Lush plant life and exotic wild animals. Formal dinners and luxury accommodations. Twenty five adventurous days in 11 different countries, all reached by private jet. Sounds like a great vacation, sure, but also an expensive exercise in hypocrisy by the World Wildlife Fund.
The organization does an admirable job protecting the world's flora and fauna from the impact of human development and global climate change. We applaud so noble a cause, but it is hard to take the WWF seriously when it organizes a fundraising trip that will spew 1,200 tons of carbon dioxide shuttling well-heeled donors around the globe on a private jet.
The WWF says the tour allows adventurous travelers — those who can pony up the $64,950 ticket price, anyway — to "touch down in some of the most astonishing places on the planet to see the top wildlife, including gorillas, orangutans, rhinos, lemurs and toucans."
Good thing they aren't planning to visit any glaciers.
While the whole thing is way over the top, it's the private jet that really gets us. The 88-seat, luxuriously appointed jet will transport passengers on a whirlwind tour with stops in such far-flung places as the Amazon, Easter Island, Chile, Malaysia, Laos, Nepal and London.
We're not sure what kind of plane the WWF is using — the sales pitch says only that it is "a specially outfitted private jet." But an excellent piece by Steven Milloy in JunkScience notes that flying the 36,000 mile route in a Boeing 757 would burn about 100,000 gallons of jet fuel and produce more than 1,200 tons of CO2. Milloy says that's the same as putting 1,560 SUVs on the road for the three weeks the eco-adventurers are jetting around the world. He uses the WWF's carbon footprint calculator to estimate it would cost $44,000 to offset the emissions — though the WWF's brochure (.pdf) doesn't say anything about offsets.
It gets even harder to take once you read the WWF's mission statement, which states it is committed to "protecting natural areas and wild populations of plants and animals, including endangered species; promoting sustainable approaches to the use of renewable natural resources; and promoting more efficient use of resources and energy and the maximum reduction of pollution."
We disagree with a lot of what Milloy has said in the past — he's dedicated an entire page of his website to debunking the myth of climate change — but in this case he's spot on. An organization that implores us to do our part by carpooling, embracing fluorescent bulbs, replacing our old appliances and taking other steps toward eco-friendliness shouldn't be taking wealthy donors on a 25-day pollution-fest.
The WWF does good work, and like every other nonprofit, it needs money to carry out that work. But a fundraising trip like this is a bad idea. There must be a better way.