Travelers should stay conscious of their carbon footprint

So here I sit feeling guilty after purchasing a plane ticket that in three months will whiz me half-way around the world. It is not purely for pleasure or play but rather the environmental education that is offered by Australian universities that I feel justifies my monster carbon footprint. I danced around the ethical issues that I was feeling, for if it wasn’t for the amazing institutions and unmatched educational experiences that Australia is heralded for, I wouldn’t be going. But is that enough? Should I flee such a wonderful establishment as TCU to travel around the world in hopes to gain knowledge in a completely different setting? These days one can learn nearly anything via the Internet, but then why is it that I feel compelled to leave this country, leave my trace in the ozone and jeopardize the well-being of others?

Again, on other academic trips to enhance my environmental education, I have flown around the world. Is that hypocritical of me? Returning from such trips has left me even more inspired and aware of global issues that I can begin to address locally; that guilt vanished after I stepped foot back onto American turf. I have witnessed what other countries are doing to combat global warming on a personal level, and my life has greatly been enriched, leaving me a daily bike rider, recycler and energy-conscious individual. Are these gastronomical carbon emitting trips worth it? I strongly believe so.

Then, we get to the issue of the international Frog Camp. I came to TCU with the belief that Frog Camp was to bond students together, in various areas of Texas, but perhaps I was wrong. While I would love to travel to Europe and hang out with fabulous professors and students, is it necessary? I went to Frog Camp about two hours away from Fort Worth, and I don’t feel like my experience was any less than that of someone traveling to Europe. I would feel even more timid attempting to meet new people for the first time while in a foreign country. Plus, look at the all the emissions being expended for the sake of something that many students can partake in while staying in Texas or even the United States for that matter. The current amount of carbon in the atmosphere is 385 parts per million, reaching beyond the safe level of 350 ppm, with vast increases expected in the near future. Yet here we are jetting off around the world to satisfy personal desires that can be quenched at home.

So I sit here and wonder, can I actually justify traveling to the other side of the world to study, yet strongly state my opinions against traveling around the world for amusement? It comes down to ethical values. While I might be jetting off at present, I know I will be gaining the best education I can to aid and restore the Earth now and for the future.

Gretchen Wilbrandt is a junior environmental science major from Woodstock, Ill.