Mike Gunter, Rollins College – Climate Change and Travel

Photo: Scott Cook

To combat climate change, wider public support is needed.

Mike Gunter, professor of international relations at Rollins College, says travel might be one way to make people care.

Dr. Mike Gunter is a Cornell Distinguished Faculty member and Arthur Vining Davis Fellow who teaches courses on environmental politics, sustainable development, and international security. He served as a Fulbright Scholar at Univerzita Komenského in the Slovak Republic and has led field studies to the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador as well as traveled with students in Australia, Singapore, and Vietnam. Gunter has over 40 popular and academic publications to his credit, including Building the Next Ark: How NGOs Work to Protect Biodiversity (2004/2006). His current project, Tales of an Ecotourist, makes a case for experiential learning as a route to better understand climate change. Gunter also serves as director of the interdisciplinary International Relations Program as well as an advisor to Rollins’ Washington Semester Program. He was Rollins’ first faculty-in-residence and directed its Living & Learning Communities, whose programs link academic and social aspects on campus.

Climate Change and Travel

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When it comes to climate change, conflation of fact and fiction muddy our national discourse.

It is true more Americans than ever better understand the threats our changing climate presents, even as President Trump continues to cast doubt on its science.

That said, these same Americans remain unwilling to invest in climate change mitigation, according to a poll earlier this year (2019) by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago. Indeed, almost 70 percent of Americans declare they would not pay as little as $10 a month to reduce rising temperatures.

Why you ask? My work concentrates on this very question, identifying key characteristics of climate change that are too often misunderstood – from the scientific and economic…to the social, cultural, and political.

The goal here is simple. To implement effective climate change mitigation policies, wider public support for them is needed. People need to understand why $10 a month is actually quite a bargain. 

My research tackles this challenge by focusing expressly upon how public information is accessed, trumpeting the power of travel.

This approach is all the more relevant in today’s increasingly polarized political climate. Thoughtful travel helps citizens identify their common interests, strengthening our civil society.

And looking to the fastest growing sector of travel, ecotourism, offers a promising antidote to dangerous divisions within our country, encouraging rediscovery of what it truly means to be neighbors. That’s a big deal. When it comes to climate change, we really are all in this together.

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