The Environmental Impact of Transportation Conference was Planeta’s 13th e-conference and took place in October and November 2003. We examined how to ‘get there from here’ without leaving an indelible footprint on the environment.
Participants looked at the environmental impact of transportation at local, regional and international levels. The event provided a unique opportunity for an in-depth dialogue and shed light on practical actions for travelers, entrepreneurs and policy-makers.
Thanks in advance the World Tourism Organization, The Communication Initiative, Mexican Conservation Learning Network, CSRWire, Society of Environmental Journalists and BrazilMax for assistance in publicizing this event.
Greetings GreenRiders! I’ll be playing message moderator, list lackey, and forum facilitator for this GreenRide discussion — officially known as the “Environmental Impact of Transportation Conference.” Welcome aboard!
I grew up in a small town on the periphery of a rapidly expanding metropolitan area on the Atlantic coast of North America. As a small boy, I roamed about in my own “wilderness area” — actually a large farm that had ceased operations. The fields and pastures were growing up in secondary forest — until the highways were widened, the urban expansion surrounded us, and my “forest” was bulldozed to make room for high-rise office buildings and endless parking lots. Population and transportation seemed to be taking over the world. This probably shaped my career choices…
By academic training, I am a natural resource planner and resource management specialist. My concentration area was wildland management: national parks and other protected areas. Early in my career I worked primarily on individual national parks, then I worked on national systems of protected areas, and finally as a consultant and advisor on parks and protected areas in a number of countries. Over the years, I expanded the scope of my work in any particular location, broadening the focus to include neighboring communities, community organizing, adjacent land uses, rural development, and regional planning. Park professionals have been involved in all of these arenas since the creation of the first national parks, but restrictive funding and government policy too often limited their visibility and prohibited any mention of these activities in official documents.
My interest in transportation is both academic and personal. I recognize the environmental hazards that transportation poses to people and the planet. Transportation corridors destroy habitat, alter drainage patterns, create noise, increase air pollution, and pollute surface and groundwater. Airports (and air transport) create noise, add to air pollution, and pollute surface and groundwater. River transport leads to air and water pollution, and to dams and locks that destroy habitat and alter aquatic systems, particularly interfering with migration paths. And probably the most disturbing aspect of the environmental impacts of transportation is the pervasive influence of transport on climate change — so many individual sources, and the impacts may be felt thousands of miles away.
My personal transportation preference has long been the bicycle. For more than 30 years, I have been able to keep my residence and my primary work site within walking or biking distance. When forced by the weather, I do on occasion resort to public transportation. But unless I am hauling heavy luggage or cargo, I generally avoid using a private vehicle to get to work. And all grocery shopping and errands, up to approximately 20 kg in weight, I do on my bicycle.
My transport record is by no means unblemished. My consulting and advising work has carried me to more than 40 countries (mostly to developing countries in South and Central America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, plus transition economies in Europe and Asia, and one overnight stop in New Zealand. I didn’t get there by pedaling my bicycle. But I was an “early adopter” of e-mail and have happily applied information technology to improve information exchange and reduce the need for travel. Sometimes through the use of e-mail and electronic document exchange, I have completely avoided the need for more air travel. (I should add that this international telecommuting usually involves countries that I have already worked in.) But how can we have travel and tourism in the world if we are championing a move (ever so slowly) toward more sustainable modes of transport? The obvious answer is to encourage tourism within the radius of currently available modes of sustainable transport: walking, hiking, biking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, rowing, sailing — essentially any form of self-powered mobility. Not only is it much more healthy from an exercise point of view, but it seems to increase the business for restaurants. <grin>
I am delighted that other members of this discussion forum have highlighted air transport as “the elephant at the table” in our deliberations about sustainable tourism. Earthscan kindly provided me with complimentary review copies of two of their recent publications on transportation for this forum. (I’ll provide more information on those books in a separate posting.) The unfortunate conclusion is that we’re not likely to make air transport environmentally sustainable — ever. Eliminating the financial subsidies from air transport would help reduce the slewing of the transportation market, but we’ll need to move even faster toward sustainability in the other modes of transport to compensate for the damage done by air travel.
Depending on the route, air travel may be as much as 50% tourism. For a different destination without much tourist traffic, the role of air transport may be almost entirely family, business, and cargo. At the other end of the travel chain, we have transportation at the tourist destination. I hope we will have time to explore and discuss the full spectrum. So let’s get started
I host the Planeta website. Originally, I am from Indiana (USA) and for the past ten years I’ve made Mexico my home … when I’m not on the road! This month I will be traveling quite a bit, attending the Green Festival in Austin and the Expo Ecoturismo in Venezuela. That said, I’ll be curious to see how much these travels impact the environment …
My background in tourism goes back more than a decade, which is more than some and less than others. I’ve written the Mexico: Adventures in Nature guidebook, and I am the Latin America correspondent for Transitions Abroad magazine. What I’m very excited about is that in 2004 the Planeta website celebrates its 10th anniversary! (Imagine, NAFTA, Zapatistas and Planeta all share the same birthday).
Last year in consultation with friends and colleagues, I decided that Planeta would host a conference on transportation. Why? It made sense. We’ve already had discussions in our Forum on green hotels, community tourism, certification (sigh …), financing, marketing … and the one missing piece was precisely the way we get from here to there. That said, I recognize this is not a particularly sexy topic.
There are two areas that interest me. The first is airline travel. Personally, I am very interested in learning what the impact of airline travel, but I’m not ready to forgo flight and walk to all the places that interest me. In fact, this month I am negotiating a contract with an airline consolidator which Planeta would feature for those buying airline tickets.
In terms of airline travel, my biggest question is not the environmental impact alone, but rather, why is the field so crazy? Ticket prices confuse everyone. Safety is a concern as is courtesy. With the exception of Southwest Airlines in the US, I have yet to fly on a plane the past two years in which I feel welcome.
The second area of interest for me is local eco travel (a.k.a. the “green ride”) — how we develop and promote travel such as biking, kayaking and hiking? What are the lessons learned around the globe that can be shared?
What I hope we can achieve in this conference is to shine the light a bt on the questions that have eluded many traditional forums. If we can collect the various articles and references and books and create a recommended reading list, we will do ourselves and others a great service.Finally, I’d like to thank again the co-sponsors of this discussion: Channel View Publications, The Shores System, ECOCLUB.com, Eldis and Sustainable Sources. Their support of the work in this conference is much appreciated.
Andres Hammerman and Michelle Kirby
Michelle Kirby and I built, own and operate the Black Sheep Inn, an Ecologically Friendly Hotel in the rural Ecuadorian Andes. See our website for details about our ecological practices and the various recognition that we have received. Today we celebrate nine years in Ecuador! I want to address a few different points during this conference.
I will start with #1… My wife Michelle and I met while working for the Green Tortoise, an alternative bus company based out of San Francisco, California. In some ways the Green Tortoise is a throw back hippy communal way to travel, but it was also a cheap way to see some of the fantastic back road sites in the Americas. When we worked for them (1991-1992) they ran trips across the USA, to National Parks, up to Alaska and down through Mexico and Guatemala. They used old 1948 GM buses with Detroit Diesels and Alison Transmissions. Remember the photo of Jackie Gleason in the Honeymooners grabbing his lunch bag out of the window of the city bus that he drove? That is the style of bus that the Green Tortoise runs.
I mostly drove trips from San Francisco to Boston and back. Each way lasted between 10 and 14 days with a group of 35 to 40 passengers. Michelle was the manager of the 140 acre property in Southern Oregon that was the breakfast, dinner and sauna hub for the overnight commuter trip from San Francisco to Seattle. The Green Tortoise buses have all been converted so that passengers can sleep lying down on a giant foam platform. Where typical buses store day luggage, the Green Tortoise built bunkbeds. There were two booths with tables that also converted into sleeping space. For longer adventure trips we carried our own food and cooking supplies and prepared both dinner and breakfast with the help of the passengers. Meals were included (mostly vegetarian) and planned by the two drivers/tour leaders, but always prepared with the help of the passengers.
We drove through the night so that every day the passengers could enjoy hiking, horseback riding, white water rafting, hot springs, National Parks, monuments and other spectacular scenery. The passengers paid approximately $40 per day which included their transportation, 2 meals and a place to sleep. Beer was extra. The majority of passengers were European and a high percentage were women. The trip was far more than transportation. We took people down the back roads to secluded, unknown ghost towns, hot springs, Native America bars and cafes, Blues and Jazz Clubs, and swimming holes.
In general, I think bus transportation is relatively ECO, because small car and private transportation burns more energy per person than a bus does. When we worked for the Green Tortoise we did not think of ourselves as working for an Eco Travel Company, but we did recycle, we tried to leave no trace in the rural areas we visited, we purchased organic and bulk food supplies whenever possible, and we shared expenses in order to provide high quality service for a low price.
Before moving to Ecuador I was also a truck driver for an Organic Foods Co-op in New England and I spent time in their warehouse driving an electric fork lift putting together different co-op grocery store orders. For a brief period I drove stretch Limousines in Seattle. In Massachusetts, while a group of Jamaican migrant workers picked apples, I drove a tractor in the orchard moving giant bins of apples to a refrigerated warehouse for selection and sorting.
I also helped to deliver luxury sailing vessels from the Caribbean to the USA. The owner of the boat would not be able to spend the time that it takes to deliver the boat where he or she wants it. Therefore, the owner spent the money for a one way air ticket for me to be part of the delivery crew. Sometimes we were out at sea for 7 days taking shifts at the helm and watching for other boats.What is more ECO? Burning diesel to deliver organic produce to small grocery stores? Using rechargeable batteries or propane for a forklift and warehouse operations? Burning diesel to move a bunch of drinking dancing fun loving Europeans across the USA? Or burning gasoline in unwieldy low riding cars to move immature adults with allot of money across a hilly city with difficult parking opportunities? Burning diesel to move apples to make delicious cider? Or using the wind to move a luxury sailboat very slowly from one place to another?
Out of all of these examples, what is the MOST ECO method of transport? I truly don’t know.
Mike Robbins said “”the elephant at our table” in these discussions over the Environmental Impact of Transportation is air transport” which I will address in a later post.
Antonis B. Petropoulos
It is my great pleasure to join you from Athens, Greece, in my capacity as the director of ECOCLUB.com – International Ecotourism Club, a worldwide membership-based ecotourism network, and a proud Co-sponsor of this conference.
First of all, I would like to thank Mr. Ron Mader and Mr. John Shores for organising and moderating this conference on an often neglected, but important topic in tourism circles. By way of introductory remarks, I note that Tourism and Transport are twins, and wonder if one should similarly expect Ecotourism and Sustainable Transport to be twins too? I wish the answer was a clear yes. Instead I present to you this true incident: A couple of years ago (long long time ago by Internet standards), we used to offer cheap flights at our website through an “affiliate solution” as we thought they complemented our self-booking services to independent travellers. And in any case other websites were offering it.
Then one day I received an angry email from an apparent deep ecologist working in an organic farm in Cornwall, who was protesting at our audacity to combine ecotourism with cheap flights, that were “the result of unfair airport and gasoline subsidies to large airlines, the source of pollution, the cause for mass tourism”, and apparently of many other evils that plague this world. I replied that I respected her point of view, and that I appreciated that tourists visiting her farm in Cornwall would not have to fly there (although I suspected that most would have driven a car to get there).
However, I called on her to consider that flying in some occasions could be the lesser of two evils, if for example an ecotourist would decide not to visit a community ecotourism project because it is was so remote and inaccessible, and there was not enough holiday time available.After all there could not be tourism without tourists. I also pointed out that we make efforts to include all possible ways to get to a Lodge in our website (by rail, by bus, by boat etc), and that lodges in the third world did not have the luck to be close to affluent 1st world tourists.
From the point of view of the needy in the third world, first world over-sensitivities about carbon emissions may seem rather bizarre. Also, the idea that you can somehow repent for your carbon-emissions (“offset your carbon with your credit card – click here now”) is scientifically dubious, and spins the “polluter pays” principle on its head to “he who can pay can pollute.” I have been called a cynic about this view, but I feel I am no more a cynic than those who peddle these tricks to the gullible. Of course there are exceptions, when for example the “carbon-emission” funds go directly to meaningful social projects rather to planting trees.
The pessimistic view seems to be that there is no completely benevolent transport mode, for example walking is sustainable, but what about walking outside a path, and on rare plants? The optimists believe that technology will give, as always, the solution, in the future, with solar aircraft, solar cars etc. My view is somewhere in the middle, sustainable transport is also an art of the possible, but possibilities tend to increase.
Our role as proponents of ecotourism, is to make these possibilities known, accessible and affordable to the public. This is, I believe, the spirit of this on-line conference and I look very much forward to hearing and learning from the distinguished participants.
Eldis is pleased to be one of the co-sponsors of this conference. For those who don’t know the website, it’s a portal to development and environment information; we find, summarise and synthesise the latest research and news on major development issues and all of our content is available free online or by email for those with limited web access.
We are based at the Institute for Development Studies in Sussex, UK.I have a background in tourism and have developed an online tourism resource guide with over 200 documents relating to tourism, environment and development as well as links to organisations. One of the first features I did for the site was on tourism and climate change. The page has summaries of and links to a number of useful documents on this subject for those conference participants looking for further background reading.
The page is based on the premise that transportation for tourism has significant impacts on climate change and vice versa: some of the world’s most beautiful and popular sites are being affected by climate change. Indeed climate change, its impacts and how to deal with them was a huge topic of discussion at September’s World Parks Congress in Durban (for background reading on that subject see the section on climate change). Protected Areas are worried about this issue, and much tourism relies heavily on Protected Areas. My feeling is that the industry has accepted that it has a responsibility to minimise its environmental impact locally (debatable I know, but operators in PAs at least are generally aware of these issues), but has not begun to consider either its global impacts or its
For me, the big question is over aviation, flying is the one consumer item that has actually decreased, possibly around tenfold, in relative price since 1960. To expect significant numbers of people to stop buying cheap flights out of environmental concern seems to me unrealistic.
However, despite concerns over its environmental usefulness, I do like the work of climate care and others, at least in raising awareness of the impacts of flying. That increased awareness may begin to pave the way for public acceptance of fairer and more sensible pricing mechanisms for flights that take environmental impact into account. It’s a thorny and political issue and I look forward to hearing others’ ideas.
I am very pleased to be joining the “Environmental Impacts of Transportation” online conference as the commissioning editor for Channel View Publications‘ tourism and environmental studies lists. Channel View Publications, another proud co-sponsor of this conference, is an independent academic publishing house based in North Somerset in South West England.
In addition to our book series, “Aspects of Tourism” and “Tourism and Cultural Change”, we also publish “the Journal of Sustainable Tourism”, “Journal of Ecotourism” and “Current Issues in Tourism”. we will also be starting two new journals this year, “The Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change” and “the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. Perhaps of most interest to fellow delegates of this conference would be our forthcoming “Tourism, Recreation and Climate Change”, edited by C.Michael Hall and James Higham which will be out in late 2004.
I came to this job as someone with no background in tourism or tourism studies and, whilst I do see a lot of encouraging debate, and some action, around the issues of sustainability, I have been surprised and disappointed by how focussed this is on localised impacts on specific destinations. As Claudia Townsend from Eldis has pointed out, there is much less recognition of the huge impact tourism is having on a global scale and, conversely, of how large a threat this global impact may pose to tourism itself.
To my mind also, air travel must be the main focus when it comes to looking at the impact of tourism related travel. Whilst we can and should promote cycling, walking, public transport etc once tourists reach their destinations, this seems fairly futile if we do not also address the huge emissions involved in transporting them there. It seems to me that the advances in high-speed trains and other terrestrial forms of transport for short to middle distance journeys, combined with a greater focus on cleaner air-craft technologies could significantly improve on the current situation. If this were combined with a serious effort to encourage domestic tourism, a re-thinking of the way planes are routed to avoid too many transfers, and a fairer fuel taxation system that accurately reflected the environmental and social costs involved then we could be a great deal nearer the goal of truly sustainable travel. I realise that the above would take time and would represent a huge shake-up for this and many other industries, not to mention the political status-quo, but I do believe that we have reached a point where in-action is no longer an option. How we get from here to there, both actually and metaphorically, and how do we take others with us, well that’s for the conference to thrash out!
I also share Antonis’ and Claudia’s reservations regarding carbon offset. There is certainly a huge risk in encouraging guilt-free pollution at the swipe of a credit card. However, if marketed correctly and honestly I too believe that some of these schemes, particularly those based around transferring cleaner technologies to those in developing countries (e.g. Climate Care), can be a useful awareness raising tool and a valuable source of revenue for worthy projects.
I am a tourism consultant based in Toronto, Ontario Canada. I am pleased to be able to participate in this on-line conference. I am the founding Partner in the Tourism Company, a management and marketing consulting firm specializing in tourism. My educational background was in Resource Management and I started out as an environmental consultant, working with a large multi-disciplinary consulting firm in their Tourism & Environmental Planning Department almost 25 years ago. I gradually moved into the tourism arena full time and worked for a number of large multi-disciplinary firms in Canada and in New Zealand. I started my own practice in 1993 forming the Tourism Company. the Tourism Company specializes in ecotourism and more sustainable development approaches in rural and remote areas. A significant portion of our current workload is with native peoples and communities. We work throughout Canada and internationally.
I am also an investor in a solar technology company here in Canada, called Enerworks, and I sit on the Board of Directors. I am also involved in conservation and ecotourism through philanthropy. My partner and I have set up a philanthropic fund called the 7th Generation Fund through Tides Canada, and we are currently involved in a major conservation project trying to protect the Taku River Watershed, the largest intact, unprotected wilderness watershed in North America.
I agree that “the elephant at our table” in these discussions over the Environmental Impact of Transportation is air transport. Mass tourism is the “elephant at our table” when we discuss more sustainable models for tourism in general. We cannot hope to succeed in tackling the whole transportation sector in the same way we cannot hope to tackle the entire tourism industry with the movement towards ecotourism. That being said I always wonder if the relatively small improvements we strive to achieve when we assist a client in developing the concept for a remote ecolodge, when a large portion of their eventual customers will be flown in by air resulting in far more environmental impact than we can hope to mitigate with the more sensitive design of the ecolodge. I look forward to the ongoing discussion over air transport. I will not address air transport in this submission but rather will focus on the broader application of sustainable transport principles in a sensitive ecosystem — the Great Lakes Heritage Coast.
Last year we were involved as part of a multi-disciplinary consulting team to develop a Coastal Protection and Tourism Strategy for the Great Lakes Heritage Coast. The Great Lakes Heritage Coast is one of the key signature sites identified under Ontario’s Living Legacy program administered through the Ministry of Natural Resources. Stretching over 4,200 km, the Great Lakes Heritage Coast includes pristine coastal environments and ecologically diverse protected areas. Weaving in and amongst these areas are cultural heritage areas, alongside abundant potential for recreation. This vast area is also home to 25 First Nations and more than 22 communities with a total population of approximately 300,000 people.
The overall objective in developing this strategy was to protect the natural beauty and the ecosystems along the Coast, while at the same time providing increased economic opportunity for people living along the Coast. User conflict and overuse in some areas was beginning to put the coastal ecosystems at risk. Our responsibility was to consult with the tourism sector and develop the Tourism Strategy, and secondly to work to involve the First Nations. The Strategy that resulted from our work over an almost two year period covered the following types of strategic directions:
It was the last point that really helped us define the tourism strategy. Despite political pressures to the contrary, we focused the tourism strategy on low impact tourism activities and opportunities along the Coast including for example:
These types of activities were easy to support. Where we had some difficulty was with regard to the following activities:
We realized that this Tourism Strategy could have a major influence on the future directions for tourism along the Coast. We had to give major emphasis to protecting the Coastal environment but we also had to consider ways to increase economic opportunities for people living along the Coast. In the end we decided to focus the Strategy on the low impact activities and a select number of other transport modes with the following characteristics:
Using these criteria we eliminated activities like snowmobiling and ATV touring as well as cruise ships and motorcoach travel. I believe this Coastal Strategy provides an example as to how we can incrementally improve the environmental impact of transportation. We need to focus on incremental improvement that is achievable rather than dwelling on the unachievable.
I’m the author of various guidebooks such as Bradt’s Hiking Guide to Chile and Argentina, and the Rough Guide to Romania. I’m British but cuurently partly based in Anchorage; like John, I rely on a bike and public transport, which works well in Cambridge but less so in Alaska. I’m updating the Romania book at the moment while a new guide to Chile is currently running ten months late, so I really have no time to spare for this conference — but as I was partly responsible for setting Ron off thinking about the environmental consequences of travel and tourism, I’m obliged to contribute!
I’ve just come back from a slightly complicated trip to Romania with a sidetrip to Italy – I flew Air Berlin (low-cost/no-frills) London Stansted-Dortmund-Vienna, then took trains via Bratislava and Budapest to Sighisoara in Transylvania, did my stuff there, then took trains to Budapest and Florence, then back to Vienna and flew home again. In Romania we took trains and buses, and paid under ten dollars a night for hotels; in Italy, we toured by bike for a week, so travel was essentially free, but rooms were amazingly expensive (definitely still high season in mid-September!). My point is simply that this got me thinking about the relative costs of travel and accommodation — it’s a bit off-message, but it’s all part of the equation that people process when planning travel – we’d hope that sustainability would be part of the thinking too, but that’s less clear.
I used to go to Romania by train (about 30 hours from London!), but then Rough Guides policy changed and they started flying me out there — far quicker, of course, but I obviously feel more guilty about emissions etc, and I miss seeing the places in between. As for Chile and my other Latin American destinations (and Georgia/Armenia) there’s obviously no real alternative to flying — so I can’t avoid the guilt of polluting, and encouraging thousands of tourists (I wish) to do the same. I can’t see any way out of this, all I can do is to put this issue to one side and argue that what I do is of use in that people will go anyway and I can at least encourage them to be rather greener when they get there. In the medium term I’ll probably just have to get out of the business. I certainly share the doubts already expressed about carbon offsets at the swipe of a credit card — although I don’t follow Antonis when he says he doesn’t want the money spent on tree-planting.
I have no much experience concerning tourist market issues but I have been studying, as urban and regional planner consultant, many tourist cities along the South Brazilian Coast. As I observe, the discussions are untill now, going around air transportation impacts and issues about local use of trails. These facts are really important and I agree with many points highlighted by the group, but I guess the discussion should go further because the transportation problems could not be dissociated from land use problems. The merchandise of the “eco-destinations” (and also of the traditional destinations) aims to bring crowd (and money) to regions. Willing set up a tourism-based economy working at full power, the city marketing points to a congestion of roads (and demand for new roads) and a “second residences” sprawl. Both of them often lead to rural and natural land consume and an increase of pollution and to an environment threat. Besides, the demand of an adequate infrastructure (what should follow the new roads constructions) rarely is set up by local political powers (by lack of money or political commitment).
(For better references about this argument and some good political and community management examples see: Howe, Jim, MacMahon, Ed and Propst Luther. Balancing Nature and Commerce in Gateway Communities. Washington: Island Press, The Conservation Fund and Sonoran Institute, 1997).
I’ve worked on planning and development projects where transportation was the main focus. For example:
Besides all these activities, I sometimes find time to put pen to paper, to try to stimulate thoughts, or share information. Ron has uploaded my paper (Managing Sensitive Areas Through Innovative Movement and Transportation Tool)
BEYOND THE CONCORDE
Antonis B. Petropoulos
The End for Concorde, today, hurray! Check the BBC: “Concorde has taken off from New York for the final flight to London, ending three decades of supersonic travel. The plane, carrying 100 celebrities, is one of three Concordes flying on Friday to celebrate its retirement. ” I think it will be only mourned by these 100 “celebrities”.
Some Concorde Statistics:
On the topic of why international flights have been excluded, and no national responsibility has been defined for emissions resulting from international travel, the reason is clearly political: Most countries have “national champion” airlines (e.g. British Airways, Air France, Alitalia, Lufthansa) that they want to subsidise for national pride, for subsidising their technology / defence sector, etc. Otherwise it would be the easiest thing to tax: there are precise data on the number of flights, the types of aircraft, passenger numbers, etc. etc. It is very easy to measure emissions, far easier than for example the aggregate emissions of accommodation, or even of land transport. Not to mention that the whole airline industry is dominated by just two huge suppliers, Airbus and Boeing. On the other hand such airlines are all too happy to create small fry awards for “responsible travel” etc, and some major NGOs, that you would normally expect to be making a fuss, all too happy to receive or distribute those awards, some in kind (i.e. free travel). I expect these NGOs to become more vocal, when airline funds dry up, or say when Boeing Solar opens… ( not totally a joke)
Here are some interesting excerpts from Towards Sustainable Aviation. 2003.
From the press release: The book sets out to “give voice” to a range of opinions … involving “stakeholders in academia, industry, government, and NGO’s.” From the Preface: “In the longer term, the continuing growth of civil aviation is unsustainable given current technologies and operating systems.
Governments therefore face very major challenges in trying to meet air traffic demand in a sustainable manner.” Four major challenges:
“One thing is clear: sustainability within the aviation industry will not be achieved through ‘business as usual'” (page xiv) “Passenger traffic since 1960 has grown at nearly 9% per year, 2.4 times the rate of global average GDP growth.” (page 4)
“As GDP rises, countries shift to FASTER modes of passenger traffic.” (emphasis added) “Although global aviation emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) are a small percentage of carbon emissions worldwide, they are still roughly equivalent to the carbon emissions of industrialized nations like Canada or the UK. More locally, aircraft and airport operations generate noise from take-off and landings, engine testing, surface transport, and construction, so that noise is widely considered to be one of the most serious environmental problems of aviation.” (page 4)
“Locally, noise is the most serious environmental effect of aviation, plus land, surface, and groundwater contamination from fuel, de-icers, waste, airport expansion, and ground transport to service the airports.” (page 5)
Chapter 2: Organizational and growth trends in air transport by Ian Humphreys “Today there are over 18,000 commercial aircraft in service, around 1,300 airlines, over 1,192 airports open to international aviation, and worldwide, over 3 billion passenger kilometers were flown in 1999.” (p. 19)
[elsewhere this author cites this as 3 TRILLION revenue passenger kilometers for 1999.] “The proportion of passengers flying for leisure purposes varies by route. Generally speaking, in Europe 50 per cent of passengers are flying on leisure and 50 per cent on business; for Europe-North Atlantic routes, it is estimated that 80 per cent fly on leisure and only 20 per cent on business. The geographical distribution of air transport reflects global economic wealth: North America and Europe account for around 70 per cent of world passengers; Asia currently accounts for 21 per cent and is likely to exhibit the strongest growth; Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Caribbean account for 9 per cent. … The potential for growth in terms of passenger trips is massive given that only around 1 per cent of the world’s population has ever flown.” (p. 20)
“Airlines have concentrated passenger traffic on the points that offer the most attractive market in terms of yield… This is why 32 per cent of world passenger traffic passes through the 25 busiest passenger airports, 17 of which are in the US.” (p 21)
“Currently an estimated 40 per cent of global trade by value is moving by air.” (p. 22)
A number of the introductory postings to this conference have brought up the issue of carbon offset services, so I thought I’d throw a few thoughts in. As Antonia and Claudia both pointed out, there is something slightly worrying about the concept of purchasing the “right to pollute” with the swipe of a card, yet on the other hand, these schemes can provide valuable revenue for important renewable energy/ energy conservation/ re-forestation projects that might otherwise not receive funding.
I have heard a number of people argue that, as our governments are unwilling to put a tax on air-travel, then this simply amounts to a voluntary self-taxation which goes someway towards combating the damage done by a persons travel. This can also prove a useful tool in making people aware of the massive impact that every flight can have, and can provide a concrete illustration of the relative impact of airtravel compared to car-use, train travel etc. So far so good, the problem, as far as I see it, occurs when these services are seen as “wiping the slate clean”, i.e. “I’ve paid my dues, so I can pollute with a clean conscience.”
The companies themselves send out a mixed message on this front, often emphasising the need to cut emissions at source first and foremost, and then using offset on those emissions that can not immediately be avoided (which will, of course, be a very subjective judgement!), yet they do suggest that their services do somehow exonerate the polluter. I am certainly aware that patenting of such terms as “Carbon Neutral” by Future Forests has created a lot of ill feeling amongst the environmental movement. Surely any “get out of jail free (or cheaply)” card is likely to encourage further air-travel, or at least diminish the incentive to look for alternatives?
It would certainly be interesting to learn more about how these services are actually perceived by the customers, and how do they effect traveller’s travel choices i.e. would those who shell out on offset schemes be less likely to make the flight in the first place if the service was not available? Does anyone know of anyone who has done any research on this? I am not aware of any research within the tourism literature, aside from passing mentions to carbon offset in papers to do with energy consumption in general. Any references would be greatly appreciated.
Another issue which was alluded to in a couple of intro messages, and which I would be very interested to hear views on, is the types of projects that money from offset schemes goes to. The better known schemes seem to concentrate on re-forestation, yet it is precisely these schemes that seem to attract the most scepticism from environmentalists. As far as I understand it the science of using trees as carbon sinks causes concern as they are not particularly secure forms of storage — logging, disease, drought and fire can all release this carbon back into the atmosphere – and ironically many of these risks will only increase with climate change. A system which seems more secure, and which attracts less criticism, is funding technological offset, e.g. the money goes to replace incandescent lightbulbs with energy efficient bulbs in villages using high carbon power sources such as diesel generators. not only do these schemes provide easily quantifiable carbon savings, they are also more immediate, and provide social benefits of energy security, reduced local air-pollution etc. having said that, re-forestation has obvious conservation benefits.
I would be very interested to hear further opinions from delegates on this issue, and would greatly appreciate any leads on further research on this issue.
Michelle Kirby & Andres Hammerman
I am curious as to statistics around airlines emissions and pollution. How do these emissions compare to city traffic? To rush hour traffic? To industry? To electricity production?
I also wonder what is the percentage of airline use for luxury travel/vacation compared to business travel? Does Frequent Flyer mean Frequent Polluter? I would imagine that the airline industry depends on business travel more than tourism, but I could be wrong. In any case I am only trying to get to a “lesser of two evils” point of view…
In my first post I talked about: 1). Working for the Green Tortoise Adventure Travel Company, a bus company based out of San Francisco. I also mentioned my experiences working in various transportation fields: truck driver, limousine driver, sailboat deliverer and farm tractor driver. I will continue with the second point that I wanted to bring up in this conference: 2). Transportation for tourism is more than just moving people from place to place, but also logistics of obtaining merchandise and food products. This will also address how people get to the Black Sheep Inn, and what transportation we rely upon. Later I will address: 3). Comparing different types of travel methods and looking at society as a whole… this will be a philosophical look at transportation and our new view of the world.#2) I never thought I would feel guilty for choosing to live rurally and managing my property in a sustainable way. But because we rely on tourism for an income, and our guests must travel sometimes half way around the earth to get to us, we therefore are contributing to polluting the planet with carbon emissions! Obviously this is offset by our guests high nitrogen contributions in our composting toilets.
People arrive at the Black Sheep Inn by various means of transport: public bus is the most common, but as we attract clients with larger budgets we are beginning to see more people arrive by private transport or rented vehicles. We also have people arrive hiking, biking and on horseback. The majority of clients we receive have flown internationally to Ecuador and many of them also fly three hours each way to the Galapagos. A large part of tourism transportation also has to do with the transport of the products needed to cater to tourism clients. In the Galapagos this is extreme. All food products should be brought in and all garbage and waste should be taken out. It should be extreme because the visitors to the Galapagos should not rely upon the Galapagos to sustain their needs, nor should the tourist leave a trace. The islands should be able to continue to evolve with or without visitors. The real problem in the Galapagos is the amount of full time Ecuadorian Residents on the islands, now around 20,000 people!
On a number of occasions the Black Sheep Inn has been isolated by countrywide transportation strikes here in Ecuador. The price of fuel goes up and the people simply block the roads all over the country. The daily bus stops coming and life at the Black Sheep Inn becomes very quiet. Sometimes it has been for one day, and sometimes up to a week. We have had guests unable to arrive, and we’ve had happy guests that felt good about being stuck in such a nice location. We also had people walk out or hitch rides between road blocks. The national transportation strikes are NOT common occurrences, but they have happened approximately five different times in the nine years we have been living here. The main thing that we notice when the bus stops coming is what it is that we rely upon from the outside world.
Actually, we, at the Black Sheep Inn, do very well with the products that we have here locally or on site. We could probably hold out for a couple of months with no bus. One aspect of sustainability is working towards the ability to never need products from the outside world. Although, as a tourism business, the one product we would rely upon is the tourist. We have tried to buy Ecuadorian products both for building and for maintaining the Inn. If possible we have used natural local materials for building such as clay for homemade adobe blocks, cut down our own trees for eucalyptus beams, paramo grass/straw and clay tiles for roofing. In the past we have wanted recycled paper products and biodegradable cleaning products, but we were reluctant to import them because of the absurdity of burning such a large amount of fossil fuels to bring in ECO products. Now, we are glad to have found a good variety of ECO products here in Ecuador.
Transportation strikes, power black-outs, and droughts can be extremely enlightening. They point out what it is that we rely upon. Imagine wherever you live suddenly having no fuel for transportation. How would life change? What would happen both immediately, and then how would you begin to problem solve? I think that we are dealing with bigger issues than clean transportation for just tourism, but clean fuels for maintaining long term human settlement on earth. OK, that was big! But maybe ecotourism can be a leader in bridging the gap between idealistic liberal clean technology and sustainability and the mainstream public… that would be great!
Here are a few rather anecdotal figures, culled from newspaper articles and so on, about CO2 emissions and so on. It1s a bit of a ragbag, from various years, so I make no claims of consistency or correctness. There is also a brief article by Tom Morton of Climate Change, which I presume he won1t mind being used here. In 1993 aircraft produced 3.5% of CO2 emissions; now the figure is c10%, causing c7% of global warming; by 2015 aircraft are expected to be responsible for 15% of global warming, as the number of flights per year is still increasing by 5% pa. Air transport was excluded from the Kyoto deal, which of course doesn1t cover the US anyway.
By 2030 or 2040 the number of flights per year is expected to be three times the level of 2000 – they might only double if fuel were taxed; at the moment aviation benefits from about £8bn pa in subsidies/tax breaks, which for the UK is equivalent to 2p on income tax. Airlines are said to produce as much CO2 as all human activity in Africa; each passenger from the UK to Florida is responsible for 1.8 t of CO2 emissions. For comparison, the average British car emits 0.3kg of C02 per mile, ie 0.2kg/km; one barrel of oil releases 400kg (0.4t) of CO2. Railfreight releases 0.005kg of CO/t-km, road freight 1.47kg, inland water 0.16kg. Aviation’s contribution to climate change: This article was submitted to TravelMole by Tom Morton, Climate Care The aviation industry is undergoing a period of structural adjustment. However, yet another issue is looming on the horizon – aviation1s contribution to climate change. Aviation accounts for 13% of the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere from transport, or 2% of man1s total. By 2050 aviation1s contribution to global warming could increase by 500%, perhaps contributing as much as 10% of man-made global warming. The problem is compounded because jet aircraft release a cocktail of gasses into the sensitive upper atmosphere, which has a global warming effect somewhere between 2 and 4 times that of carbon dioxide alone. To give an idea of the scale: on a return trip from London to South America a 747 will release the equivalent of 1,300 tonnes of CO2.
Over the last ten years serious concern over climate change has lead to the Kyoto Protocol. The Protocol may have its flaws and omissions, the most widely publicised being the non- participation of the United States. But another major polluter that is not included is international aviation. For a source of emissions that match those of Canada, currently 7th in the international league tables, the time for hiding is running out. The last 30 years has seen advances in fuel efficiency per passenger flown but despite the current downturn, the rise in demand is far out stripping these gains. The UK government acknowledges the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution1s statement that in order to avoid an environmental catastrophe, society needs to reduce emissions by 60% by 2050. To achieve this the aviation fleet would need to improve fuel efficiency by 5% every year for 50 years, clearly an impossible task. As aeroplanes can1t run on rubber bands, how will real emissions reductions be made? There have been many calls for aviation fuel to be taxed – but this would probably line the pockets of government without addressing the climate.
A more progressive option is to engage in emissions trading. Airlines would be given emissions limits and if these where exceeded ’emissions reduction units’ would have to bought in the market. ERUs would be created either by other companies making reductions or from individual projects such as renewable energy schemes. In buying reductions to offset increases, the net contribution of aviation to climate change would be reduced. Trading offers a cost-effective way of addressing the problems of rising emissions that cannot be accounted for by better fuel economy.
The industry is slowly waking up to the issue and early action could influence regulation in aviation1s favour. In January, ICAO called for further work to be done on market based mechanisms including a trial trading scheme. The final cost to industry and passengers will depend on the emissions ceilings set. Many would argue that an industry that doesn1t pay fuel tax or VAT on tickets can afford to pay for the environmental damage it causes. One thing is for sure: the emissions issue won1t be going away. Tom Morton works for Climate Care, a company working with the tourism and travel industry to 3offset2 passengers1 emissions when they fly. Climate Care undertake to reduce CO2 in the atmosphere by the same amount as their clients emit – through renewable energy, energy efficiency and reforestation projects. For air travel this costs just 80 pence per passenger per hour. Carbon offsets offer a low cost entry into the emissions trading market and an opportunity for industry to take the initiative.
As far as I understand it, airline emissions present a significant problem over and above their carbon emissions. Due to a combination of the altitude that they pollute at, other gasses emitted in edition to carbon, and also the warming effects that the aeroplanes’ contrails have on the climate, air-travel’s contribution to man-made climate change may be 3 times that of simply the amount of carbon it emits. As to how all this compares to other forms of transport, I believe the answer is not very well, particularly considering that flights are considerably longer than most road trips (however, if you look at it mile for mile, the longer a flight the cleaner it is, as disproportionate amounts of fuel are used for take-off and landing). As you can see, it’s a little complicated and I have seen many different estimates for the effects. One good site with info on this is Choose Climate which includes an emissions calculator for flights. We did publish a paper in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism by Susanne Becken which estimated that if aircraft emissions were taken into account when calculating New Zealand’s overall carbon “footprint” then they would increase it by 11% (I am working from memory, so forgive me if this figure is not exact, it was definitely around that number).
What’s the big deal about sustainable travel, anyway? For the past 25 years (involving a dozen different offices and thousands of kilometers of commuting) I have traveled “sustainably” — commuting to work either by foot or bicycle. So at least my journey-to-work travel was sustainable. Essentially any self-powered travel mode is going to be sustainable. This includes self-powered travel by foot, skates, skis, snowshoes, scooter, bicycle, kayak, canoe, rowboat, and sailboat. These modes of travel are even more sustainable when any necessary equipment is also produced and decommissioned sustainably. Few could argue with hiking barefoot. But limiting ourselves to self-powered transport also limits where we can go, usually by limiting how far we can go due to the slow speeds of most self-powered travel. My journey-to-work travel carried me thousands of miles, but I was never more than 15 kilometers from my home. When we include the sustainability requirement, our slogan “Think Globally, Travel Sustainably” in effect becomes “Think Globally, Travel Locally.”
What if I want to go farther afield than just my local area? Once again, I have a variety of travel modes; however, if I want to be sustainable, they’re still going to be self-powered efforts. A friend just told me that he had finally finished hiking the Appalachian Trail, a mountain footpath that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine — a distance of 3200 km (2000 miles) in the eastern US. Another colleague just completed a two-week bicycle trip around Lake Erie, covering 1600 km in the US and Canada. Others have bicycled across the US. A couple of groups have bicycled from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, and at least one individual is bicycling around the world. OK, but what if I don’t have that much time and yet I still want to travel? Why not travel by car or plane? Well, there are just a few problems. Most air and surface transport today depends on petroleum products. Cars, buses, and trucks are burning gasoline or diesel fuel. Planes are most likely burning aviation gasoline or jet fuel (essentially kerosene). In addition to burning what is basically a non-renewable resource, all of these modes of transport also release CO2 (the primary culprit in the global Green House Gas equation) and most release a noxious package of other pollutants. There are also environmental impacts at the point of manufacture of the vehicle, during its repair and maintenance, and when it is discarded. The fuel also has environmental impacts during production, distribution, use, and spillage. Here we get into the arguments about relativity. Not Einstein’s relativity, but the relative goodness or badness of different modes of transport. Private vehicles and jet planes are the modes of transport over on the “bad” end of the scale. Private vehicles are “bad” in this case because they carry so few people (often just one), require so much infrastructure, and there are so many of them. Jet planes are on the “bad” side because of the enormous amounts of fuel required to move people and cargo quickly, local noise pollution, and the environmental impacts of the infrastructure required for the care and feeding of modern jets. So can we mitigate the negative environmental impacts? What about “offsets” of the green house gas (GHG) problem? As long as a mode of travel requires non-renewable resources such as petroleum, there is little hope that negative environmental impacts can be avoided. In the longer term, we simply must find alternatives to petroleum. In fact, conventional petroleum production peaked in 2000 and some estimates predict that the era of the petroleum-based industry will be over by 2050. So unless cost-effective new techniques for extracting petroleum from oil shale and lesser-grade deposits come on line, we have at least 50 more years of CO2 production from oil to deal with. Unfortunately the demand for private vehicles increases as GDP/capita increases. As the economies of China, India, and Indonesia grow, demand for automobiles and their infrastructure will expand. Because most countries use tax dollars to build highways and bridges, the car-less poor actually subsidize their wealthier car-buying compatriots.
Some argue that we can offset releases of CO2 in one location by absorbing CO2 in another location. Technically that is true. Pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere anywhere would be beneficial. The problem is that most of these proposals involve the permanent injection of CO2 into the atmosphere by burning coal or oil, and only the temporary removal of CO2 from the atmosphere by planting trees. The problem is that carbon sequestered in a forest is not really removed permanently from the biosphere — it is only temporarily bound up in the forest until the next forest fire, or until the trees age and eventually decompose. What we need are ways to remove the carbon from the atmosphere as “permanently” as it was before — when it was hundreds or thousands of feet below the planet’s surface. So the latest idea is to inject CO2 into holes in the ground, putting it back where it came from. In theory, this would work. Unfortunately, the laws of thermodynamics mandate that each step consumes more energy. Some argue that we should establish policies that encourage people to use the existing modes of travel more efficiently, recognizing that the amount of environmental degradation will increase, but at least more slowly. In the US this might take the form of mandating or encouraging more use of car pools and public transportation, higher taxes on gasoline to discourage individual/private vehicle use, and forcing the increasingly despised SUV (does that stand for “Selfish User Vehicle”?) to meet the same fuel-efficiency standards imposed upon other private vehicles. Few of these potential changes stand much chance of being implemented, given the political strength of those same Selfish Users. What about alternative fuels? For land transport, we need new technologies to replace the destructive petroleum-based internal combustion engines. Battery power is a possibility if the power to recharge the batteries comes from a renewable source like photovoltaic cells or environmentally friendly wind, wave, tide, or hydro power. Another hope is the fuel cell, which uses hydrogen as the fuel. The challenge here is to find a non-carbon source for the hydrogen (using neither coal nor petroleum for the energy). One South African company (SASOL) has developed an alternative vegetable-based way to synthesize kerosene. Although this frees airplanes from using petroleum, it doesn’t solve the CO2 problem. And while a hydrogen-burning airplane engine is possible, it would release large amounts of water into the upper atmosphere where the contrail effect might be stronger and more deleterious than the CO2 itself. What can an ecotourist do? I like to think that ecotourists are different from the average travelers. Indeed, ecotourists tend to be better educated and often enjoy higher incomes. The fact that they seek an ecotourism vacation is a sign of greater awareness of their environment and a greater willingness to do the right thing. However, up to this point most of the emphasis in setting standards for ecotourism has focused on greening the ecotourism destination. We want certified guides and hotels, certified souvenirs, certified programs and activities. Somehow we seem to have forgotten or chosen to overlook the fact that one of the biggest sources of environmental degradation in the tourism industry is the travel/transport sector. It is sadly hypocritical to focus all of our environmental hand wringing at the destination end when the travel to the site and home again may be far more damaging. And these better-educated eco-travelers are more likely to realize this hypocrisy sooner or later. Bring back the sail! Is there a solution?
In the short term, the precautionary principle would tell us to Think Globally, Travel Locally. Although there are excellent reasons to encourage international exchanges so that people grow to appreciate other places and cultures, there is still much that can be visited and learned within one’s own country or region. Travelers in Europe enjoy the great advantage of an excellent rail system. But even in countries like the US with pitiful public transport systems, there are plenty of ways to improve the environmental performance of our own travel. Walk more. Buy a bicycle. Take public transport. Use your private vehicle less. Plan your trips with friends to increase vehicle occupancy and reduce the number of vehicles. Travel shorter distances and stay longer. In the medium term, I say bring back the sail! In a paper written more than twenty years ago, I pointed out that travel by sailboat, using sustainable wind power, would likely be the most environmentally sound way to travel longer distances. In the long term, new alternatives to petroleum and our carbon-based economy must be developed. And the sooner we pressure government and industry leaders in this direction, the better for the planet.
Additional Resources: The Challenge of Ecotourism: A call for higher standards. 1992. By John Shores. Towards Sustainable Aviation. 2003. Edited by Paul Upham, Janet Maughan, David Raper, and Callum Thomas. Earthscan, London, UK and Sterling, Virginia, USA. 248 p. Paving the Planet: Cars and Crops Competing for Land By Lester R. Brown. Worldwatch, Washington DC. The Earthscan Reader on World Transport Policy and Practice. 2003. Edited by John Whitelegg and Gary Haq
Michelle Kirby & Andres Hammerman
The Black Sheep Inn is located just outside the small village of Chugchilan. We are only 90 km (55 miles) from the Pan-American Highway, but it takes about 3 hours to get here due to bad roads. The Pan American Highway has been greatly improved in the last 2 years since it was privatized. The road is much better but now there are tolls. When we first moved to Ecuador in 1994, it used to take us 2 hours to drive from Quito to Latacunga and now it costs $1.00 and only takes 1 1/2 hours. And I imagine that in 2003 there is more traffic on this road. I have no idea as to whether it is safer or not. But in addition to the improvements made to the Pan Am since it has been privatized, there are detriments… specifically in Machachi which is south of Quito. Many old adobe houses and estates along the road have been expropriated and bulldozed in order to widen the road. We have a friend who has been buying salvaged wooden doors and windows from this area. There have also been a couple of transportation strikes to lower the new tolls. Getting to Chugchilan is an adventure. We live in the middle of a loop and often people arrive saying that they took the long way in… but in truth there is not a short way to get here. In this area a “good” road is defined by whether or not it is passable. Right now both the roads are good, they are both passable. Usually a road is not fixed until it is impassable, and then just the bad section is made passable once again. We are only 90 km (55 miles) from the Pan American Highway, but it takes 3 hours to get here due to spectacular scenery over mountain passes and through deep canyons. The road starts out cobbled but then changes to dirt and rock and sometimes mud. There are patches of cobble and asphalt along the way which are the remains from different projects aimed at fixing the road over the years. There is a current project underway to cobblestone the road from Toacazo to Sigchos, about 40 km. Cobblestone is cheaper and more ECO than asphalt because there is less heavy machinery involved and because the road does not use tar. The heavy machinery alone could cost several hundred thousand dollars. Cobblestone roads are relatively easy to maintain with a few people with shovels and hammers, but that type of maintenance rarely happens here. On the down side, cobblestone roads are bad for small vehicles and terrible for bicycles. Many of the local campesinos have bicycles and the cobblestone makes riding very uncomfortable, which would make it also harder to open up this area as a cycling destination. The local people always want new roads and to improve their roads, and we on the other hand would like to see good maintenance on the existing dirt roads, but not asphalt, nor cobble, nor new roads. We prefer to slow people down in both arriving and departing from here because we want the area to remain rural. Our opinion about the road reflects on how we view development. A good road could truthfully bring many resources to the area and would make it easier for the local farmers to sell their products. But in the long run it would irreparably change the local culture and could potentially change ecosystems etc. The history of roads in this area is only around 40 years. We have refused to ‘collaborar” with money to a road that the community is building through the Iliniza Ecological Reserve / Cloud Forest. The road was started before the reserve was established, so it is therefore legal, but to us it represents access for cutting down more trees. The road is meant to connect Chugchilan in the high sierra at 3200 meters or 10,500 feet, to Pucayacu which is on the Ecuadorian coastal plain at 500 meters or 1600 feet. See our letter for details about the history of this road and the community’s desire to open up an old trading route.
A GOOD EXAMPLE: The local cheese factory was established 25 years ago in this area by a Swiss aid project. Local farmers did not have a market for their milk, because it would spoil during transportation to the Pan American. If they used their milk for cheese, they could transport the product once or twice a month without worrying about spoilage. They built the cheese factory at a high enough elevation so that they would not need refrigeration for aging the cheeses. This was a cost effective way to deal with the transportation problem.Since we have lived here the transportation to Chugchilan has increased by 100%. There used to be only one bus a day, and now there are 2!! The price for the 3 hour ride is $2.50. There are a few other buses that go through here on a weekly basis. This area used to have 17 different departures and now it has approx 25. I do not think that the increase in bus service is solely due to tourism, rather growth in general in one of the poorest sections on Ecuador. There are seven vehicles in the village including ours, they are all trucks or pick-up trucks. Anecdote: I am a bit of an anarchist. It is one of the reasons that I left the USA, because it has a very controlled society. I feel that humanity’s natural tendency is towards anarchy. Behavior on the Pan American Highway at night helps to prove my point. The large majority of people in Ecuador are willing to risk bodily injure or death in order to arrive somewhere a little bit faster. People (including bus drivers) drive extremely fast on curving mountainous roads, passing on blind corners, passing on the wrong side all the while knowing that there are a large number of random obstacles in the road such as: pedestrians, large farm animals, potholes, unmarked speed bumps, vehicles with no lights, bicycles, vehicles both loading and unloading, accidents, steep drop offs and even stop lights that don’t work… it is a free-for-all, anarchy, people only acting in there own self interest. I don’t mind driving on the rural back roads at night, with just me and the road. Traffic is the real danger and the Pan Am can be crazy. In the developed world we obey traffic rules for 2 reasons, one because we are afraid of getting a ticket from police officers and two because we understand the common good of obeying simple rules. If we don’t like the rules, in theory we have the opportunity to try to change them (or move to Ecuador!) But the very rules that are accepted by the society represent many of the ideas that we try to convey in these forums… We want rules for ECO tourism… we want rules for transportation… we want a balance in the way the world is developing… we want sustainability. The HUGE wall that we are up against is getting cooperation and compliance in the ANARCHIC lands of South Ameerika…. and you heard it from an anarchist! How is the rest of the world for sustainable compliance and cooperation? PS The trail building programs in Mexico appear to be very interesting. And I like the idea of giving a discount to cyclists… but at this altitude, cyclists are in a very small percentage.
Here we will talk about fuel availability and price which also effects transportation issues greatly.When we first moved to Ecuador, the closest gas station was over 3 hours away as was the closest Bank or Post Office and there was no phone service in this area. Cellular phones still do not work in this part of Ecuador. As we have stated in previous posts to this conference, the Black Sheep Inn is located in the middle of a loop. We have always maintained fuel storage of approx 20 to 35 gallons of gasoline at the Black Sheep Inn. This is primarily for personal use, but we also occasionally sell fuel to tourists for their rented vehicles. We rarely drain all of our back up fuel, but whenever we are going on a shopping run for the Inn, we will fill all the tanks that are empty. Sometimes we do not leave the Black Sheep Inn for over 2 months. A few years ago a gas station opened up in Sigchos… just 1 hour drive from here and they sell gasoline and diesel at the same price as the rest of the gas stations all over Ecuador. This did not change our behavior for having a reserve of 20 to 35 gallons of gasoline. But we think that it has changed how the people of Sigchos and the surrounding area view transportation. Factors: 1) is building and maintaining roads, which create access to an area, 2) is owning vehicles and maintaining them to drive on these roads 3) is have fuel to move the vehicles in and out of the area and 4) is the overall effect on the area. All of these points may seem obvious, but they each are important and big steps when a rural community is developing. Even if there are roads, many people can not afford vehicles. In this area we see extremely old and dilapidated trucks and buses. There is a new gas station being built in Zumbahua, about 1 and 1/2 hours from the Black Sheep Inn on the other side of the loop. Years ago a friend of ours suggested that WE open a gas station in Zumbahua, she said it would surely be a money maker and that it was definitely needed there. She said we might be able to pull it off, because we lived close. At the time we said we didn’t think that it is very ECO to build and own a gas station. But our friend said that we would be able to do it much better than someone else… and that a gas station in Zumbahua was inevitable. Well, she was right… now there will be a gas station there, which probably will not effect our behavior of storing fuel here at the Black Sheep Inn. It probably will effect our ability to sell gasoline occasionally to tourists, because now in either direction fuel is available. I have 4 big questions: 1) How close would a gas station have to be for us to stop storing our own supply of fuel? (Probably 10 minutes away…) 2) How long will it be until somebody builds a gas station here, in Chugchilan? (hopefully never!) 3) How much does each piece of the above stated infrastructure (availability of roads, vehicles and fuel) effect the area from an environmental point of view? (this would make for some good research… the timetable of road development, increase of traffic use and environmental degradation) 4) If we had built the gas station in Zumbahua, is there really a way to run it ecologically? (we think that the answer is yes, but only relative to the problems that we have seen here in Ecuador, which is poor containment of leakage, spillage etc by gas stations and auto mechanics.) No, we are not going to Open the Black Sheep Filling Station and Garage. Since we moved here in 1994, gasoline prices here have always been approx $1.00 to $1.10 per gallon. Whenever the Sucre (the old currency of Ecuador) would devalue the price of gas would increase slightly in order to maintain the price at $1.00 per gallon. The local people always felt this as an increase, because their relative wage would not go up, but the price of fuel would increase. Every time fuel prices went up, the country went on strike. Because we are from the USA and we, at the Black Sheep Inn, had based our prices in dollars long before Ecuador did, we saw the gasoline price as stable. When the economy was completely falling apart and the Sucre devaluation was skyrocketing, the government’s response to a National Strike was to freeze the price of gasoline at S/12,000 Sucres to the gallon. At first this was equal to $1.00 a gallon, then the Sucre continued to devalue which meant the real price of gasoline dropped to $.80 a gallon and then dropped again to $.50 a gallon. What is incredible is that the government was sucked into subsidizing the price of fuel, and that the subsidy continued to increase uncontrollably! It was a spiraling economic crisis. After the year of the fuel prices being frozen, they had to negotiate small increments until fuel once again reached the price of international markets. This process took 2 years.My pessimistic view is that mainstream transportation will not change until the fuel runs out or until pollution irreparable destroys us or the world climate. My optimistic view is that we are aware of this, that we are talking about the right issues, and that through better communication and decision making we can buy ourselves some more time on this planet.
I was speaking to a fairly high-level representative of the British airline industry at a conference recently, and he was very much convinced that a tax on airline fuel was coming. I’ve included a few points below:
WTTC is generally opposed to taxation of Travel & Tourism, as it is a barrier to the free movement of people and to economic growth.
True to a degree, but if all other forms of travel are paying tax for fuel, is there any reason why air-travel should be effectively subsidised by rail/sea/ road travel, particularly given the relative impacts on the environment, and therefore to society?
In addition, taxation is a blunt instrument in this regard and taxation on travel has a disproportionate impact on the less affluent in society.
The less affluent travel less frequently, less far, and when they do fly, they will be more likely to travel in budget flights/ economy class, with more efficient use of space (and therefore fuel) per passenger. Not a particularly convincing argument. It must also be remembered that it is the poor who will suffer the worst effects of climate change. At some point we are going to have to face the fact that, if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we simply can’t have “business as usual”. This will inevitably mean that some industries cannot continue growing forever. Tax on airline-fuel, or airline emissions, would limit the effects of artificially cheap tickets. The tourist industry may need to start looking at ways to encourage shorter travel, domestic tourism and alternative methods of travel ad the norm, perhaps this would mean enough emissions savings that people can continue to enjoy the occasional long-haul flight when it is unavoidable (although this still leaves the question of who has access to this luxury)?
Jean-Claude concluded: “It is important to appreciate that the aviation industry has made tremendous progress in reducing pollution over the past few years and that it is continuing to makeprogress on an international level to further reduce emissions. I am surprised that very little consideration was given to imaginative ideas such as emissions trading.”
I would certainly be interested in any other Greenrider’s thoughts on emissions trading. I know very little about it. Doesn’t a tax on fuel and/or emissions, directly encourage greater efficiency?
Over the last six years Balam has assisted in building about 120 kilometers of multiple use trails and specific light lodging infrastructure in Mexico. Also, we have conducted community-based training and trail building workshops throughout the country. The results have been spectacular and can be seen in the first Mexican multiple-use trail network: 1. Reserva Estatal de Monte Alto at Valle de Bravo: 30 km. multiple use trail network, two camp sites and eight professional trail builders with four years of experience (remarkable since this is the first job on trail building and maintenance in the area) 2. Parque Nacional del Chico At Hidalgo: 25 Km. (first national park to have a trail network, its lodging infrastructure has an almost 100% occupancy) 3. Parque ejidal el Guajolote at Hidalgo: 15 Km. Also has a lodging area using Balam technology. 4. Parque ejidal de Cacalomacan at Parque Nacional Nevado de Toluca 10 Km. (the campground occupancy is almost at 100% since opening last July.
Let’s review. Over the past few years the tendency of the ecotourism boom has been directed to create two things: 1. Expensive lodging infrastructure (in a couple of years this usually turns out to be a barn or storage area since the tourists never came or if they did, they didn’t stay for a variety of reasons) 2. A bunch of local guides who also speak some “English” ( who soon become unemployed. Most are trained as biologists and the training focuses more on conservation, away from a social perspective ) Some workshops have focused on building interpretative trails by the RARE organization. It is clear that this trails do not create a recurrent visitors pattern in most of the areas, particularly urban areas and suburbs where the greatest ecotourist market is. Multiple use trails, on the other hand, create a market that can be regularly visited. For example, the Ejido de San Nicolas Totolapan receives more than 2,000 visitors a week. If compared with neighboring ejido which started an educational ecotourism project with a USAID $700,000 (USD) grant, the results show the success of multiple use trail strategy. Green Way and linear parks Mexico city government is financing Mexico’s biggest ecotourism infrastructure. The main plan was to promote non motorized mobility while making a 60 km trail over the old train tracks between Mexico – Cuernavaca which crosses the city urban and rural area — the second most visited natural escape in country after la Marquesa.
Now any one can go from Chapultepec — the prehispanic park — to rural areas. The project is now been built and the first Mexican seminar on green ways is about to start later this month. This project which Balam and other local NGOs pushed for years is in our view the most remarkable ecotourism infrastructure ever built in Mexico. Trail building now depends on choosing between non-motorized strategies for transportation and amusement and ecotourism activity which tends to become little more than an”International consultant money packet”
Michelle Kirby & Andres Hammerman
Apparently the real reason of this conference is to address alternatives to “dirty” transport methods. The tax that British Airways suggests is soon to be coming seems to be long over due. Air Transport being left out of the Kyoto deal is very bad and worse that the biggest burner of fossil fuels, the USA, refused to participate. As Sami Grover said, “At some point we are going to have to face the fact that, if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we simply can’t have “business as usual”. Growth growth growth must be curbed on the side of the polluters and high consumers. But Growth growth growth must be established amongst the sustainable businesses of the world, i.e. Ecotourism. Ecotourism can be a model for sustainable development in other industries. Ecotourism has the ability to cross borders, cultures and class if it caters to peoples comfort needs and educates them to the possibility of alternatives. Using the prefix ECO in front of an International Flight seems impossible at the moment. What we need is a list of the possible ways to control the pollution of the growing airline industry without killing the Travel and Ecotourism Industry.
My suggestions would be:
Clear studies of who fly’s (airfreight too), where and with what frequency and most importantly Wide spread publicity and education about the polluting effects of air travel (in other words transparency) I am sure that I have left out some points that also would be helpful. I am taking this approach of making suggestions from my experiences working on GIFEE, 7 Recommendations to Strengthen Ecotourism in Ecuador, with Ron and Antonis.
It is powerful to come up with suggestions and recommendations, even if they are difficult to implement. On an amusing note, we run a completely Ecological Air Transport here in Ecuador called Black Sheep Airlines. We specialize in short one way flights at 10,500 feet in altitude. The passenger fastens their seat belt and fly’s via gravity from our tree house 100 meters across our property… our cable swing is otherwise known as a Zipline or Flying Fox.
In Chile there is a project just getting under way to build the Sendero de Chile, a trail the length of the country from the Bolivian border to Tierra del Fuego – a very ambitious goal! It is to be multi-use, ie hiking, cycling, horse-riding – but there are places in the northern deserts where you just couldn1t hike without a van following with many litres of water. On the pilot lengths of trail (in the south) there are some flights of steps, meaning that cyclists would have to be able to push/carry their bikes some of the way. But it1s a huge opportunity to push sustainable travel. At the moment in Chile most of those interested in green issues are the gringo tourists who of course have just done so much damage to the ozone layer reaching Chile … Chilean buses are well used, but once people earn money they want a car, and there are plenty of SUVs in eastern Santiago. The Chinese national parks with concrete staircases up them are actually traditional pilgrimage sites and tens of thousands of people have been climbing them annually since time immemorable – the stairs were there long before they became NPs. But in any case on heavily-used hiking trails you do have to build something fairly substantial, viz England’s Pennine Way in the peat-bog areas, where it became about a kilometre wide as people tried to avoid ploughing through knee-deep mud. Now it’s recovering well. Re variable entry prices dependent on means of arrival, the Earth Centre near Doncaster, UK, does this – it’s right by the Trans-Pennine Trail, so should get lots of cyclists calling in … unfortunately the project as a whole has not done well. The Eden Centre near St Austell in Cornwall (also UK) has done stunningly well – no variable pricing, but it1s also on the Sustrans network and has a well publicised bus link to the rail station. A few National Trust properties do not now have visitor car-parking (due mainly to the limitations of the sites) and promote cycling and public transport. These all seem to have been well received, but in general of course the expectation of visitors is that they can roll up by car.
I had not heard about British Airways (BA) saying anything about air fuel tax, but in any case I’d take anything they say with a pinch of salt – they have the UK government around their little finger, as it were, eg pushing through the disastrous Terminal 5 at Heathrow. The UK government has always said that it’s pointless for one country to impose aviation fuel tax alone, as the airlines will simply refuel elsewhere, and if that means making extra landings and take-offs, it would be more environmentally damaging. They claim they’ve already done their bit by introducing a passenger departure tax, which they would say was an indicator of public receptiveness or opposition to a fuel tax. Personally I see no sign of this reducing the public’s propensity to fly as often as possible.
I’m aware that the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynleth, Mid- Wales also offers discounted entry to visitors arriving by public transport or bike). I am not sure how effective it has been – they still receive a large number of visitors coming by car, but this is a very successful centre in a fairly inaccessible part of mid- Wales. Interestingly, the centre has done some work on assessing their environmental impact and that of their visitors. They found that some of the least damaging visitors are perhaps the least committed to “eco- issues”. They drive the whole family the 100 or so miles down from Birmingham for their annual week or two week holiday in mid-Wales (it is a traditional holiday centre for visitors from the midlands) and visit the centre purely for something to do (often referred to as “the poo and wind centre” by the less green-minded visitors). The visitors with more impact are the green pilgrims, who come from all over the world to visit this trail-blazing centre, learn about wind generators or compost loos or PVs, before flying back to Japan or wherever. I’m not trying to make any point about one being “better” than the other. Many of these green pilgrims may go on to start important projects in their own country. I just think it is important that we recognise that good intentions do not necessarily translate into ideal actions – likewise, ignorance or apathy about the environment does not necessarily translate into un-green behaviour.
From personal experience I can strongly recommend Sustrans. They have done great work in ensuring that trails are not only useful to tourists, but commuters also. They work closely with local businesses and schools to integrate their trails with companies’ travel plans etc. Many of their trails are in highly built up areas, however, so they have the advantage of being able to use old railway lines, canal tow-paths etc. They do not face the difficulties that many groups working in more remote, pristine wilderness environments.
The environmental impacts of transportation has always been a major concern for me given the work I do in remote areas of Canada from Nunavut, Canada’s Arctic to Labrador to more southerly areas like the Great Lake Heritage Coast, which I referenced in my first message to this forum. The only way to get tourists to a lot of these areas is by air, whether by float plane or twin otter on balloon tires landing on a beach or scheduled jet.
The negative impacts of these forms of air transport make the relatively small improvements we accomplish in making the destination more sustainable seem worthless. Then I think about it and realize that what we do in the destination is very worthwhile. We not only reduce the impact and footprint on the environment in the destination, we also educate the traveler and we ensure benefits accrue to local people. This ultimately leads to a more educated visitor and host. In future we will all need to be part of the solution to develop more sustainable forms of travel, particularly air travel. In the same manner in which we have started to reduce the impacts of land based travel (i.e. introducing 4 stroke engines to motorboats and skidoos, and creating green certification schemes to make marinas more responsible, focusing more on silent sports in sensitive areas etc) we will be able to influence the airlines and air transport companies to adopt new technologies to lessen their impact on the environment. After all the only reason those companies survive is because people continue to buy their services. A more educated consumer will be more discriminating in their choice of travel provider. Airlines or air travel providers that adopt the new technologies will get the business and thrive, pushing their competition to adopt as well. It will take continuing dialogue like this on-line conference to share and push the tourism industry into new directions.
I ran across an interesting paragraph in a book I am finishing on strategic planning for organizations large and small. The quote seems to capture quite well some of the reasons why we travel. It’s not exactly on topic, but it does mention transportation! As your moderator, I ask for your indulgence. Immersion in Challenging Environments “Travel is the single best way to immerse yourself in unfamiliarity — to force yourself to adopt an alien point of view, albeit temporarily. It forces you to ask questions about why people live the way they do. What created their relationships, goals, and values? What are they trying to accomplish? When traveling, I make a conscious effort to encounter difference. I take local transportation and walk unaccustomed streets and routes. Because I usually have to work in urban offices, I deliberately visit factories or villages. I seek out friends of friends, or other nonbusiness contacts, and provoke conversations with shopkeepers and cab drivers.” (p. 86-87)
Source: Peter Schwartz (President, Global Business Network). 1996. “The Art of the Long View: Planning for the future in an uncertain world” (Paths to strategic insight for yourself and your company). Doubleday, New York. (Original hard cover (c) 1991). I highly recommend the book. The Global Business Network and Peter Schwartz have been major thinkers behind the use of scenarios in strategic planning. “Uncertainty” seems to be a constant companion in the world of travel and tourism organizations.
Michelle Kirby & Andres Hammerman
My 3rd point, is a philosophical view of transportation and world energy consumption. Pieces of this philosophy have come up in various posts. I remember being a brutal misfit as a teenager. When visiting my grandmother on the 72nd floor of her high-rise apartment once a week in Chicago, I insisted on climbing the stairs as opposed to taking the elevator. I did this because I knew that the elevator was not a “normal” form of transportation. That humans should not be living in boxes stacked on top of one another. In order to realize the truth of living in a skyscraper, I climbed the stairs. Obviously my grandmother would not be able to live there (nor most people) if she had to climb the stairs, not to mention air conditioning, heat, water pumps, sewage and waste disposal. At the time I also thought air travel to be “unnatural”. When I flew somewhere, upon arrival I often felt that it took days for the real “me” to show up, although my body had arrived quickly on the airplane.
At one point I considered making a vow to myself that I would only travel via transportation methods that were connected to the ground and sea. That the means (i.e. transportation) were directly connected to the ends (destination). I knew that in recent years the world had grown smaller due to advancements in transportation and communication, but I wondered if the human condition had learned how to deal with these advancements. It can be difficult arriving via air transport in a different country with a different culture and observing or participating in these differences with NO transition. I thought that if I traveled over land or sea, these cultural changes would take place gradually and they would not have such a huge effect. I am talking about “Culture Shock”. Are travelers trained for these “shocks”? How have we, as humans, grown to deal with these transitions? Has anyone studied the effects of taking cultural leaps? on both the leaper (traveler) and the receiver? Part of growing up in a modern first world society was to accept what was handed to me as the “NORM” for the world. If it meant using a telephone, taking a bus to school, eating hamburgers at fast food restaurants, opening a bank account, riding elevators, or taking family vacations (via car, boat or plane), then I did it. But if it meant participating in global environmental destruction, or nuclear warfare (or any kind of warfare), or the wasting away of natural resources then I began to question it… truth be told I questioned it all, even the hamburger joints. I say part of growing up is accepting whatever the NORM may be. By accepting the NORM, it means that you can participate in the society. But now I see that accepting the NORM as only a part of growing up… the other part is having a perspective to criticize and correct the NORM… because in most ways it is still very wrong! No, I am not a fanatic nor fatalist, but the ideals that I had as a rebellious teenager point at some truths that are still worth living by… The world has grown smaller due to modern advancements which means we must change our behaviors in order to sustain the world. We can grow up. All humans have the same basic needs of food and shelter, and how we obtain these needs may be very different in different places. It is usually defined by our local culture. In order to grow up in this growing modern world we must be open to the cultural differences of how we satisfy our needs for food and shelter and we must curb our consumption of both fuels and the environment. Transportation and ecotourism are actually keys to sharing these cultural differences and learning about how to sustainably manage the natural world and human settlements.
Taoist proverb: “If you want speed, you will not arrive.”
The transportation conference has been fun in part because so much of the travel industry focuses only on destinations. This little Taoist proverb ties together a number of the thoughts and comments raised over the past few weeks. Thanks again to all of the participants.
AUSTRALIA/BRAZIL – Marcus Endicott, host/owner of the green-travel list
ABOUT THE CHATS
The chats took place on the EcoClub website. Thanks Antonis!
OBSERVATIONS ABOUT THE CONFERENCE
Antonis: The participants in the on-line conference are very strong, but it is not a large group.
Antonis: I think people see conventional conferences – in the real world, not on-line – as an opportunity for face-to-face networking rather than solving problems. They can not figure out how they can accomplish the same networking on-line.
TRANSPORTATION AND TOURISM
Richard: Here in Nicaragua, we try to encourage horseback riding and mountain biking in the communities close to the protected areas, for tourists to use, but what more can we do…when tourists want to be in cars.
DRAWING A LINE
John: Let me tackle #1: I think we can draw a line separating global and local impacts. The CO2 problem is felt globally. Most of the other impacts (noise, pollution, habitat loss) are local, often near the destinations.
Richard: Balam – which was started by who? with what funds? and with what training? These are the things that we have to look at in Nicaragua…it’s good to say it’s needed but to initiate it…that is the challenge.
PROCESS AND PRACTICE
John: I draw a distinction between the PROCESS to accomplish careful transport and the BEST PRACTICES. Balam does great process, and can often use BEST PRACTICES from research in the US or elsewhere.
THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD
Antonis: I think trails are a double-edged sword sometimes, you build a trail through the forest, the road follows. A too efficient system of transportation can be bad, as it allows for many more visitors.
IMPROVING THE ROAD
Antonis: I think there is a distinction between transport for protected areas, and transport for small eco-businesses
Antonis: We also need imagination. Five years ago, riding the bus in Athens was free before 08:30 in the morning, it worked, then for some reason it stopped.
Ron: The “Expo Ecoturismo” in Venezuela last week was a big success. It
Black_Sheep: we at the BSI are building a retaining wall which will lead to a new eco laundry area that uses roof water, recycles grey water, and will support solar panels for electricity for half our property
John_Shores: BSI: How easy is it to get PV panels? And maintain them at your elevation (UV?)?
Ron: As an agenda, I propose we try to focus on the topic at hand – transportation We’ve had an excellent dialogue and I’d like to get some feedback from you folks on how you found the discussion and where we take this topic in 2004. If there are any other items you’d like to discuss, by all means, that’s fine: just drop a quick note now and say what’s on your mind. The chief side topic for me is the bug-a-boo ertification …and I’ll be posting my powerpoint presentation online soon and would
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
Ron: And going to John’s question … I learned two things from this event — how communities are improving greenways,
Marcus: Nature protection is not enough anymore. We need rehabilitation, habitat restoration, trees, more trees need to be planted….
MORE THAN AIR TRAVEL
Sergio: I am not sure if we need to keep discussing ‘air transportation’ in this forum.
John: We have the classical example of “snow birds” using charters to get to Cancun from the frozen north. But that plays to mass tourism.
THINK GLOBALLY, TRAVEL LOCALLY
John: “Think globally, travel locally” is one way to go green. One challenge is how to green the larger tourism business (especially regarding transport) without disrupting fragile economies and populations. Our joke in New England was to tell the would-be tourists: “Don’t come visit, just send money!”
Marcus: How many bicycle travelers to you need to fill your lodge, and how far can they go from New York in two weeks vacation??
THE OIL AGE
Antonis: The Economist magazine had on its cover last week: “The end of the Oil Age”
Ron: Next step is closing the conference … which I suggest we do this week. Then writing up the summary and soliciting comments from participants. The topics/issues raised have been first rate … and I agree with Richard that many are reluctant to address the issue as it means confronting some negative problems
Antonis: If we measure natural resource consumption per capita, I think cities are better
Ron: I’d ask participants to send a quick note to the conference itself fleshing out any points/questions you’ve raised in the chat. And I’d also ask that you keep an eye on the conference page and dialogue. Feedback is always welcome. I think we’ll look back at this event in 5 years and be very satisfied with the questions we brought to the table