Leaving Footprints in South Africa

by on December 11, 2008 at 1:29 pm

I’ve just returned from spending ten days touring South Africa as one of nine U.S. bloggers who were brought in to write about the experience.


While the country certainly left an impression on us, we left a LeBron James-sized footprint on the world. I was invited to write about the plight of South Africa as it tries to be more sustainable, and it feels a bit hypocritical to have contributed so much in carbon emissions in the process.

The flights — including back and forth to Johannesburg, plus one commercial and two charter flights within the country total and three rides in a helicopter — total about 25,000 miles logged.

And then there were the bus rides — about 30 in all to hotels, restaurants and various travel destinations — for another 1,200 miles of road travel. By my rough calculations using TerraPass’ carbon calculator, that’s about 4 tons of carbon emissions for each of us, not including the impact of the energy burned in preparing the wonderful buffets and staying in hotels that are out of my normal travel budget.

Al Gore has been slammed for jetting around the world and preaching about climate change, and I expect some of you might also think our excursion was not worth the energy expended. But I hope that trying to enlighten myself and the world about how South Africa is striving for sustainability will get people thinking and eventually offset my travels.

We were exposed to a rich, proud and diverse culture, as you can see in my photo gallery, as well as in the pictures from my fellow bloggers. South Africa wants to become a first world nation, but with AIDS, poverty, and an economy based on the mining of natural resources, that won’t be easy.

In case you missed it, here’s what I wrote during my travels, with more analysis to come:

Following South Africa’s Past

Finding Diamonds in Rough Seas

South Africa Has Joule of An EV

Cradle of Mankind’s Grave Lesson

Game on at Plumari Conservation Reserve

Project Runway