Here is my view of the ocean as I write this email to you (attached). The kind of view that makes you think long thoughts.
First, I wanted to thank all of you for being a great group. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with you. I felt the need to write you a final email summing up my feelings since we completed the class. I love this reef and all of its inhabitants. After you left I spent 5 more days in the water (I finally needed a break).
As the years go by I see how ALL things have changed, including my views on life. My primary goals for taking students on travel courses are the following (not in any particular order);
I love my job, and what I love most about my job is being around students (you). Travel classes give me the opportunity to really get to know you and of course have interesting conversations.
I love to see the look on your faces when you see all of the incredible sites we see.
Introduce you to different cultures.
I hope that seeing nature at its finest (e.g. the reef), will help you develop an appreciation for how amazing natural systems are.
Learn about human impacts on these systems.
By developing an appreciation for these natural systems you will also be willing to do something to help remedy the destruction that humans are doing to these systems.
With all that being said, I also have some reservations about travel classes - but these reservations can be mitigated if YOU have learned from what you have experienced on this trip and by learning YOU are willing to "do something" - anything is better than nothing. I still have a LONG way to go myself before I feel I will be taking an equitable share of the earth's resources. However, I keep trying to do better and I am conscious that I must do so in a relatively short period of time.
My main reservation about travel classes is the carbon footprint we create by our activities when we do these classes, particularly flying. My purpose of this email is not to make you feel guilty but instead to inspire you to make the most out of the footprint that we left behind by doing this trip. We have discussed many of the major anthropogenic impacts on this glorious reef system. In addition, many of you have taken other environmental studies classes from me. We know that there are many environmentally based existential threats to humanity. Based on what I have seen in the scientific literature, we can realistically expect to keep the warming of earth's surface temperature to about 3 degrees centigrade.
So how to make the most of the carbon footprint we created?
The lowest hanging fruit for something you can do is TALK ABOUT THIS SHIT. Start talking to people about climate change, and its impacts. Tell them you have seen an amazing reef that is over 200 miles long and if we don't change our ways it will soon be gone. It can be uncomfortable at times, but more than 3 degrees of warming is WAY more uncomfortable. You have social media, so put it to good use. You can even use me as an excuse. Tell all your friends that you just heard from some nut-job professor that there is only 11 years to make a MAJOR change in our carbon emissions (basically no more carbon spewing into the atmosphere), and ask them what do they think about this?
Second easy thing - start reducing your impact and be conscious of the impacts of your actions. What does it take to make you truly happy? Every study on happiness always shows that strong social connections are what make people happy. As the Rolling Stones would say you can't always get what you want but sometimes you get what you need. Simplify your life and two things will happen - your happiness will increase and you will reduce your impact on the planet.
Sorry for the rant, but after 20 years of teaching this stuff I have realized that we are just about out of time. Spread the word and let your knowledge be heard.
Make the most out of your carbon footprint.
It is a privilege knowing all of you and I am happy to discuss the issues with you anytime. You have become part of my strong social network.
Have a nice summer and I hope to see some of you in the fall.
And for the graduates - keep in touch.