Hiker in redwood forest hiking Mendocino, California
Hiker in redwood forest hiking Mendocino, California

I hope the traveling public will show a measured response of respect and skepticism to the new “carbon offset” presentations about travel products.

The entire “green” movement in travel is so fraught with the prospect of chicanery that vigilance is desirable. We have environmental problems on a huge scale–that is a given. We also have creative people addressing those problems in travel in a responsible way–that is to be desired. But there is also the huge possibility of the desire for profit masquerading as virtue. Every single assertion and situation should be looked at with some intensity.

For example, today I received a press release about a small ship in the Galapagos celebrating its “carbon offset” contribution.

Seeing the Galapagos is one of the major environmental treats available to the world traveler, as I recount on my report about visiting there, which I have been able to do twice. See


Regarding carbon offset, in other words, here is the thinking: we have sinned by creating this huge consumption issue of sending travelers to the Galapagos. We will redeem ourselves by investing some money in a “carbon offset.” The amount invested is not stated, so one does not know if the investment is trivial, as a marketing ploy, or substantial.

“Carbon offsets” run the risk of being the new “indulgences.” In the Middle Ages, as students of theological history may recall, the Catholic Church sold indulgences. If you’ve sinned, you could redeem yourself by buying indulgences. All had sinned, as is human. But indulgences might keep you out of hell or reduce your time in purgatory. Since the time frame was all eternity, the investment was considered appropriate. In today’s terms it might be seen as risk avoidance, possibly for a long time. Selling indulgences was a profit center for the Catholic priesthood of the time. It also provoked a young German, Martin Luther, to nail a few theses to a door of a German church and start some corrective actions.

Hiker in redwood forest hiking Mendocino, California
Hiker in redwood forest hiking Mendocino, California

If the “carbon offset” is highly focused, then I think it should be supported today. For example, if a Galapagos cruise “carbon offset” goes to immediate solar and wind installations on the Galapagos, making them more sustainable, then this would be a good thing, assuming the Galapagos has the solar gain and the wind energy resource to harvest. That is another issue. We don’t want wind power installations in becalmed environments, just for virtue. We don’t want solar panels installed, with virtue, in total cloud cover environments. Each claim to virtue needs to be assessed, and supported thankfully when found to be economical.

There is a lot of technical know-how required to evaluate the complex world of the Galapagos and all the yachts/small cruise ships that service it. Can more efficient engines power the yachts? Can better desalinization systems solve the drinking water issues? Those would be legitimate “carbon offset” targets.


The outfit behind this press release is EcoVentura and their Galapagos reservation people at Galapagos Network.

Posted at 12:50 PM in Travel | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)



  1. I had a very similar reaction to the carbon offset business in general and carbon offsets by a Galapagos operator in particular — for the very reasons you articulated so well. Just as Alaska’s and Canada’s Arctic coastal villages are bellwethers of global warming, the remote Galapagos are the canary in the mine when it comes to that hazard and other environmental degradation. Even the Ecuadorian government took some action about the islands’ problems last spring (see http://travel-babel.blogspot.com/2007/04/galapagos-in-crisis-ecuador-might_12.html), but I do not know what has happened since. Was your latest trip more recent than that?
    Claire @ http://travel-babel.blogspot.com

  2. Claire,
    My last trip was earlier, a few years ago. Whenever the word green comes up, or the travel company insists they run an eco-travel trip, the level of justifiable skepticism beging to assert itself. Now we have a new term, the carbon offset trip, to further suggest virture. I think we just need to watch this matter, and cheer on those who are actually doing good.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

I accept the Privacy Policy

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.