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Optimism of the Will, Pessimism of the Intellect: 6 Priorities for2012

For the optimistic bit, the agenda for action, go to the end ? it is in bold!

We can do something about our sustainability.

It is a matter choice – our collective choice.

As Jared Diamond concluded in his study of how societies choose to fail or survive

… we are the cause of our environmental problems, we are the ones in control of them, and we can choose or not choose to stop causing them and start solving them. The future is up for grabs, lying in our hands … for the most part we “just” need the political will to apply solutions already available.” ?

We need to demand more of our leaders.

2011 was another year of extreme weather in our climate and
for travel and tourism. We were reminded that we inhabit a planet subject to
extreme weather and geological events, each of which reminds us of our
vulnerability. 2011 saw earthquakes, volcanoes and tsunami. 2011 was a La Nina year, the cooling of tropical
sees in the Pacific had both a cooling effect on global temperatures and caused
disturbed weather patterns.

Globally, 2011 was the 11th  warmest year on record, despite the cooling
effect of La Nina ? in the UK
2011 is overall the second warmest year on record. All of the UK’s top seven
warmest years happened in the last decade, 2006 was the hottest.

In East Africa the worst drought in 60 years killed
thousands and left 12 million at risk of starvation. There were devastating
floods in Australia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brazil and Thailand. The damage
in Thailand alone was estimated at ?29,000,000,000. The US was struck by 12
extreme weather disasters each of which caused damage in excess of $1,000,000,000’s.
Over 343 tornadoes struck the US in one four day period in April.

Climate change is only a part of the Perfect Storm which confronts us.

2011 was the year that the
world’s population passed 7bn, since I was born the world’s population has
increased from 2.6bn to 7bn.  

2011 also brought civil disorder with the Arab spring; riots
and strikes in Greece, Spain and France and riots in Britain produced adverse
travel advisories.

John Beddington, Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government warned
back in September 2009 that the world faced a Perfect Storm caused by population growth, rising demand for food, energy, water and land and climate change. And Britain is becoming relatively poorer as a consequence of unemployment, austerity and the decline in the value of the pound against the Euro on January 1st 2008 a pound was worth ?1.36, on 31 December 2011 it was worth ?1.16
? a decline of 14.7%. Since January 2005 the effective exchange rate index for
sterling has dropped from 100 to 81 in mid-December 2011. As the pound weakens inbound
and domestic tourism grows, outbound tourism is tougher, exacerbated by the
rise in Air Passenger Duty and the extension of the Emissions Trading Scheme to
Aviation. Although tourism to Greece may be boom if it leaves the Euro,
depending on what happens politically.

However, Titanic cruises have been selling well.

It was way back in 1972 that the first UN Conference on the
Human Environment took place, Maurice Strong the Secretary General of the
conference described it as ?launching a new liberation movement to free men from
the threat of thraldom to environmental perils of their own making.? The
oxymoron of ‘sustainable development? is giving way to ?green growth?. A new name for an aspiration that we consistently fail to achieve, many are not trying. We continue to lose
the battle, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

2012 and Rio+20 will provide an opportunity to take stock
and to look at how much progress has been made since the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable
Development and the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Whichever base line is chosen the
answer is  the same ? not enough. As a species we are still in
denial.  We need to use Rio+20 to take stock
of what has been achieved by business, the UN agencies, NGOs and governments. We need to focus on our resilience in the face of the Perfect Storm.

We must remember Gramsci ? pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will

So what are the
priorities for Responsible Tourism in 2011

  1. Reduce negative impacts: we need to address the major issues,
    internationally and locally: greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water,
    although only where water is an issue, it is not everywhere.  
  2. Increase positive impacts: using tourism to create sustainable
    livelihoods, creating wealth in the local economy matters.
  3. Focus: all issues are local (except greenhouse gas emissions),
    people need to be challenged to respond, to do something about the issues which
    matter to them in their place, to act where they can make a difference.  
  4. Hold to account those who merely use the language of
    Responsible Tourism  for
    irresponsible greenwashing.
  5. Demand transparent reporting: we need to demand that
    businesses report openly what they are doing and how much they have
    achieved on the key issues greenhouse gas emissions, waste, water, where
    it is an issue, and local economic development and poverty reduction.We need to encourage travellers and holidaymakers to be rebellious and to demand to know what lies behind the claims.
  6. Accept that regulation will be necessary to control the free loaders who otherwise destroy our environment and make it impossible to achieve sustainable  development or green growth.

I am particularly concerned about the evidence that the travel and tourism industry is,
in most cases unwittingly, contributing to internal child trafficking.
Unscrupulous orphanages are ?recruiting? or purchasing children in order to
fill orphanages and to ?earn? money from tourists.

The fact that those in the travel
industry, who market or facilitate these opportunities – whether
internationally or locally – may be unaware of the trafficking of children
which they are encouraging through the provision of tourists who make this
activity profitable for the orphan ?owners? is not the point. Read more

There is a lot to do
in 2012, we have been making progress, we know a lot of the answers ? the challenge
is to get people to take action.

? Diamond J (2005) Collapse Allen Lane pp.521-522

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