Environmental awareness front and center: A focus on the Maldives

With the onset of summer many are planning their vacations; yet the next time you are suiting up for the beach be sure to pack some environmental awareness. While this may sound a bit corny to say it should be no shocker that the state of the oceans, along with other natural habitats, are suffering due to our own habits and energy consumption. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is perhaps the latest example of the havoc inflicted on wildlife in a particularly delicate ecosystem, yet all around the world those affected by the human hand have a mute voice in the matter.

The Maldives are a chain of islands most notable for being paradises for tourists to fill their days with sun, sand, and stunning underwater views. The coral reefs are perhaps the largest draw and a major contributor to the economy of the islands as they are mostly supported due to vacationers and snorkelers looking to catch an eyeful. Alarmingly these natural specters are suffering on a multiple levels; firstly the coral reefs are being destroyed at an alarming rate due to holiday stayers aiming to take home a momento of these living creatures. Not all of the destruction is in fact conscious or with a lack of environmental awareness but due to the fragile nature of coral reefs they take a beating from flailing flippers and also overhead boating traffic. Sustainable living rules of the dive need to include the old ‘look but don’t touch’ adage and diligence to be aware of what lies below when on top of the water.

Yet the islands themselves may parish before too long due to global warming. These islands are situated not more than eight feet above sea level at their highest peaks and virtually 80% of the two thousand islands are below three feet over sea level. With the melting of the Polar Regions and other ramifications of our wasteful consumption habits it is projected that by 2100 all that will be left of these sandy escapes are memories. “Underwater. That’s where we’ll be,” voices Mohamed Nasheed leading the fight for the Maldives and a need for environmental awareness.

Sustainable living practices will influence not only the fate of this island chain and the coral expanses but the entirety of our planet. When planning the next vacation it is worth considering one closer to home in an effort to reduce the amount of carbon emissions released due to plane flights and other travel means. A camping trip would work on dual levels in that it would also spread an appreciation for the natural expanses to the little ones. Still, it is possible to head to a far away destination and still practice the environmental awareness words you preach; there are tips to make that vacation greener and at the end of it you can always purchase carbon offsets to ease your impact and any residual guilt.

Photo credit: Nattu