haven’t been sleeping a lot lately. I am particularly awake around the hours of 2am — 5 which is giving me a lot of time to think about many things, like a New Zealand dude who stars in a Netflix show called Dark Tourism. His name is David Farrier and he is kind of like Louis Theroux but from New Zealand, which makes him way cooler.
In the two shows I have watched, he has travelled to Latin America, where he hung out with Pablo Escobar’s enforcer and attempted a (pretend) border crossing from Mexico to America with no papers, and to Japan, where he visits a town hit by the 2011 tsunami and is still closed due to high levels of radiation, (in later interviews David has commented that this was probably not the wisest thing he has done). People have died in all of these places. Sometimes lots of people. David is taking us to these places because some people chose to visit them as tourists, and I think he wants to see why.
What is keeping me up at night is not so much wondering about the places he has been to or will go to next: I feel I am not really in a position to judge the reasons why anyone goes where as I seem to have taken a slightly odd turn in what I visit and take photos of. I regularly wander the streets of North Canberra and take photos of the “rubbish” that people put out on the sidewalks, I went to New York and took photos of the rubbish on the street, and one of Trump Tower (some might say there is no difference). Before my comparative city trash fascination, I spent a long time wandering the streets of some mega cities in Asia, taking photos of couples who dressed the same. Therefore, I can pass no judgement on anyone’s travel choices, except, perhaps, Antarctica.
What is leaving me wondering — at around 2:45am in the morning — is whether Dave’s travel to such spots has impacted him in any way? (It’s Dave now as I am Australian, so I shorten everything. Also, I think we would be friends if we met.) Has it changed Dave’s opinion on a particular issue? Is Dave now doing something differently because of what he has seen? I don’t know him though, so I can’t ask him. Lisa — you’re my New Zealand friend. Do you know him? Could you find out for me please as I would really like to know, (feel free to also pass on my number and see if Dave would like to catch up over a drink).
I want to know because there is this once small, now huge thanks to a significant injection of funding, Great Barrier Reef charity and one of the things that it does is to raise awareness of the reef by taking business executives out to the reef to see the reef. The aim of this is, I think, to see the reef now, as it is it, in all of its beauty in the hope that it will spark the executives into taking action that will protect the reef — if they see it in all of its wonders then, surely, they will save it? I want to know if this actually worked? Does seeing something up close and personal change someone’s mind or is it just another thing that you tick off your bucket list and then you go back to making money, or whatever else it is that you do, (you’ve seen it now so does it matter that no-one else will ever get to?).
Part of me — the cynical part that is growing bigger every day — thinks that seeing something won’t change the opinion of someone who never really cared in the first place. Seeing something is not enough. You have to make them understand it — like really understand how it came about and why it is so precious. And then you have to show them the ugly. The nice makes it hard to imagine the not nice, so what about focusing not on what is left of the beautiful but, instead, show the increasing abundance of the ugly.
Would you go on tours to see what were once wonders of the world but are now desolate, degraded dead spots? It would be like one of those home shows but done in reverse, like a backwards makeover: here is what you started with — a beautiful, pristine earth full of natural wonders — and here is what you ended up with — a dead, smelly, rotting planet.
You don’t have to go far for these tours either. We could all embark on tours like this now, and in our own backyards. Remember the time we could grow grass because we had water? Remember the time we had fruit and veggie patches, but we no longer have any more bees, so we can grow nothing? Remember when we had clean water but then we used our rivers and oceans as a dumping ground for all of our plastic crap?
This is a slightly more depressing tour than seeing only the beautiful. Like way more depressing. Will a tour like this make you think twice? Maybe it won’t succeed either because no-one likes a downer, (unless you are my friend Ami who lives in the suburb called Downer). The gloom and doom talk seem to not hit the mark almost as much as the happy tour makes it hard to imagine that if you don’t change your ways the Great Barrier Reef will die. At the most, you might get a sigh, but it is always quickly followed by an “it’s too hard” comment and then nothing changes.
So this is my genius idea — what if you coupled the tour of dead spots with solar farms, or with a rubbish recycling plant, or with a wind farm in the sea? You have the sadness, but you couple it with a whole lot of goodness which surely has to give you inspiration for change? You could visit a coal plant but then hang out in Sweden — a country that has reached its renewables target 12 years early. You could see the destruction of deforestation and then go to India to see the world’s largest ever tree planting operation in action. You could see the devastation caused by rising sea levels in any island in the Pacific, then head to Scotland and tour the world’s largest solar sea farm or go to China and see solar panels laid out in the shape of a panda. I would also suggest that you head over to Seattle at some stage also to visit Amazon HQ and wonder at their amazing forest in their Seattle Spheres, and, at the same time, head down to California and tour Apple Park, Apple’s HQ that is powered fully by renewable energy, with 17 MW of rooftop solar (making it one of the largest on-site solar installations in the world).
If we visit, or at least see/read/hear about these things, then maybe we will realise that change can happen. The problem is not so big so that we can just shrug our shoulders and look the other way. We can install the solar panels, we can choose to re-use, we can say no to plastic. And if we all do this then maybe, just maybe, we will still be able to visit, for many years to come, the sites that really need our protection now — which is pretty much the whole planet, including especially the Great Barrier Reef. Imagine a trip that takes in the abandoned coal pits followed by a tour of a wind farm and the tour guide explaining that, years ago, humans used to dig coal out of the ground to use as energy source, and we all laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement? This is a tour I want to go on (with Dave).