The Antarctic trip is the second trip in Airbnb’s “sabbatical” program; over the summer, the company sent five volunteers to “save the Italian village of Grottole” (i.e., drum up tourism interest and therefore economic growth). The line that Airbnb is telling reporters (Haskins, me) is that it hopes to show how travel can be a “positive catalyst for change.” Airbnb is not, as a spokeswoman emphasized to me, trying to expand its services into Antarctica, nor is it intending to encourage people to travel there, as was the case with the Grottole trip. The goal here, ostensibly, is science.So, can this trip produce good science? Melanie Bergmann, a marine ecologist whose work charts how microscopic bits of plastic make their way through the atmosphere to faraway locations, wrote to me in an email that it’s difficult to say without knowing more about the particulars. It’s certainly possible for ordinary folk to help with collecting microplastic samples, as Airbnb intends participants to: Bergmann and her team had regular people living on a Norwegian archipelago pack up snow samples for a study themselves. The main challenge there was ensuring they did so in a way that wouldn’t further contaminate the snow; the lab provided pre-rinsed plastic containers.
By making their predictions and analyses public, companies can also learn from each other about how to become more resilient in the face of climate threats.“Climate change is right now a very much under-priced risk in financial disclosures,” says Sarda, who believes both companies and investors need to prioritize climate-related accounting more.