Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Responsible Ecotourism, the Death of the Ugly American

July 4, 2015

In the beginning, there was tourism. Thousands of Americans, Europeans and other inhabitants of Western nations would pay – sometimes dearly – to see the wonders of the Orient, the strange customs of tribal societies, the mystery that is India.

The “Ugly American” was not so much ugly as insensitive. Coming from a land that was only two centuries old in 1976, most travelers from the United States had grown up in an era when wildlife was a little livelier than today, and much wilder. Some of their parents had even witnessed the last great buffalo hunts.

By 2001, the United Nations World Tourism Organization noticed a change in demographics and attitude. Baby Boomers – 1946-1964 – were not only on the cusp of retirement, but held 70 to 80 percent of the nation’s wealth. They were also developing an environmental consciousness, a frame of mind gladly shared by Gen-Xers (1961-1981). This “conscientious consumerism” operated through a framework of spending discretionary income in ways that benefitted the earth and its non-human inhabitants.

The trend has only increased. Where once Americans (and other Westerners) had literally run roughshod over the Galapagos Islands, the new ethos sees 34 percent of the global population buying by brand (based on a corporation’s sustainability ratio).baobab trees, Madagascar

Buying a ticket on a tour ship, bus, or safari that donates part of its profits to preserving an ecology reflects this change in perception. Many travel companies now boast that a portion of their sales goes directly back into the environment and the endangered animals that are the focus of the tour. This new awareness also extends to lodging, dining and merchandising.

Even now, responsible ecotourism is far from perfect. Defined as “… including programs that minimize the adverse effects of traditional tourism on the natural environment, and enhance the cultural integrity of local people”, the industry will only attain perfection when no one sets foot on the endangered area in question. At least, that’s the way many conservation groups see it. In the interim, ensure your tourism benefits your destination by checking out travel and lodging businesses for their eco-IQ.

How does one identify an ecotourist opportunity? Postings on social media sites like Facebook offer advance notice about an upcoming tour to Africa, for example, to see some of the indigenous, nomadic tribes, or some of the magnificent animal species like elephants, lions, rhinos, and tigers. Sadly, both are endangered and rapidly disappearing, the former due to persistent, generational poverty, and the latter due to poaching.

One should not post on Facebook about an African safari that aims to hunt down and kill rare animals, as Kendall Jones, 19, did. Her ostensible reason was that she planned to host a television show about big game hunting. Jones calls her slaughter “conservation”. Clearly, she doesn’t know that – in any species – a minimum number of breeding pairs must survive in order to maintain sufficient genetic diversity to procreate.

A petition started by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, garnered 40,000 signatures the first week. Jones’s site has since been taken down. This is not only very good news, but also an explicit warning to others who fail to “get with” the zeitgeist.

That defining moral climate, spanning three or more generations, is nothing to sneeze at. One can argue against anthropogenic climate change, but to suggest nowadays that killing endangered animals is conservationism might provoke more than heckling.

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Lowe’s vs. the Bee Killer

April 16, 2015
The Dead Honeybee

The Dead Honeybee

Thumbs up to home improvement big box store Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW, $74.18) for its commitment to get rid of pesticides containing neonicotinoids, the ones that kill honeybees!

Thumbs at half-mast when we realize that this commitment is but a small part of their 2014 Annual Report, backed by a press release that says the phase-out will take 48 months, or a full four years!

This timetable (which I frankly can’t find in Robert A. Niblock’s CEO Message, silly me) also contains the dubious phraseology, “…as suitable alternatives (to neonicotinoids) become commercially available”.

As if this might be a clarion call to chemical manufacturers to clean up their act! In the United States, no less, ranked 33rd among developed nations for its abysmal environmental record with chemicals. Not to mention its status as one of the few developed nations to regulate pesticides, drugs and cosmetics so badly that the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act, 1976) allows manufacturers to market some products before they are even studied for their toxicity!

The opposition (surprising, or not?) comes from lib dems and environmental/health groups, which say that the proposed TSCA revisions will make things worse, not better. Like they could get worse?

An interesting side note to the U.S.’s updating the TSCA? It announced on March 17 (2015) that it will begin getting rid of the chemical weapons stockpile in Pueblo, Colorado. This dubious rectitude is sort of like any possible response to, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

So where does our imaginary thumb end up? Well, mostly up. At least Lowe’s has gone on record as opposed to neonicotinoids. It has also pledged to offer more “organic” substitutes and work with growers to eliminate the use of this dangerous pesticide (i.e., insecticide), notably from plants that attract bees. This is sort of like shutting down liquor stores and drug dealers near a treatment center; it works, but it has impacts.

Thumbs at a 45-degree angle (visualize a half-open door) for Lowe’s attempts to educate employees and customers on the dangers of this pesticide. Raise said thumb as far as 90 degrees – an open door – for its continued sponsorship of bee-friendly gardens through Keep America Beautiful. Woot!