The Entire Earth Is One Big Toy--Let's Play with It!

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I should acknowledge what some of you are no doubt thinking: OK, cruises might be fun, but they're not the most environmentally responsible way to vacation. Cruise ships used to routinely dump crap into the ocean (they're supposed to follow rules about it now) but they also used to do things even stupider and more wantonly destructive, all in the name of entertaining tourists.

One day we visited Hubbard Glacier in Yakutak (pronounced "Yak Attack") Bay. As we approached, we were allowed to go up to the front of the bow so we could lean over the railings and stare right at this massive chunk of ice. It's a damn impressive sight: 76 miles long and six miles wide at the point where it meets the ocean, and every so often it will calve off icebergs the size of a ten-story building. If you saw the chunk fall off, you'd shout, "Oh! Look!" as you pointed; if you didn't, you'd look where someone was pointing and say, "Oh, crap." You actually had to WATCH the glacier and WAIT if you wanted to see it DO anything.

And apparently that patience which is now necessary used to be considered an avoidable inconvenience. While hanging out on the bow, I talked to a guy who was on his third Alaskan cruise. He said that the first two times he went, someone would bombard whatever glacier they were visiting with sonar so that it would calve more often and more dramatically. But then someone else pointed out that since 95% of the world's glaciers are receding on their own, it probably wasn't wise to help them, and the practice was abandoned.

A few days ago, Chris posted an entry about the fact that being crappy residents of this planet should motivate us to STOP being crappy residents instead of rushing about space looking for a new home to move to after we've completely trashed this one. (Not that he's opposed to space exploration--he says that about a dozen times and people still seemed to miss it.) But he went so far as to compare humanity to a cockroach infestation, and both his basic point and that comparison pissed a lot of people off. Personally I thought the post was both funny and apt, and the fact that we would speed up the dissolution of the polar ice caps just because its cool to watch, is one more reason I think that.

8 Comments

he says that about a dozen times and people still seemed to miss it.

You know, I'm really glad you're back.

I'm sure Al Gore would be horrified by that sonar thing, as we all should be. I bet it was cool, though. SPLASH!

Color Me Jealous!

Twenty years ago when I was in Chile, I had to forgo the opportunity to take a cruise ship to Tierra del Fuego and back up the coast of southern Chile. A friend did go and he brought back spectacular photos of the glaciers at the Torres del Paine National Park. I regret not going.

Chris's post is good. There is a further issue here as well: why does anyone assume that we wouldn't just export human society along with the people who might colonize other planets? Star Trek had a very optimistic view of the possibility for human society -- very optimistic indeed, which I believe explains some of its appeal. I find myself more sympathetic with Kim Stanley Robinson. Have you read him? The Mars Trilogy -- I should admit right away that it has the fault of many trilogies, i.e., it is too long -- is amazing because it can indeed imagine the technologies needed to colonize another planet but it does not lose sight of the fact that we'd be colonizing it.

And while people may think it's really cool to watch a glacier slough off towers of ice and create mini-tsunamis as frequently as they now do, it's in fact further evidence of global warming. As you point out, watching chunks of glacier fall was at one time rather uncommon and a once-in-a-lifetime sight to behold. Today, it's standard fare. And we should be less awed and more frightened by it.

While I'm not advocating that Al Gore has all the answers or information, his newest venture, "An Inconvenient Truth" is quite startingly--and sobering--in many ways. It's also seeded with some unnecessary sentimental tripe that lends little to the current issue or debate of how humans live in and treat the world, but if you can look past his personal musings, it's an excellent piece. If you haven't seen it, I'd highly recommend it.

It's a sad thing that everything has to be turned into a tourist experience rather than just being enjoyed for what it is.

It's sad but funny watching someone misconstrue meaning in a blog post and then sitting back and reading the crazy get all compounded.

I don't mind touristy stuff too much. Although sometimes you feel like a loser.

Welcome back, Holly. I hope you are over the worst of your digestive woes.
Lots of people I know have taken the Alaska cruise, and they all rave about it. So one of these days, we'll do it too.
I see cruise boats from my deck every day but have never taken a cruise. One thing I like about them is that they take their infrastructure with them, which spares us from having big hotels and so on in our little town.

Hi everyone--thanks for commenting. I haven't seen An Incovenient Truth--it's playing at a movie theater nowhere near me, unfortunately, so I will probably have to wait until it comes out on Netflix--it doesn't have enough chase scenes to suit the taste of my local multiplex, apparently.

I haven't read Kim Stanley Robinson--I confess I don't think much about outer space, but I guess I support space exploration. I used to want to be an astronomer and even considered majoring in it in college, until I saw how much math I'd have to take.

Most people live places with so much light pollution that you can only see a few of the brightest stars at night. The brilliance of the night sky was one of the few really great things about living in middle of nowhere in rural Arizona.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on June 17, 2006 12:16 AM.

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