Are We Too Old to Save the Planet? Let’s Hope Not!

It’s not often that a book jumps out and grabs our attention. I mean how often do we read something that really has an impact on our thinking? Well, that is certainly what happened when we read Am I Too Old to Save the Planet? A Boomer’s Guide to Climate Action by Lawrence MacDonald.

I thought I would just skim through it on a flight from New York to LA, but I ended up reading every word in those 4 hours. I will say that there is a lot to digest in this book, and I have found myself going back to re-read parts several times, because there is so much information to take in.

With that in mind, I am not going to go through all of the points made in it, but rather highly suggest that if you care about the world we are leaving behind for our kids and grandchildren, you should read this book. It is packed with ideas on how we, as baby boomers, can help mitigate the changes that are already well under way.

I, instead, want to address another issue that jumped into my head while I was reading the chapter about traveling, flying in particular, and the effect that it has on our environment.

As travel writers, bloggers, influencers, or whatever we are called these days, we inevitably fly a lot. Certainly much more than most people, so how can we mitigate some of the damage that causes? Well, Lawrence MacDonald has some good ideas in his book which, without going into too much detail, mostly involve finding ways to fly less, and ways to offset some of the damage when we must fly.

The first part of that equation we are have definitely been trying to do more and more, like driving (hopefully a fuel efficient or electric car, ours is a hybrid) or taking trains whenever it is possible. But there are no roads or trains going overseas, so we do need to fly sometimes.

When we do, Lawrence suggests donating to climate groups as a way to compensate for the carbon the plane is spewing out. We like that idea, but once again suggest reading the book for a much better understanding of his thoughts.

One of his main points is that we can accomplish a lot of good by donating to groups with more aggressive approach such as Climate Defiance and Th!rd Act. This is because their more vehement and direct action is likely something that most of us have outgrown. They are on the cutting edge of the issue and are willing and able to get involved in ways we can no longer manage. But luckily, many of us boomers have saved a little money and can afford to help out with funding.

All of this led to another thought that came to mind while reading, how can we as travel influencers use our platform and visibility to help? So I decided to try to get in touch with the author to discuss this.

The obvious way for us to draw more attention is to write about it, just like this post. But we think that for our writing to have more impact, we need to be walking the walk so to speak, and be as proactive as we possibly can. With that in mind, I asked Mr. MacDonald about his book and any ideas we might be able to pursue, not only as bloggers, but as people who care about the planet.

Ah, the good old days in economy on a 747.

He had a few suggestions that are simple and pretty painless, such as flying non-stop and in economy class (this is not an issue for us since we have never coughed up the dough to fly overseas in anything but economy and vastly prefer nonstop) as much as we can, because those both use less fuel per passenger mile, which means less carbon in the air. In addition to those two concepts, we can stay longer in a place so that we really get to know it and, in turn, use less resources by not moving around so much.

This is sometimes called slow travel, but it is a style that we fully embrace. It is without a doubt our preferred way to travel, however, it is not often possible when doing the work of travel blogging. Generally, the sponsors want us to cover as much as possible in a short amount of time.

We can also help by giving our readers more resources to use for planning their travels before taking off on a trip. Hopefully that leads to less running around looking for things and better routing which, of course, uses less fuel.

A similar idea to this that we as writers can contribute to is what Lawrence called traveling without leaving home. This plays right into what we have been doing for the last dozen years or so, which is writing more in-depth stories than a typical social media or blog post and accompanying it with lots of photos and videos.

This way readers can enjoy a trip to far off lands without ever packing a bag. One possible advantage of this is that some travelers may decide that reading and seeing a destination this way is sufficient, so they won’t feel the need to travel there which will again reduce the use of fossil fuels.

We do want to point out though, we are not trying to discourage people from traveling. Seeing the world and connecting with the various people and cultures are invaluable experiences that can also have a positive impact by raising awareness, sharing ideas, and seeing some of the real world impacts of climate change first hand.

Margerie Glacier in Alaska.
Margerie Glacier in Alaska.

We learned very well over the past three decades how much this has influenced our thinking as we saw glaciers on three different continents all receding at alarming rates. We think that there is no better way to learn about climate change, or almost any other issue for that matter, than to see it with our own eyes.

So travelers of the world unite! Let’s do all we can to leave this wonderful world in a little better shape than how we came into it. That way it will still be around for our offspring to enjoy like we have.

David & Veronica,

Lawrence MacDonald is a writer, policy communications expert, and Boomer climate activist. After graduating from the University of California at Santa Barbara, he studied Chinese in Taiwan and worked as a journalist for 15 years in Hong Kong, Beijing, Seoul and Manila. Returning to the United States in the early 1990s, he worked as a communications officer at the World Bank and as vice president for communications at two Washington, DC, based think tanks, the Center for Global Development, and the World Resources Institute. During this time he became increasingly active in the U.S. climate movement, being arrested three times in civil disobedience actions to draw attention to the climate emergency.

He and his wife live in Arlington Virginia and have two grown children who are also active in the climate movement.

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