Monday, 16 August 2010

Sustainable travel: a contradiction in terms?

Had an e mail from neighbours of mine, Mark and Julie Jastrzebski (who also happen to be organising a street party in Hockley this week end to which Friends of the Earth are invited). They're very active champions in our corner of Ladywood, driving residents associations and are supporting my efforts to get another parcel of land transformed into a grow site.

They went on holiday to Tenerife this year, diving, and related a lovely story about how the diving school rescued a marine turtle injured by a spear, got it veterinary treatment, nursed it back to health before releasing it back into the sea. The family of turtles now know and trust the diving school owners with the result their divers are able to get up close to these beautiful creatures.

Leo Hickman in his book Final Call, explores the complex and difficult issues of sustainable tourism. Many poor countries depend on revenues from tourists and travellers. For example, animals, instead of being hunted down as a source of food, can become a source of income through sanctuaries, safari parks or game reserves. However, indigenous peoples can be marginalised or thrown off the land to make way for safari parks, as has happened for example in Botswana

On a more positive note, succesive governments of Costa Rica, for example, have had strict policies protecting their environment with the result this tiny central American country is now a top tourist destination boasting considerable bio diversity. However, doesn't flying to enjoy these places cancel out any benefits accrued by careful environmental management? Hickman has a surprising argument, that one of the most environmentally friendly destinations, with a low carbon footprint per inhabitant, is Benidorm.

By staying in tourist hotspots like this one, holidaymakers are lessening their environmental impact through improved economies of scale. That in Southern Spain big villas with swimming pools, golf course complexes with their demands for huge quantities of water (not to mention pesticides and chemicals to keep the grass green) are far more environmentally damaging than the high density beach resorts.

There are no easy answers and Hickman proposes striking a balance – having holidays at home, and, if you do fly, choosing holidays and destinations where you can redress the environmental damage caused by flying.

Heres the e mail Julie sent me with some photographs:

I went to Tenerife this year on holiday with my family, I came across this diving school called RiaansScuba

They do not just look after their customers with kindness and care, they also look after the marine life.

Riaan and Wendy the owners of the school give their customers a net bag when diving and invite them to pick up rubbish while they are diving for a small discount on their bill.

They also look after a family of wild Turtles and treat them when they become sick or injured.

WELL DONE Wendy and Riaan.

If any one reading this article is going to tenerife and wants to dive I recommend to dive with this school and help them to look after the turtles and other marine life.

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