John Oliver understands why 40,000 people visit Antarctica a year. Free snow cones! And, as if that weren’t enough, free penguins! That sounds like my kind of vacation.
Which is exactly the problem: Tourists bring invasive species along with them, which has some researchers concerned for the future of the frozen continent’s unique ecosystems, some of our last remaining pockets of pristine. So, on Last Week Tonight, Oliver offered up his idea for the Antarctica’s new tourist campaign: “Stop coming here.”
Sorry, Oliver, too late. When I was lucky enough to go to Antarctica in 2005, I was blown away by the vastness of the place — a feeling that set me on track to give a damn about our planetary woes today. It’s a bit of a conundrum: I’m glad for that perspective but, like almost anything that anyone does, I know it wasn’t free of broader consequence. In any case, we can at least be more thoughtful about how we go about visiting the world’s last wild places — like maybe skip the Neil Armstrong impression on that ancient moss bed.