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Topic section: Travelling to save the planet
Travelling to save the planet
When, in 1952, David Brower became the first executive director of the Sierra Club,
Picture: 03_Mountains.jpg
Bjørndalen valley, near Longyearbyen, Spitzbergen, 2002. Tourism to the far northern island of Spitzbergen is growing, but the Arctic tundra is very fragile.
Credit: Copyright © Peter Morris
 America’s oldest environmental organisation, he was faced with the proposed damming of Echo Park Valley in the beautiful but obscure Dinosaur National Monument in Utah. Not only is the valley home to several important species, it also contains a remarkable array of fossils. Brower realised that he had to make the park better known if he was going to win the battle for public opinion. He organised

But tourism can also have a menacing effect on indigenous communities

 ‘wilderness trips’ and persuaded Knopf to publish This is Dinosaur: Echo Park Country and Its Magic Rivers. Dinosaur National Monument was saved and Brower later founded Friends of the Earth. There is a growing awareness of the need to protect fragile eco-systems, such as Arctic tundra or coral reefs, from the impact of unbridled tourism and development. The growing concept of ‘eco-tourism’ aims to prevent this damage and at the same time provide
Picture: 03_Steamboat-Rock-and-Lower.jpg
Steamboat Rock and the Lower Yampa from Harpers Corner in Echo Park.
Credit: Copyright © Courtesy, Dinosaur National Monument, US National Park Service
 the money for sustainable development of the areas. How far can the circle be squared? Can ecologically sensitive regions ranging from Spitzbergen to Antarctica be protected and yet remain open to tourists?

We may try our best to help save the planet, but are we doing more harm than good by travelling to faraway places? Every year there is growing concern about the impact of tourism on fragile sites, ranging from prehistoric Skara Brae in Orkney to coral reefs in Yucatan. Attempts to reduce the number of tourists are often opposed by local people who rely on the income generated by visitors. But tourism can also have a baleful effect on indigenous communities. As the local population is hired to build hotels and serve in them, local trades and industries wither away, creating a community dependent on tourism. Places that have been thinly populated face a massive influx of visitors, generating pollution and overwhelming the local water and power supplies.

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Topic section: Going on the Grand Tour in your gap year?
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It has become traditional to take a 'gap year' before going to university, just as, centuries ago, young men travelled across Europe on the Grand Tour. Are these excursions educational or simply an excuse for drinking and bed-hopping?  > more

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Topic section: Packing our prejudices?
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The package-tour industry has widened people’s horizons and provided affordable holidays for nearly everyone. Has the experience of foreign travel broadened our minds or do we simply take our prejudices with us?  > more
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