Gemma Milner is a freelance writer. After graduating in business and journalism, Gemma worked for a personal finance company for nearly a decade before, she explains, motherhood changed her outlook on life. Now Gemma works from home as a freelance writer and covers topics as diverse as her old finance stomping ground, local news, family finances, investment, sustainability and much more. Inspired by a visit to Walkabout Park, Gemma wrote the following article:
Eco-Tourism - A Step In The Right Direction
Eco-Tourism is something of a buzzword right now. A quick perusal of google will reveal literally hundreds of tourist sites eagerly offering ‘eco-vacations’ and ‘eco-breaks’ to the customer with a conscience. This is of course excellent news, as it seems to imply that the world is finally wising up to the impact of humanity upon the world, and turning its attentions to making a difference. What is most fascinating of all is that this appears to be a roots-up movement – an example of pure people-power which is taking the world by storm. Places like Walkabout Park are in no small way responsible for this movement, and it’s something to be extremely proud of.
The World That Was
As few as ten years ago, no environmentalist would have had any problem with decrying the tourist industry as a major world problem, environmentally speaking. USA Today points out the potential for tourism to threaten “water supply, beaches, coral reefs and heritage sites” if managed incorrectly - and, indeed, the age-old ‘dollars for eyes’ syndrome used to affect the tourist industry on an extreme level. Seeing potential profit, companies used to ride roughshod over the environment, and didn’t really care so long as the money kept coming in. As recently as 2009, Britain’s Telegraph newspaper warned that the ecologically unique Galapagos islands were being threatened by tourism. “…mankind…is threatening the island with the introduction of invasive species, the demands of a growing human population, extreme weather events caused by climate change and a growing number of tourists disturbing the pristine wildlife”. Several unique environments had already by this point been damaged beyond repair by the need for an infrastructure to cater to human tourists, and even industries which do not rely upon a land-based infrastructure, like the cruise industry, used to blast poisonous chemicals into the air and sea.
Enter The People
All in all, tourism was looking like one of the major threats to the environment. But then, something incredible happened: education. Thanks to places like Walkabout Park, visitors began to realize that the environment was something incredible, something vital, and something worth protecting. By getting up close and personal with the wildlife and habitats that their activities were threatening, they realized what an impact their choices could have. Most people are good people who would not want to hurt the environment, but many did not understand before precisely how what they were doing was affecting the world around them. Places like Walkabout Park helped to open their eyes. Take Britain, for example. Britain is a very small island, which has been under continuous human occupation for almost a million years. It’s been at the forefront of the progressive waves of European development, and took a lot of this ‘advance’ out on its own personal environment. Now, though Britain remains a ‘green and pleasant land’, it has only a few actual ‘wildernesses’ left. There’s plenty of green natural space in Britain, but it’s almost all managed by humans. Understanding this, conservationists in Britain made an incredibly concerted effort to raise awareness about the environment. Ecology modules were implemented in schools, public service announcements were rolled out on national television, and zoos and wildlife parks stepped up to the mark by making environmental education a major part of their mission. The results have been astounding. British finance websites like Money are bursting with tips on how to “embrace the green revolution without breaking the bank”, and the Telegraph reports that “most people” in Britain “strongly believe that mankind is abusing the planet and that interference with nature may produce disastrous consequences”. As a reflection of this, British tourism which relies upon environmentally damaging methods have experienced plummeting profits, while more eco-friendly options, such as campsites, have gained in popularity. The British people have voted with their feet and, as a consequence, British tourism companies are rapidly going green in an effort not to lose profits.
The Bigger Picture
Of course, Britain is a very small place with a very large population, which makes the environmental impact of humans much more concentrated and immediately visible than it is here in Australia. However, it provides a neat microcosm of a movement which is taking place all over the world. Places like Walkabout Park have really stepped up to the plate, providing a face-to-face explanation of the human impact on the planet, and what can be done to limit it. People want to visit certain places because they revel in the natural environment – beach bums want a pristine beach and azure waters, mountain trekkers want a beautiful landscape to climb, and so on. Until recently, it seemed as though tourism initiatives would continue to destroy the very resources it relied upon in the name of profit, but then the people spoke. No longer would they spend their money on environmentally damaging schemes. They wanted to visit pristine, natural environments, and they wanted to do it with minimal personal impact. Companies quickly wised up to the fact that they could make more money out of preserving the environment than they could out of destroying it. Fiscal Today report that “sustainable tourism has shown exponential growth as climate change and its adverse effects have come into the limelight”.
Support The Good Guys
It is to be hoped that this eco-positive movement will continue, to the benefit of the entire world. In the meantime, it is important to recognize and support eco-educational initiatives like Walkabout Park, which have brought about this much needed change.