An Ostentatious Display of Escaping Poverty

Statist environmentalists’ stern condemnation of what they consider spendthrift consumption is nothing new in the West—but developing countries unaccustomed to such hectoring might be taken aback enough to react strongly. Officials in the United Arab Emirates have done just that in response to the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF, not to be confused with the old World Wrestling Federation) new Living Planet 2006 report, which claims that, “the world’s natural ecosystems are being degraded at a rate unprecedented in human history,” and that UAE residents are placing enormous stress per capita on the environment, according to the Dubai-based Gulf News. Majid Al Mansouri, Secretary General of the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi, called WWF’s conclusions “ridiculous,” and “inaccurate.” Yet his annoyance might turn to outright rage were he to see the WWF’s blatant hypocrisy. Searching for a reference to Dubai on the WWF website, I came across this gem of an offer—for a “23-day, around-the-world journey by private jet.” Yes, for just under $43,000, you can:

“Explore natural and cultural treasures in remote areas of South America, the South Pacific, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa. To reach these remote corners, travel by private Boeing 757 jet, specially outfitted to carry just 88 passengers in business-class comfort.”

An 88-passenger 757? But isn’t that unnecessarily yielding carbon dioxide emissions for the benefit of a few very rich people? Oh well, it’s OK as long as you show you care. And what do you get to see for this? You start your journey at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale (No Holiday Inn Express for these green warriors!), from whence you head to Peru, where you can marvel at the wonders of Spanish colonialism and Amerindian slaughter:

“Discover legendary sites on foot and learn about the intriguing history of ancient Peru. When Francisco Pizarro founded Lima in 1535, he built beautiful cathedrals, palaces, and houses, many on superbly crafted foundations created by the region’s indigenous people.”

Pizarro also held the Inca Emperor Atahualpa hostage for gold, and proceeded to kill him anyway, even after the Incas delivered Pizarro monumental amounts of gold—but who wants to bring up such unpleasantness in a vacation brochure? There’s also a stopover at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a country that’s no stranger to hellish misery and slaughter in its recent past. And one of the final stops is none other than…Dubai, in the very same environmentally irresponsible, consumption-mad United Arab Emirates.

“Originally a small fishing village, Dubai created the busiest souks on the Persian Gulf Coast. Travel deep into the desert by four-wheel-drive vehicle to Hatta Gardens, enjoying spectacular views. Celebrate with champagne atop the dunes, and savor a falconry show and dinner at a desert camp.”

Yes, champagne after a four-wheel-drive trek may hardly make for a statement of solidarity with the world’s poor, but again, as long as you care…Or at least care enough to want Dubai to remain a quaint—and poor—“small fishing village.” As WWF Director-General James Leape said after the release of Living Planet:

“If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us.”

Leape can breathe a sigh of relief: A lot of the world remains poor. It’s just that the UAE had to have the bad taste to get rich.