"It's the other side of the coin of tourism," says Shapiro. "You take a trip to a place, and you're not there. And you don't really get to know the place as well as you would if you were." The Weyriches and other environmentalists are not the only ones concerned. A handful of urban planners, time-management experts, and other academics have also begun to ask whether we should try to ensure that we get the most bang for our buck in terms of resiliency while also ensuring that our choices are as environmental-friendly as possible.
A few years ago, a group of researchers from New York University's Stern School of Business examined this question and published a paper titled "The Moral Imperative of Reducing Environmental Car Dependency. (MORE: Why Bad Weather Is Killing America's Summer Vacation: 5 Big Reasons and 5 Ways to Save the World) For example, in 2010, the Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that $5 billion was spent in the U.S. on snow days and vacations. While over a million children in the U.S. suffer from premature deaths each year from hypothermia, the number of those who die due to weather-related causes is not known. The CDC, however, estimates that 3,000 people die each year from severe weather-related diseases, such as summer heat illness, and at least 600,000 people in the U.S. are dehydrated from the weather. According to National Geographic: If there is a single word that best describes what has happened to the world's climate, it is "doom."
The worst of the climate change is already here and it's coming at us fast. One of the more interesting aspects of this trend is the cost: According to the Times article, "The cost to travel to remote places has soared in recent years, as the growth of the online travel industry has made it possible for people to choose destinations they can afford." In the case of the ice caps, for example, the cost of flying to the area might cost around $5,500 for a round trip, but the cost of travel to other locations can be as little as $1,000. Another trend in tourism is "Last Chance Tourism" in which tourists travel to a site before it is too late. This type of tourism is often referred to as "last chance tourism" because it is often a last resort to ensure that a place is still habitable. "last chance tourism" is not new, but its popularity has increased dramatically over the last few years.
While current research, as well as the recent news of a World War II sinkhole in the Antarctic, tell us that tourism is steadily growing, the question remains: How are these tourists spending their money? As one executive with one of the world's largest tourism companies put it to Yahoo!, "Tourism is a business. It's a business we have to be very careful with. In that business, you have to be very careful about what you do, because you can be sued and destroyed."
Just how much money is being spent on this risky, and ultimately expensive, business? One recent estimate found that global tourism could add up to $100 billion to the global economy by 2025, and that this figure would be "largely fueled by a surge in spending on Antarctic tourism." But the potential for damage is just as stark as the amount of money that is being spent. "Tourism of Doom" is not a new concept. As early as 1845, a film was made called "Tourism of Doom," which was based on a fictional American journalist's experience of a place that was in the midst of a devastation. In recent years, however, the concept has moved beyond academic analysis and into the realm of political campaigns. In 2008, the Democratic candidate for president, Barack Obama, launched his "Chicago Promise" campaign, a commitment to guarantee a $15 minimum wage and "as many jobs as possible" in the city by the end of his second term. In 2010, the state of Hawaii passed the largest minimum wage increase ever enacted, which will go into effect in 2014. If you're wondering why Chicago's minimum wage is 2.65 percent higher than the national average (23.2 percent higher than the state average), that's because the U.S. minimum wage is currently $7.25.