<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blog/17#">Eco Travel</a>

Eco Travel

On the path to responsible travel, with Louise Southerden.

When travel and eco-ethics collide

King's Canyon

King's Canyon

Credit: Louise Southerden

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They say travel broadens the mind. And it's true - sometimes it can remind you of your true place in the world and reconnect you to a wider world beyond you, me, us and them.

Other times, though, travelling can allow - or even encourage - you to put your head in the warm sand, at least in relation to climate change.

Last week I was on assignment in Central Australia and if there's one place that brings home what the word "drought" really means, this is it. Somehow, though, that slipped past me the night our group stayed at a fairly luxurious resort.

My room had a bath overlooking the desert landscape we'd been driving and walking through that day. Hot and dusty, I decided to have a bath - thinking that it'd be good to experience bathing with a view of the vast outback. The vast, dry outback. The place where the average annual rainfall can be barely 200mm (Sydney's annual rainfall is just over 1200mm) - and that's in a good year - and waterholes are so rare they have become tourist attractions.

And yes, as soon as I slid into my half-filled bath (I still had some eco-sensibilities intact), I felt it - that inescapable twinge of guilt mixed with empathy for the plants outside, framed by my large picture window, that hadn't seen water in years.

How could I have let this happen? Travel can, I guess, affect us in unexpected ways, make us behave in ways we never would at home. It can let us "off the hook" because, much of the time, we're not in control when we travel - especially when it comes to such things as where the electricity, food or water comes from.

You can't always minimise your environmental footprint as much as you would like to, or as much as you would back home, when you're just passing through…

There are places, too, that seem, by their very existence, to deny the fact of global warming. Places like Dubai, which is fast gaining a reputation for man-made monstrosities: 300 artificial islands constructed in the shape of a world map (The World), indoor ski resorts (don't get me started on how much power must be required to make snow in the Middle Eastern desert) and, most recently, a new underwater hotel.

The $1.8 billion Atlantis opened this week and has 1539 rooms, including a luxury suite for $30,000 per night, and more than twenty dolphins that were flown in especially from the Solomon Islands (that's a 30-hour flight) for its in-house aquarium.

Of course Dubai has long been criticised by environmentalists who say that its man-made islands and underwater hotels damage coral reefs and affects the natural flow of currents, not to mention exorbitant water and electricity consumption. But it also has the highest hotel occupancy rates in the world. Go figure.

Personally, I'd rather go bushwalking in the Blue Mountains (which I am planning to do this weekend). And thankfully there are plenty of other destinations that remind us of our true place in the world, and the current state of that world, so as to encourage us in our efforts to live "green".

It's the ones that lull us into a false sense that nothing we do matters, that we have to be mindful of.

Have you ever made an eco boo-boo? Had trouble holding onto your eco-conscience when travelling?

On the other hand, have your eco-ethics ever prevented you from enjoying a trip - when what you see clashes with your inner sense of how things could be?