5 sights I consider awesome (but probably shouldn't).

Photo by Matthew Grapengieser | flickr.com

Photo by Matthew Grapengieser | flickr.com

Skylines (Nighttime).  I love nighttime skylines more than any other view.  Whenever I fly over Vancouver after dark, I cannot stop thinking about the splendor of an illuminated city.  But recently, I actually thought to myself, “What is so beautiful about wasted electricity and urban development?”  I’m really not too sure.  Maybe people like myself find it so fascinating because we created these views – which are also accomplishments of the modern era – with our own minds and our own hands.  It represents the epicentre of cultural advancement.  Either way, I find these sights magnificent, even though at its core, I’m really just ogling over randomized office building lighting.

Skylines (Daytime).  No, I’m not cheating – I think there is a legitimate difference between the ways I visualize big cities when the sun is out versus once it has disappeared for the day.  Again, I believe much of the ‘awe factor’ stems from the very things large cities represent (at least from my perspective): success, achievement, and a sense of belonging.  Every time I stroll down the busiest street in Vancouver, I catch myself staring up at the giant buildings surrounding me, wondering how exactly they are made, and what kind of people, right now, are in them.  Then, once again, I think – What is so fascinating about concrete?  I know that a full, healthy ecosystem likely once occupied this area, and we stripped away any indication of self-sufficient, non-urban communities. Trees and vegetation are sparse, litter lines the sidewalks, and idling cars can be found on every block.  Yet it still looks so cool.  Right?

Resort Sites.  Not that I’ve ever had the privilege to venture further south than Kentucky, but these places look super awesome on TV.  I mean, how can you go wrong with an ocean-side pool and unlimited umbrella-decorated drinks?  But heading to a tropical resort typically means long flights (read: increased carbon footprint), and I also question the degree of sustainable practices of most resorts.  A quick Google search points me towards an abundance of ‘eco-resorts’ all over the world, but maintaining any large site must require a large amount of energy.  Plus, I imagine a lot of land conversion goes into resort construction.  I might visit a tropical resort once to get the unique experience, but the thought of relaxation that comes from looking at Costa Rica on TV might be good enough on its own after that.

Big Cruise Ships.  Ok, these look amazing.  Again, have never even remotely come close to touching one in my life, but that remains irrelevant.  Once upon a time, cruise ships were relatively large boats built with the purpose of taking travelers from Point A to Point B, maybe with a dinner show or two to keep passengers amused along the way.  Now they are built to the size of an entire city block, equipped with Olympic-sized swimming pools, tennis courts, casinos, ice rinks, shopping malls, golf courses, aquariums...all while floating on the ocean!  Put one of these bad boys up beside an older cruise ship, or better yet, what someone of my social status considers to be a luxurious yacht, and the difference is mind-blowing.  But, just imagine the electricity required to power all of this commotion!  It is virtually the equivalent of building an entirely new city in the shape of a boat!  An article from The Seattle Times discusses the many types of pollution generated by cruise ships – air pollution (like NOx from exhaust), grey water (from showers and drains), sewage (you already know why), and bilge water, which grosses me out the most (this can contain oil and grease).  Some places have no-discharge rules near the shore, but these do not apply further out in the ocean, where everything but plastic c

an be discharged into open waters.  As much as I may think cruise ships look amazing, they definitely do some not-so-amazing things to the environment. 

Calving Glaciers. As a Starfish reader, I’m sure you already know why large-scale glacial melt is bad.  But to watch glaciers calve is pretty darn fascinating.  (Here’s one of many videos demonstrating this very point).  Calving pieces can be kilometres long and kilometres wide (this video shows a calving glacier the size of Manhattan!), and my jaw drops every time I see a video of this happening.  (Because if I haven’t been to a tropical resort or on a cruise, you can bet I’ve never been to a glacier, either).  It almost looks as if an avalanche, tsunami, and earthquake are all happening simultaneously.  Though we are bound to see more glacial instability in the years to come as climate change is predicted to affect sensitive Arctic processes.

Mandy McDougall