Over the last few months, as the entire world has been dealing with a pandemic and we’re living our lives within the four walls of the home, there’s one thing that we’ve all probably realized – that when nature hits us hard, we’d have no option but to succumb and step back.
As we celebrate ‘World Environment Day’ today, we need to understand that it’s not just a matter of a day, but a responsibility of all human beings to be carried throughout the entire year. This world, where we live, is the only place we have and it is our duty to take care and make it worth living for everyone.
The UN General Assembly in 1972, decided that a step should be taken in order to maintain a balance between the environment and human interference. Two years later, in 1974, World Environment Day was celebrated for the first time on June 5 and since then, every year, all the countries around the world celebrate this day with an aim of environmental betterment. It’s an act to combat the ever-rising problems of global warming, deforestation, wildlife habitation crisis as well as increasing pollution.
For 2020, the main focus will be on ‘Celebrating Biodiversity’, as the UN mentioned – “With 1 million species facing extinction, there has never been a more important time to focus on biodiversity.”
Now the question is – Why should we care for Biodiversity?
Well, to put it simply, biodiversity is the variation of Earth’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species, as well as their habitats. It’s vital to the survival of all life on earth and is also the cornerstone for the goods and services of the environment that allow human societies to thrive. Biodiversity provides us with food, water, and resources as well as services such as climate control, pollination, flood mitigation, and cycling of nutrients.
Ecosystems are relying on all parts from the smallest bacteria to the largest vertebrate. It’s all interconnected. Some are producing oxygen that others are breathing. Some provide food for larger species, which in turn become prey to even larger species. Every living organism has a role to play in the maintenance of balance.
We’ve all grown up reading about these things in our school textbooks, but eventually, kept forgetting certain valuable portions while moving ahead in life. But now, we’ve reached a crucial point where we either have to become aware or just wait for Mother Nature to reveal her fierceful version.
The emergence of COVID-19 has underscored the fact that, when we destroy biodiversity, we destroy the system that supports human life. Today, it is estimated that, globally, about one billion cases of illness and millions of deaths occur every year from diseases caused by coronaviruses; and about 75% of all emerging infectious diseases in humans are zoonotic, meaning that they are transmitted to people by animals.
Nature is sending us a message. The harsh truth is that we are the last generation who will have the opportunity to avert this catastrophe, and now is the time when people across the globe should play their part in healing the world before it’s destroyed by our actions.
How Travelers Can Contribute Towards The Cause? | The Intrinsic Link Between Biodiversity & Tourism
With international tourism involving 1.5 billion tourists and generating US$ 2 trillion a year – while also accounting for about 10% of global employment – the potential of tourism to help promote and sustain biodiversity is colossal.
To quote from IUCN’s Official Website – ‘Tourism and biodiversity are intimately related. In fact, the prosperity of the tourism industry is directly dependent upon healthy ecosystems. Most tourism activities are also directly based on the many services provided by ecosystems.’
There’s no denial to the fact that tourism can have negative impacts on biodiversity: forests are being destroyed to build hotels, shorelines are paved for marinas, watercourses are changed to supply swimming pools, animals are tamed for human recreations, so on and so forth. But increasingly, it can be a catalyst for its preservation rather than its destruction – if we desire to be responsible travelers and abide by the values of sustainable tourism.
Let’s take a quick look at a few examples to understand how tourism is affecting biodiversity in a positive way.
1. Luxury ecolodge Satao Elerai is set in 20 square kilometres of preserved land in Kenya. As you’d expect, wildlife numbers have increased inside this area. But the key to the lodge’s impact is also its location. Satao Elerai lies between Amboseli National Park in Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro National Park in Tanzania. Its land helps connect these important habitats for elephants who travel between them, maintaining the biodiversity of the wider area.
2. The Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda signed an agreement on “transboundary gorillas”. Respecting the natural habitat of mountain gorillas, this groundbreaking agreement caters for safeguarding everyone’s interests, thus making tourism a great example of environmental peace-building and trans-boundary collaboration. As per data, in 2015, the Rwandan National Park Management Authority earned more than US$15 million from gorilla tracking permits.
3. Destination Flyways is a project led by the UNWTO to protect migration routes for millions of birds. During their migration, birds depend upon a chain of sites in multiple countries for breeding, staging, and wintering. The sites are often protected, but external pressures continue to grow. By working to develop tourism projects close to them, UNWTO is using tourist income to help preserve this important feature of our planet’s biodiversity.
4. A Peruvian ecotourism company called Inkaterra hosts more than 200,000 tourists in its seven hotels, close to Cusco and Madre de Dios. Biodiversity preservation has been a key part of its mission since its establishment in 1975. It maintains checklists of key species within its properties, in particular birds and orchids, using a team of naturalists to help protect them.
Over the last few years, The World Bank has been ramping up nature-based tourism to protect biodiversity and boost livelihoods. [Read more about the initiatives taken.]
The tourism experts agreed that protecting biodiversity makes good business sense for the tourism industry as a whole, especially considering that this industry is so reliant on healthy ecosystems and we can definitely vouch on the following pointers:
- tourism can create economic development opportunities as an alternative to unsustainable use of biodiversity
- tourism can generate funds for the conservation of the visited sites (through corporate donations, individual visitor contributions, etc)
- tourism can raise awareness and support the education of locals and visitors alike on the values of biodiversity
Here are some simple ways in which we, as travelers, can contribute towards protecting biodiversity.
1) Prefer to choose innovative, sustainable & eco-friendly stays while traveling.
2) Follow the mantra of ‘Reduce – Reuse – Recycle’ – always!
3) Reduce the usage of water as freshwater bodies are essential to biodiversity.
4) Minimize your plastic usage (if possible to level zero) and find alternatives to them. Make sure to carry your own bottle of water, in order to avoid buying mineral water bottles.
5) Support the local farmers while traveling – and consume locally harvested products. Not only will that be fresh, but it’ll also give you a chance to enjoy the local flavors.
6) Be protective of the wildlife/ marine life while traveling. Make sure not to cause any harm to them while you are a visitor in their areas.
7) Learn to travel light, ‘coz every kilo counts when flying! The more a plane weighs, the more carbon emissions it produces. Pack only what you need – the environment will essentially be grateful to you!
8) When you’re hiking/ trekking/ going for walking safaris, always stay on marked trails because going off the beaten path could mean you trample on protected or endangered plants.
9) Don’t collect corals, shells, fossils, or any other natural items. Let them be where they belong!
10) Visit wildlife reserves and national parks rather than zoos! Don’t encourage dolphin shows, riding on elephants or walking with tigers – you have no clue what those poor animals have to go through.
Other than these, there’s an increase in enthusiasm among people to take up causes of volunteering for environmental conservation, in order to play an active role in protecting nature while exploring.
You might have had this question popping up in your mind – “What can I do alone to save the environment?”
Actually, there are thousands of people like you who have the similar thought in mind, amidst that dilemma and hesitation, no one’s taking a step. But you, alone, have the power to initiate, and those thousands will eventually follow you. No step is a small step, and every contribution matters in its own way. While caring for the planet isn’t a matter to be saved for June 5, however, it’s a good time to start today and take the pledge to do whatever you can, in order to achieve sustainable environmental development.
Featured Image: QuotesFancy