What Is Ecotourism And Why Should You Care?
ecotourism - "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education"
Principles of Ecotourism
Ecotourism is about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. This means that those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities should adopt the following ecotourism principles:
Why should you care?
Take a look around you. Walk around outside. Can you see the effects of human damage we have caused? No? Well maybe in your backyard it is not so obvious. But there has been harmful impact in our ecosystem from pollution, energy consumption, deforestation and climate change.
With our overpopulation, greed for resources, and lack of respect for other species our planet and its species are slowly dying.
Pesticides, herbicides, large landfills, waste from food processing, and nuclear waste deplete our soil of its nutrients and make it virtually lifeless.
Burning of fossil fuels and toxic gases cause air pollution. "The estimations we have now tell us there are 3.5 million premature deaths every year caused by household air pollution, and 3.3 million deaths every year caused by outdoor pollution."
It's become evident that humans are making a huge impact on our planet. With using up the resources and habitat of species, they die off at alarming rates. "Most of the remaining footprint-free land was in places that aren't good for agriculture or cities, such as the Sahara, Gobi, and Australian deserts, the most remote portions of tropical rainforests in the Amazon and Congo, and the tundra."
Among the hardest hit are areas with more than 1,500 plant species and areas with at least 14 vertebrate species that are classified as threatened. Why does that matter?
Why is Biodiversity Important?
Refers to the variety of life. The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on the planet, such as deserts, rainforests and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth.
EVERY SPECIES HAS A ROLE TO PLAY
A larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops
Greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms
Healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters
HEALTHY ECOSYSTEM GIVES HUMANS BENEFITS
Medicinal resources and pharmaceutical drugs
Breeding stocks, population reservoirs
Recreation and tourism
What has UNESCO done about it?
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization works to protect and preserve our lands. One way they are doing this is the Man and Biosphere (MAB) program, which encourages the designation of biosphere reserves. These reserves are protected areas designed to include low-impact or traditional human activities, rather than excluding them.
A well established example of a biosphere reserve is Mexico's Sian Ka'an Reserve on the Tulum Coast of the Yucatan. The core area includes 528,000 ha (1.3 million acres) of coral reefs, bays, wetlands, and lowland tropical forest. The Amigos de Sian Ka'an, a local community organization, played a central role in establishing the reserve and is working to protect natural resources while also improving living standards for local people.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the "government" or other non-profits to fix our mess. As Aldo Leopold wrote, "Despite nearly a century of propaganda, conservation still proceeds at a snail's pace". Better conservation education is needed. For the most part it is thought that if we "obey the law, vote right, join some organizations, and practice what conservation is profitable on your own land; the government will do the rest." - But this is just enlightened self interest!
"An ethical obligation on the part of the private owner is the only visible remedy..."
We must look to ourselves and reflect the existence of an ecological conscience, and this in turn reflects a conviction of individual responsibility for the health of the land.
Health is the capacity of the land for self-renewal. Conservation is our effort to understand and preserve this capacity.
Being a Responsible Ecotourist
Is your trip for pleasure, or will it contribute to protecting the local environment? Can you combine ecotourism with work on cleanup campaigns or delivery of educational materials or equipment to local schools or nature clubs?
advocacy and education
Get involved in letter writing, lobbying, or educational campaigns to help protect the lands and cultures you have visited. Give talks at schools or to local clubs after you get home, to inform your friends and neighbors about what you have learned.
Will you make a difference on your next travel adventure?
Iglehart, Ed. “Aldo Leopold's Land Ethic.” Why I Am NOT Going to Buy a Computer - Wendell Berry, home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/landethic.html.