The reason behind this website and the book
It all started in November 2019 with a conversation between two travelers. I asked a tourist in Ecuador if she would include a tour to the famous Galapagos Islands. She told me that she would like to, but that she didn’t want to fly to the Galapagos. To her, it was a contradiction to fly to a nature reserve more than 900 km away, while the greenhouse gas emission from her flight might cause the sea level to rise and these islands to disappear. I had heard this reasoning before and it is a valid point. After years of working in tourism, I also wondered if it is still responsible to keep inviting people to travel as a tourist; to go somewhere new, meet new people, have a good time, and learn new things. However, when I explained to her what the negative effects would be if tourists would stop traveling to the Galapagos Islands, it made her think. She had never really considered how important the positive effects of tourism could be, even if this included flying. Her response prompted my motivation to write this book.
The Covid-19 pandemic and our changing climate have put extra pressure on leisure travel and words like ‘flightshame’ are gaining in popularity. Some people think that we shouldn’t travel the world anymore. Stay our whole life in the same neighborhood and don’t go further than where our feet or bicycle can bring us. But is that really a solution?
During more than 16 years of traveling, volunteering, and working in tourism in Latin America I’ve seen and experienced both the positive and negative effects of tourism and even the Covid-19 pandemic. I agree that if we just look at the scientific numbers of contamination, then traveling is bad for the environment. But our society isn’t just about numbers; it is about people who, among many things, need food, homes, and a purpose to live. For many different people to be able to live and work together in peace, society needs rules, respect, motivation, and goals. Besides that, we are born to be social and with a curiosity for the world around us. Most of us always want to improve the way we live. We want to continue evolving, either with more land, more money, more status, more friends, but also more knowledge and experiences. It would be wrong to take this motivation away, but it will be good to direct this motivation into gaining experiences, instead of possessions.
Because the relationship between tourism and climate change is also about the wellbeing of people, this book uses a holistic approach. It isn’t based on just one scientific study, instead this book combines information from more than 300 scientific studies and articles mixed with personal experiences.
I strongly believe that if we would cut traveling out of our lives, we will cut out a part of our social evolution. I don’t want people to be afraid to travel. Instead I want to encourage people to travel more conscious, share ideas, and spread hope. So I went looking for proof that would either support or undermine my own opinion: traveling can still be sustainable.
The questions I asked myself when I started with the research for this book were:
1- What is climate change?
2- What is the real damage of tourism?
3- What are the benefits of tourism?
4- How can tourism be improved?
5- And is it possible to make travel and tourism sustainable?
To be honest, when I started writing I thought that it wouldn’t be possible to find a good answer to the question if tourism can still be sustainable. The idea was to present the negative and positive effects of traveling and tourism and to make readers aware of both. Now after months of research, writing, and re-writing and even taking the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic into account, I learned that tourism and traveling can still be sustainable. I even believe that tourism can be used as a positive tool to reduce climate change.
The best way to make progress is to listen to other people, to be open to new ideas, and learn from each other. I therefore started a Facebook group named ‘Tourism versus Climate Change’. After reading my book I’d like to invite you to participate in the discussion about how we can make tourism and even our society more sustainable.