Steffen writes on page 259 about what makes a great place and one of the criteria, he says, is a place where people socialize locally. We might also then ask: What makes a planet great? A planet where people act as if it’s all “theirs”? All precious? If it’s truly “ours” then it seems we’d all work much harder to make sure places don’t disappear.
Carissa Bluestone, a Seattle freelance writer, wrote (August 27, 2009) about places that are disappearing. Vanishing almost before our very eyes. She points to Kimberly Lisagor and Heather Hansen’s book: Disappearing Destinations and 37 Places in Peril and What Can Be Done to Help Save Them. And Frommer’s has come up with a book about 500 places in peril.
So, we should go, quick, and take pictures? Cruise ships bump into the Galapagos at an astounding rate and airplanes fly over contaminating pristine air. I admit I was one of the traveling culprits last September on Alaska’s inside passage. Our ship went up the Tracy Arm, and we watched glaciers fall into the fjord. Witnessing first hand, our disrupted ecosystem calls to travelers like some perverted voyeurism—the way you can’t NOT look at a crash on the highway. Or the Great Barrier Reed turning grey.
People have written about how when tourists leave, gorillas and other endangered species disappear even faster. Watching might help. So will watching endangered places keep them from eroding, burning, flooding, melting? Where are the officers enforcing bio-security? Oh, sure, you can get a copy of “Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.” And I’m sure there are also copies floating around on ethics in banking but who reads them?
Bluestone introduced me to a new word: solastigia: the great sense of loss we feel by the realization that our environment is indeed changing. And not for the better. Places ARE disappearing. And I for one, am suffering from solastigia.