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Don't Be a Blind Traveler

As the days get warmer, more and more travelers hit the road. The summer months are a popular time for people to travel to their dream beaches or tropical getaways. The warm weather, manicured beaches, and tourist attractions make these places hot spots for vacation goers.

However, the beautiful views provided by said tropical locations have a downfall. Intoxicated by their picturesque surroundings, travelers are often blind to the effects their trip has on the environment.

Cruise ships are a perfect example of a seemingly harmless travel getaway with a dangerous secret. The 20 million plus people that will embark on cruises this year soaking in exotic foods, fancy drinks, festive music, and more are also contributing thousands upon thousands of gallons of sewage to the ocean. According to the EPA, 150,000 gallons of sewage seep out of a single 3,000-person cruise ship and into the ocean in just one week. That is enough waste to fill 10 backyard swimming pools. What’s worse is that in a single day, each vessel releases 74,000 gallons of hazardous waste into the water.

Passengers above are not aware of the harmful actions taking place below the deck. These dumping tactics have been used on cruise liners for years and are a danger to the health of both the oceans and humans. The sewage that these liners dump into the sea contain strands of dangerous bacteria, heavy metals, pathogens, viruses, pharmaceuticals and other dangerous components. When released near coasts, sewage can kill marine life, contaminate seafood, and make swimmers ill.

The large amounts of waste released into the oceans are not limited to cruise ships. Due to the massive influx of tourists over the last several years, there has been an incredible increase of tourist developments in tropical areas. Infrastructure such as airports, marinas, resorts, and golf courses put a strain put on freshwater resources. The environment is suffering for our glamorous travel escapades. This infrastructure pushes our natural resources to the limit. Beaches are created where mangrove forests once grew, piers are built over coral reefs, and nesting availability for endangered marine turtles is diminished.

Recreational activities, such as boating, diving, snorkeling, and fishing, in tourist populated areas have damaged many of the world’s coral reefs and harmed other marine life. Due to the increase of tourism and its subsequent water pollution, the world has lost roughly half of its coral reefs over the past 30 years. Scientists also fear that even if global warming halted immediately, more than 90% of the world’s coral reefs would still die by 2050.

But it isn’t just the pollution and physical destruction that tourism brings to tropical locations. The rich cultural traditions of areas such as the Caribbean and Maldives has been lost, replaced by western whims.

There is not enough actively being done to alleviate the damage caused by tourism to ocean life and cleanliness—maybe because it is easy to go on a summer trip and simply ignore the pollution around us. There are certain factors that are out of travelers' control, such as oil spills. But a lot of the pollution that impacts oceanic life daily can be reduced greatly by travelers being conscious of their actions.

It is important to stay informed in all aspects of our lives, including our leisurely vacation time. While we can’t reverse the damage that has already been done, that doesn’t mean we can’t prevent further devastation to the environment. Travelers need to be conscious about where they are dumping their trash. Throw waste away in designated areas, making sure items are disposed of carefully. On August 2, 2017 there was a garbage patch bigger than the state of Texas discovered in the Pacific Ocean, and careless acts further contributing to such problems are 100% preventable.

If every traveler could make small changes in behavior and be aware of the contamination that tourism brings, travelers together could greatly reduce pollution in the oceans and help preserve cultures in these tropical lands.

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