Friday, December 10, 2010

I say Eco, you say Eco, we all say What?

Ecotourism. Ecolodge. Ecotravel. Sustainable tourism. You see these words inscribed on almost every hotel, every tourist destination, and on the tip of every travel promoter’s tongue. Do we really know what we are talking about when we mention any of these terms? Our society has become so eco-orientated, desperate to come across as environmentally friendly, that soon we will be drinking eco-friendly water from a plastic bottle. Seriously? Assumedly we have all been travelling eco-friendly because we did not wash our towels every day, but the truth is, that is not what ecotourism is about. Quite frankly, there is no ‘one’ definition, there is no ‘one’ way of spelling the terms either. It has become an overstated description to satisfy our guilty conscious because deep down inside, that eco-trip last summer; you guessed it, it wasn’t so eco-friendly at all! Let’s start by, ‘How did you get there?’ Unless you walked, or swam it really was not so eco at all.

I am not even going to mention the possible un-eco side problems that come with swimming or walking, however I am not here to criticize anybody because I am just as guilty. Instead I intend on praising everybody for trying to at least make a difference, to spread an environmental statement across, and to ensure that even if they do travel they do so with as little impact as possible. That is the keyword here; possible. We have to do with what resources are available to us, and this techno-society of ours has given us a lot of opportunities to make a difference; to minimize our impact.

However, I stumbled across an article by the BBC by a man named Dr. James Mair and he points out that eco-tourism is doing more damage to the environment than good. I find his opinion hard to grasp, not only because he writes in ways I do not fully comprehend but also because I think he mixes up REAL ecotourism with the supposed ecotourism. I think he targets eco-hotels that only say they are eco-friendly to attract the growing numbers of eco-tourists but which are quite confused about what ecological preservation in the tourism industry really means. I am sure we have all come across these forms of accommodation and it is certainly difficult to distinguish the real from the ‘wannabe’. Furthermore, a lot of the waste that is washing up or causing destruction tends to be the lingering results of non-eco hotels. That is probably where it goes wrong, having both non-eco and eco-friendly accommodation on one island. I say, “Let there be green”.

Of course, I am not dr. at the Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and my opinion is probably way off, but I cannot see how a resort or hotel which have been assessed by green criteria or recognized by a known and accepted green organization could be doing any harm. Not in their vicinity at least. Possibly because they encourage more travelling to eco-friendlyeco-resort destinations and the travelling process itself is damaging, but in all honesty in this world people are going to travel. Is it not better that we travel eco-consciously (the airplane is bad, but those 5 days in that will wash away those sins) rather than travel and damage the whole lot? Like a vegetarian, we may think that one steak does not make a difference but if 1,000 vegetarians pass on it, it may save a cow or two (probably many more).

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