While no other industry has been affected by COVID-19 quite like travel, it’s also a valuable time. To reflect on the way we’ve been travelling, how we interact with cultures, and respect the environment. Entire industries have been built for sheer entertainment, at the expense of nature and animals. This has to change.
It’s not sustainable, nor is it humane. And right now, we have an opportunity to create a new travel paradigm, as borders start to re-open and movement recommences. A world where we enjoy its beauty without detriment to the environment. Travel, done right, can actually be beneficial for nature and can serve to protect wildlife. It all starts with education.
Dr Jane Goodall, United Nations Messenger of Peace
There’s no one better to talk about the environment crisis and ecotourism than Dr Jane Goodall, a primatologist and anthropologist who has dedicated 60 years to conservation. Her efforts have broadened from protecting chimpanzees from extinction and redefined species conservation to embrace the needs of local people and the environment.
It’s our disrespect of animals and the natural world that have led to the crisis we find ourselves in – both COVID-19 and the critical issue of climate change. As we destroy habitats, invade communities with roads, hunt and sell animals, exploit them as exotic pets, breed them in factory farms and so on, we create an environment that’s perfectly conducive for a virus or bacteria, Jane said.
“What we don’t realise is we’re expecting unlimited economic development with the finite resources of nature. It isn’t working and the effects are devastating,” she said.
Imagining a sustainable green economy
The best way to go out and see the effects of the growing human population and climate change – travel – is a wonderful eye-opener. We need to start thinking about how we can develop a new relationship with the natural world.
When people get desperate, they catch the last fish and cut the last tree. With the global shutdown, funding has been dropped and, as an extension of this, jobs and livelihoods. This creates an environment ripe for problems such as poaching.
So, there’s one side of the coin, the climate change, habitat loss and the destruction. On the other, there’s the poverty alleviation, where tourism can be a force for good. Jane believes that we, as travellers (and us in the industry) are an important part of the solution.
Rather than looking for cheap tours and packaged holidays, invest in high-end travel offerings with a focus on eco-tours and ecotourism lodges. To travel without destroying the places we go. Protecting the gorgeous, inspiring destinations that make travel so special.
Change has to happen at an individual level and the best thing we can do is educate ourselves. This means learning about what’s going on, understanding the background of the tourism providers, and challenging ‘normal’ cultural activities. Running with the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain is a good example.
It’s understanding animals feel fear, just like us. They experience emotions. But we’re detached from this aspect. As travellers, we have great power by using our voices – to speak up when something isn’t right, to use public platforms, and spread the message. To do what is within our realm of possibility, whether that’s to donate money, plant trees, eat a plant-based diet, and align with travel providers who share these ‘do good’, values.
Individual responsibility paired with the travel industry informing customers how they should behave is a good start. For example, not to disturb animals or get too close.
The ‘old normal’ wasn’t working
2020 might just have been the great awakening for travel we need. Our current relationship with the world and specifically, nature and animals, isn’t sustainable. It’s a cry for change, a chance to travel ethically and serve the communities rather than damage them. Because if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that nature, while magnificent, is fragile.
Right now, we have the chance to undo years of unconscious travel. To ask yourself, what is ecotourism? To get curious about offsetting air travel, spending money locally, staying only in sustainable accommodation, connecting with animals and wildlife – to transform every facet of the way we travel.
This is, and will continue to be, what Angas Travel stands for. If you’d like to talk to Australia ecotourism travel agents to discuss how to start planning your next trip in this new way, contact us on 1800 671 331.