This was an incredible experience with a Tahitian family-owned business. Did you know that they DON'T kill oysters to harvest the pearls? A good oyster can keep producing pearls for up to 7 years!
Thanks, Sonja! It was an honor to be able to pick Megan's brain for an hour and hear her thoughts on where ecotourism is headed.
Thanks, Matthew! The conservationist interview series is one of my favorite features on GGT.
A great article by Megan Epler Wood, co-founder of The International Ecotourism Society, on the need for ALL players in the sustainable travel industry to agree on a definition of what sustainable travel is so that standard practices and guidelines can be established. She suggests:"Sustainable tourism creates a better place for people to live, work and visit by providing long-term economic benefits to local people, protecting the environment and biodiversity, and preserving the cultural heritage, traditional values and character of destinations worldwide.”
This week the Dallas Safari Club sold rights to hunt/kill a critically endangered Black Rhino in Namibia for $350,000, setting off a firestorm of protests from animal rights activists. Proponents say the money will be used to fund rhino conservation efforts; opponents say killing endangered species is wrong and establishes a dangerous precedent. We tried to explore this complex, controversial issue from all sides, interviewing conservationists both for (the IUCN) and against (Humane Society International) the hunt. Would love to hear your thoughts!
My favorite quote from the EthicalTraveler.org founder, when asked about bloggers and sustainable travel:"Let’s be the eyes and the ears of the world, to keep things honest and make sure that the money travelers bring to countries is actually used to improve the lives of the people we’re visiting. I think that would be an immensely valuable direction for bloggers to take.
While I think vacations are wonderful, nobody deserves a vacation from the realities of the world. If you’re going to travel to a place, you should always have an awareness of the problems people in those communities face, so– at the very least– you’re not making things worse."
EXCERPT: "By the beginning of 2014, science had found the Higgs boson (a.k.a. the God particle), put a rover on Mars, and created a robotic hand that allows amputees to feel sensations. Yet somehow the Stone Spheres of Costa Ricaremain a complete mystery, with little more than educated hunches about their significance to the ancient indigenous peoples.
We’d seen some stone spheres during previous trips to Costa Rica– usually individual stones displayed prominently in the center of a town’s park. But it wasn’t until we visited the Finca 6 Archaeological Site in Palmar Sur that we began to understand how important these mysterious orbs are to researchers trying to learn more about Costa Rica’s pre-Columbian history..."
Our exclusive interview with anthropologist-turned-film director Pegi Vail on her new documentary, GRINGO TRAILS, which examines the long-term impact of mass tourism on destinations. If you haven't seen it, it's a great film featuring interviews with travel experts such as Costas Christ, Pico Iyer, and Rolf Potts.
From the story: Chris Mercer, co-founder of the Campaign Against Canned Hunting, insists that the farmers behind these attractions are deceiving travelers in the name of greed and profit.
Lion farmers externalize the cost of rearing lion cubs to huntable age by renting the cubs out for petting and then, when theyre too big and boisterous to be petted, to be walked with by tourists. When the lions are no longer suitable for walking with tourists, Mercer explains, theyre returned to the lion farmer to be kept in miserable, squalid conditions until theyre sold as living targets to a trophy hunter. So any tourist who pays to walk with lions is directly contributing to the canned lion hunting industry.
Point (and criticism) taken. I've had a few accusations and attacks come my way in recent weeks while all this was happening behind the scenes some from friends and some right after I got back from vacation with my daughter and they rubbed me the wrong way. I apologize for allowing my personal feelings to cloud the discussion.
Regardless, we have been working hard to address the captive cetacean issue in a productive way, and are thrilled that TBEX has invited Dr. Martha Honey of CREST to appear as Keynote Speaker at the conference. I'm looking forward to our discussion on a variety of Sustainable Travel and Ethical Tourism issues, and will have an interview with her about the Economic of Ecotourism coming soon.
For me, one of the central issues surrounding TBEX is that the Dolphin Tours filled up with eager bloggers very quickly. So how do we amplify a message about the problems with captive cetacean facilities in a way that will reach average bloggers and travelers, and not just those with an active interest in responsible, sustainable tourism? How do we educate and inform without alienating those who might not immediately agree? I see that as a significant challenge.
As I said to Edward, both during the Q&A session at TBEX and in our lengthy convo afterwards, air travel isn't sustainable and definitely has negative environmental impacts. But how did Edward get to the TBEX Conference? He flew, as did Dr. Honey and I. Ecotourism, in the form defined by TIES in the early '90s and by Dr. Honey's Center for Responsible Travel today, is about ecology AND the economy. It's basically a financial reward for those who work to preserve the environment and indigenous cultures. If, as Edward proposed, we get rid of air travel, the global economy would collapse. It's just not realistic. Instead, we should focus on the continued industry reliance on fossil fuels. Developing alternative fuel sources and other means of rapid transit like high-speed rail seem to me to be the best way to reduce greenhouse emissions from air travel.
"According to the definition established by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) in 1990, ecotourism is 'Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.' Dr. Martha Honey expands on the TIES definition by describing the seven characteristics of ecotourism, which are:
Edward, I'm not missing your point, I just disagree with it. You're focusing your attention on air travel as the problem, whereas I see our continued reliance on fossil fuels as the problem. I think the dialogue about the impact of air travel on climate change is essential, but I also think we have to start with the simple fact that the vast majority of people yourself included HAVE to fly in order to get where they're going in the time allotted for getting there. Once we accept that fact, then the next questions are, "How can we make air travel have less negative impact?" and "In what other ways can we work to reduce our environmental impact?" This is why our site focuses on sustainable living as well as ecotourism, because we see "going Green" as a lifestyle change that involves a million little decisions we each make every day.
Ron Mader, my comment was based on my discussion with Edward at TBEX, in which he suggested that we, as Responsible Travelers, should actively discourage people from using air travel. As Dr. Honey pointed out during our Keynote Session, in response to Ed's comments, if people from the US and Europe stopped traveling by air to developing nations the local economies would collapse. They depend on tourism revenue to live. I'm all for including the environmental impact of transportation in our equations, and we've written about high-speed rail, electric and hybrid vehicles, alternative fuel source developments, and other related issues on our site many, many times. But I don't believe that a "post-air travel" world exists. High speed rail and boats cannot transport the vast majority of North American and European travelers to the places they want to go in the amount of vacation time they have to go there. So I'm much more interested, and find it much more practical, to discuss ways the innovations of companies like Tesla could potentially be used to develop more eco-friendly and sustainable forms of air travel in the future. That, to me, is a realistic possibility.
Thanks for sharing this, Sonja. John, we previously covered the issues of deforestation and the rise of palm oil plantations in another GGT post focused on the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center, which you can find here: http://greenglobaltravel.com/2014/06/22/sepilok-bornean-orangutan-conservation-malaysia.