If You’re Rich, Influential or Arnold Schwarzenegger, Svalbard Would Like You to Visit

Travel Blog  •  Michael Yessis  •  05.16.07 | 9:57 AM ET

imageYou really don’t have to be any or all of those things, but if you are, Svalbard looks forward to seeing you and enlisting your help in solving the planet’s climate crisis. The Norwegian-run archipelago, situated in the Arctic Ocean between that country and the North Pole, is billing itself as a great place to see the effects of global warming first-hand. According to a Reuters story, local officials want to spur more help in the fight against global warming, and they believe that welcoming tourists—particularly rich and influential tourists—to see melting glaciers and the glory of the threatened polar bear-dominated ecosystem can stimulate action.

Alister Doyle, environment correspondent for Reuters, writes:

Visitors to Svalbard can see reindeer, seals or polar bears in the Arctic, where U.N. scientists say warming is happening twice as fast as on the rest of the planet in what may be a portent of changes further south.

Local authorities said such visits are less environmentally harmful than Russian-led tours on nuclear ice-breakers or sky-diving trips over the North Pole.

Doyle reports that tourists—many of them visiting cruisers—spent 70,000 nights in the islands last year. Twenty years ago, almost no travelers visited Svalbard. Local officials are also courting companies, students and politicians to raise awareness. Ben & Jerry’s, for instance, runs a “climage change college” in the village of Longyearbyen, and Svalbard plans an environmental symposium for August. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has committed to making his state more green, tops the list of invitees.

Svalbard has another interesting distinction: It’s home to the Svalbard Arctic Seed Depository. From a story in The Walrus: It’s “a project premised on the cheery notion that it’s only a matter of time before nuclear war, terrorism, global warming, natural disasters, or some combination thereof conspire to wipe out humankind’s staple crops. The future of the world is a Noah’s ark of edible plants—9,000 species of seeds locked in an underground safe and buried beneath a polar island.”

Photo of polar bears in Svalbard by Alastair Rae via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Related on World Hum:
* Green Travel: ‘Who’s Scamming, Who’s Legit and How Do We Tell the Difference?’
* Can Slow Travel Save the Planet?
* Carbon Offsets for Travelers: What Are You Really Paying For?

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