At first I found the whole thing childishly amusing then I stopped paying attention. Finally, as the ridiculous thing continued to rage on websites such as Wild Junket or Matador Change and continued appearing through backhanded snipes on Twitter, I started to get aggravated.
Whatever happened to civil debate?
Julie Shwietert questions in her Matador Change article whether or not the environmental impact of cruises would have even been raised had one particular Twitterer by the name of Jeanne Dee not brought it up and brought it up and brought it up.
But the issue had been raised prior to the cruise. Caitlin from Roaming Tales wrote two separate articles questioning cruises and the entire cruise industry. Nancy D Brown, one of the cruise participants, wrote her own article focusing on these very same issues.
It seems, though, whatever noise produced by these thoughtful articles went largely unheard, until the sturm and drang of Jeanne's repeated twittering brought out enough hostility and upset so that everyone's eyes centered on this particular drama.
Perhaps we should be thankful that someone was willing to stand up and generally point fingers and poke until it hurt, but I'd rather live in a world in which people can treat each other decently and still be heard.
“Universal responsibility,” says the Dalai Lama, “is the feeling for other people’s suffering just as we feel our own… We must recognize all beings want the same things we want. This is the way to achieve true understanding, unfettered by artificial consideration.”
The Human Side of the Debate
Kim Mance wrote in a comment to my previous post on the subject that she's been literally sick to her stomach because of the stress from all this. Many others quietly wrote me through Twitter, e-mail, the blog and Facebook to express their own frustration at the tone this environmental discussion has taken.
The bickering leaves a bad taste in many of our mouths, and you need only take a cursory look at comments on any of the posts related to this event to see all the people who have felt hurt, angry and insulted.
Then there are those living on the islands visited by cruise ships, the ones who have to put up with the crowds, the mess, the water awash in fecal coliform. The ones whose livelihood is entirely based on cruise ship traffic.
I saw firsthand the importance of tourism to these tiny islands.
We didn't have many cruises come through Bocas during the months I lived there, but when we did, relief was palpable in the air. Every boat driver in the vicinity zoomed out to the deep water where the ship docked and carried passengers to land. Restaurants, museums, tours, beaches all bloomed with life. Same thing when we had a coast guard ship stationed nearby.
By contrast, I visited Bocas just after a particularly bad storm. There were mudslides, earthquakes, food shortages, all of which meant no tourists. You could see the worry in everyone’s eyes, locals and expats alike. For some it meant tightening the belt. For others, it meant not knowing how food would get to the table and into their children’s mouths.
Then I think of my parents or Noah’s grandparents who are lifelong world travelers. Both couples started taking cruises later in life when their regular forms of travel became too rigorous.
My dad, for example, simply doesn’t have the energy to travel the way he had in the past, and so when he tells me he’s going traveling, even on a cruise, I rejoice, because I remember too many days he was too tired, too stiff and too frustrated with not feeling well to leave the house.
Aunt Jane took Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Charles on a cruise when they were no longer healthy enough to go on their long solo-treks to China, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Israel. It was the last trip of Grandma Ruth’s lifetime.
Let’s Find the Best Path Toward A Common Goal
“Many are stubborn in pursuit of the path they
have chosen. Few in pursuit of the goal.
Don’t misunderstand. I am in no way saying that the cruise ship industry is all fine-and-dandy. I’m saying the industry exists, selling large numbers of tickets, regardless of what I or anyone else personally believes.
Should I start lecturing Aunt Jane, Grandpa Charles, the people of Bocas or my parents on the evils of cruises? Do you think they’ll listen?
How many people do you think have decided never to go on another cruise because of Jeanne’s tweets? Or did they just listen quietly, think “Damn hippy” and continue on to buy their cheap winter vacation cruise to the Caribbean.
If people are still buying tickets, there's no reason for the cruise ship industry to change what they're doing.
Better To Find An Alternative
“Wait and see what we have to say,” is the cry from those on board Princess cruise.
“But they’re just mouthpieces for the cruise industry comes the criticism.”
Does anyone truly believe that everyone on board this ship will just shill for the cruise industry? I mean really? You think every single one of these travel writers is so easily duped, tricked or just starry-eyed over a free trip that he or she will lose all objectivity?
Personally, I think people would be far more interested in their reports were they to find fault with the industry, because, as we already know, people are drawn more to conflict than confluence.
People are also drawn
It feels good to band together with others to do something worthwhile. Look at charity:water as an example. A Twitter based organization that brings people together worldwide to provide clean water and dig wells for those who do not have.
Wouldn’t it in fact, be better to gather together a group of people on Twitter who are known, followed and read because they have a strong and well developed personality through social media, then allow those people to send out a message?
Wouldn’t that have the greatest effect for the good for the most people and for the environment?
Yes, short term, you will not see the same response, but in the long run, treating people with decency and consideration leads to better, longer lasting results.
Step Up To The Opportunity
Let's all connect and contact. Get in touch with those who took part in the Twitter cruise and ask them what they think, ask them what can be done, and encourage all involved to use their information and influence to improve the situation.
As I said, it's only a partial list, so please feel free to add additional people, resources and best of all, your thoughts, ideas and solutions in the comments.
I’ll finish with more from the Dalai Lama, because I think most of us can meet in agreement with his words. “If we have a genuine sense of universal responsibility as our motivation, then our relations with the environment and with all our neighbors will be well balanced.”