Travelers take cruises to exotic places where they don’t necessarily get an authentic experience. Photo courtesy of Colin Delaney/ Flickr Creative Commons
With the arrival of spring comes the exodus of college students from their stressful, dreary campuses to the soft, sandy beaches of the tropics. Most travel to places like Mexico and the Dominican Republic where they can lounge in the sun and forget about their schoolwork. However, though they are traveling to exotic places with interesting cultures, they are not necessarily authentically interacting with the people they meet and the places they see.
A group of students from Barnard College in Manhattan went on a cruise for their spring break which stopped in Mexico and Jamaica. After their trip, they found their experiences to be very inauthentic. Emily Kawai, a senior at Barnard, said that while in Jamaica, her tour guide and the locals “hyped up the stereotypes for the tourists.” She observed that many people were wearing the Rastafarian colors and saying quotes from Bob Marley. “They wanted to give the tourists what they expected,” she says. Gaby Ittah, also a senior at Barnard, agreed with Emily, saying that “the ports milk the tourism industry.”
Ecotourism, on the other hand, strives to create a cohesive travel experience that includes the community in an authentic way. Ecotourism encourages sustainable tourism and as a result, businesses involved in ecotourism put a lot of emphasis on community building and outreach within the communities that they are operating.
Hog waste disposed into lagoon
Photo courtesy of jhenryfair.com
Wendy’s Baconator®, a half pound beef burger smothered with two yellow slices of cheese and six thick slices of bacon, costs a little more than $4. Perdue’s® 12oz pack of dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets goes for $3.99. Two Tyson® chicken breasts, averaging 24oz, can be found for as little as $7. In the United States, meat is cheap and available and corporate behemoths like Tyson and Perdue dominate the meat markets. The retail price of industrialized meat stays low in part because of the prioritization of profit over all noneconomic factors, such as the environmental wellbeing and conservation. The environmental costs of the livestock sector are monumental. Industrial animal farming pollutes drinking water, contaminates soils, spreads disease, and emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases responsible for heating the earth’s atmosphere. These environmental costs and consequences are externalized by big agribusiness, while the public, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and government agencies are often left to finance and address all damages.
As detailed in the last blog post, the industrial livestock sector has moved towards a system that maximizes production and profitability. The pursuit of these goals prompted large-scale farms to introduce antibiotics to animal feed, pack more animals into tighter spaces, and speed up production practices. Further, government subsidies and deregulation facilitated the rise of industrial animal farms. Tufts University, for example, estimates that between 1997 and 2005 the United States’ industrial livestock sector saved over $35 billion with the aid of federal farm subsidies. Oftentimes, such farm policies, the maximization of profit, and the wellbeing of the environment come into conflict, and livestock operations continually trample the health of the natural world.
Pika sitting on a rock with a mouthful of food. Photo Courtesy of Chris Kennedy/ USFWS- Flickr Creative Commons
Climate change has been shown to be associated with dramatic changes to the terrestrial biosphere. Some of these changes include higher temperatures, the shrinking of glaciers, and shifts in animal and plant home ranges. Scientists have documented key species that are vulnerable to global warming and its effects on land. In national parks, some important species that are at risk which will be discussed further include the pika and the grizzly bear.
The discussion of specific wildlife stories can begin with the American pika. Pikas live on rock piles in cold temperature regions and cannot tolerate warmer temperatures exceeding 78 degrees Fahrenheit. They are undergoing consideration, by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, for threatened status. Pikas are related to rabbits and inhabit mountainous, alpine environments. Because they can die when exposed to warm temperatures above the threshold noted above, they move upwards in elevation, but they can only go so far before land runs out. Additional heating at higher elevations, changes in vegetation, and possible invasion by new predators, lead some scientists to believe that pikas may potentially be wiped out by due to the effects of global warming.
Garbage at an Incinerator in Oslo, Norway / Photo Courtesy of the New York Times
Norway and Sweden have a major trash problem.
They do not have enough.
While this may seem as victory to those of us in the U.S., both countries burn their garbage to heat and provide electricity to the vast majority of its cities. They incinerate household, industrial and even toxic waste.
Monkeys in the Amazon Courtesy of Angelo DeSantis/ Flickr Creative Commons
From the dense, green rainforests of Costa Rica, to the humid, lively Amazon of South America, to the hot deserts of Kenya, to the colorful, warm Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. These natural beauties have been sites to see for generations. People travel thousands of miles to see these natural wonders of the world. And it is these sorts of natural marvels that gave rise to the movement the world now knows as ecotourism.
Ecotourism is not a new concept. For decades, people have traveled around the world looking at the beauties that this planet has to offer. John Muir, for example, ventured into the Sierra Nevada mountain range and fell in love with it so much that he put it on himself to protect the land that would later become Yosemite National Park. Though the term wasn’t coined yet, Muir’s trip into Yosemite Valley is a form of ecotourism.
Photo courtesy of Chris M Morris/ Flickr Commons