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The legacy of your vacation (it’s not what you think)

Most of us who have the means and dreams to travel consider it a highlight in life. “To travel is to live,” said Hans Christian Anderson. Vacations are where great memories are made. Unfortunately, it is also where high carbon emissions are made, contributing to our climate crisis and the destruction of ecosystems. It’s hard to come to terms with how much damage we can create just by going on vacation.

Tourism accounts for around 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to a study published in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change. From transatlantic flights to cruise ships, our unintended environmental impact is getting harder to ignore. In the world, the U.S. ranks highest in tourism carbon emissions, and the travel industry is growing annually.

Getting on an airplane is one of the worst carbon-offending acts an individual can do. In fact, flying is responsible for 40% of carbon emissions generated by the global tourism sector (source: UNWTO). It’s estimated that one transatlantic flight from New York to Europe emits 2 to 3 tons of carbon dioxide per person. To put that in perspective, the average American currently emits 20 tons of CO2 a year. For a sustainable planet, we would ideally be releasing the same as the worldwide average: only 4 tons a year into the atmosphere.

Options to reduce our impact include flying less often and purchasing offsets. Available offset programs may offer tree planting that absorb the greenhouse gasses of your flight and cost about $10.

About 25 million Americans a year will travel on a cruise ship. I was shocked to learn that cruise ships regularly dump millions of gallons of untreated sewage into the ocean that contaminate marine ecosystems.
Ships burn a heavier fuel than diesel or gasoline, as it’s cheaper than other fuels. Burning it releases high amounts of damaging sulfur into the atmosphere. Air quality on a cruise ship deck is “worse than world’s most polluted cities,” an investigation found by using an ultra-fine particle counter. It is also alarming to compare the CO2 emissions of a cruise ship to a train journey, more than 1000 times greater!

Lower carbon travel tips:

1. Rethink faraway destinations. Investigate regional and creative options. Happiness is what and where you make it. Prioritize your interests: Nature? Culture? Family? Adventure? Peace and quiet? Fun?

2. Fly less and avoid cruises. Fuel-efficient cars, electric cars, busses, trains, motorcycles, scooters, E-bikes and public transportation can be fun choices with the right adventurous attitude. If you’re healthy, a hiking or bicycling trek could leave you in better shape arriving home and perhaps a few pounds lighter than the cruise ship eat-a-thon.

3. Purchase carbon offsets before your trip begins. Online carbon calculators make it easy to figure out your footprint and costs.

The rewards of making environmentally responsible choices will leave you with a clear conscience about the future you are passing onto the next generation. That’s a travel legacy you can feel good about.

Susan Atkinson, Durango

Colorado bill to ban conversion therapy awaits signature from Polis

There is a widespread debate over whether it should be legal for states to provide conversion therapy. Conversion therapy aims to change an individual’s sexual identity through psychological and spiritual interventions. Right now, there are 34 states that do not have a law that bans conversion therapy, and this number is too high (Movement Advanced Project).

Discrimination against the LGBTQ community happens every day, and conversion therapy is just another way they are feeling minimalized. Many of the people who discriminate against LGBTQ are usually high on right wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation and hold fundamentalist beliefs (Whitley, 2009). These are the people that are making our laws. Religious and conservative beliefs are getting in the way of acceptance. There are still older adults in control who believe that marriage needs to be between only a man and woman. Conversion therapy promotes this prejudice. Colorado is headed in the right direction, though.

Colorado is one of many states that still allows conversion therapy. However, Gov. Jared Polis, who is openly gay, is on the move to have conversion therapy banned statewide. In March, a bill was passed to ban conversion therapy among minors. Now the bill is waiting to be signed by Polis to go into effect (Colorado Politics). This will allow the LGBTQ community to feel support from their state and that it does not matter who they fall in love with. People who come from privilege need to stand against laws that discriminate against the marginalized.

The American Psychiatric Association has taken the lead on this ban. The APA does not endorse conversion therapy and bans any therapist who is trained through APA to perform such therapy. They believe sexual orientation is not a mental illness. This is how it should be.

Same-sex marriage was legalized in 2015, and it is about time people recognize that sexual orientation is not a mental illness and states should ban psychotherapists from treating as such.

Jen Cale, Fort Collins

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