It’s not your parents’ National Geographic.
The nonprofit National Geographic Society markets itself as a leading environmental steward committed to protecting our planet. So why is it running extravagant global travel programs for the rich that have major negative environmental impacts?
National Geographic Expeditions is currently offering five trips by private jet, two of them trips around the world.
The Wall Street Journal’s August 25, 2020 issue featured a full-page advertisement by the Journal and National Geographic Expeditions for “The Future of Everything: Exploring Global Innovation by Private Jet, August 21, 2021 – Sept. 13, 2021.”
The ad tempted big spenders to “gain illuminating perspectives on how advances in science and technology are shaping tomorrow’s global economy and culture.” In addition, “A top-notch team of experts and leading journalists will accompany the expedition,” including experts from National Geographic and the Wall Street Journal.
A deeper look, however, reveals that the trip will be more a luxurious sightseeing journey for the affluent than a deep, intellectual exploration of global innovation.
For example, according to the trip’s website, at their first stop in Kyoto, Japan, the travelers will have opportunities to tour the alleys of Nishiki Market, the historic geisha district of Gion, the bamboo grove of Arashiyama, the zen garden at the Ryoanji temple or traditional wooden townhouses called machiya. They will even be able toenjoy a cooking class in one of the historic dwellings.
During a two-day stop in Seoul, S. Korea, the travelers will visit the War Memorial of Korea and the National Museum of Korea, learn about Buddhist traditions at the centuries-old temple of Jingwansa and, as in Kyoto, attend a cooking class.
In Mongolia, they will settle into traditional ger tents and and gather to hear National Geographic Emerging Explorer Federico Fanti discuss new methodologies for curbing the illegal trade of fossils and natural resources in the Gobi. They’ll also explore red rock landscapes, see the Moltsog Els sand dunes and ride horseback across the steppe. They will even meet a nomadic family for tea.
All this for a mere $94,995 per person double occupancy or $104,490 single occupancy.
The private jet – “A Boeing 757—specially configured with VIP-style seating for just 75 passengers—affords us unmatched flexibility and is ideally suited for these remarkable expeditions,” National Geographic Expeditions says on its website. The plane’s usual capacity is 180 to 233 people. No small, fully loaded, and fuel-efficient plane for this journey. (Coincidentally, Donald Trump’s plane, which he bought in 2011 from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is a Boeing 757.)
Powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce RB211 turbofan engines, the National Geographic’s Boeing 757 will fly around the world for 24 days.
Richard Heede, the co-founder and director of the Climate Accountability Institute, has estimated that a Boeing 757 emits roughly 26 tons of CO2 per 1,000-mile trip. The website for The Future of Everything trip doesn’t specify the distance the plane will fly, but a reasonable estimate is 22,000 miles. That means the plane will produce an estimated 572 tons of CO2 emissions. Human-related emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are a primary driver of climate change and present one of the world’s most pressing challenges with a range of potential ecological, physical and health impacts.
Why is National Geographic behind this jaunt?
You just have to know that National Geographic is no longer just the publisher of the ubiquitous magazine with the distinctive yellow border that’s been published continuously since 1888.
In 2015, the National Geographic magazine abandoned its nonprofit status and became part of National Geographic Partners, a venture between its parent organization and 21st Century Fox. Under the $725 million deal, Fox became the owner of 73 percent of the new company. The National Geographic Society, which continues with the mission to “inspire people to care about the planet,” became the owner of 27 percent of the new company.
National Geographic Partners combined the National Geographic TV channels with a list of media properties that included National Geographic magazine as well as travel programs, including National Geographic Expeditions.
To say the least, promoting responsible environmental behavior is probably not high on 21st Century Fox’s mission, nor is inspiring people to care about the planet.
Now you know what’s going on, and it’s not pretty.