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Doom Tourism

by Magnifico Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 02:52:54 AM EST

In the late 1980s, Douglas Adams of Hitchhiker's Guide fame teamed up with zoologist Mark Cardwine to travel the world to see animals that were endangered or threatened with extinction. As a sort of culmination of their travels, they co-authored a book, Last Chance to See, that was published in 1990.

A story in The New York Times about "Doom Tourism" reminded me of the book. According to "Before It Disappears", the tourism of doom is booming. Travelers are visiting places they expect to be gone within a generation. "From the tropics to the ice fields, doom is big business," writes Allen Salkin of the NY Times. "Travel agents report clients are increasingly requesting trips to see the melting glaciers of Patagonia, the threatened coral of the Great Barrier Reef, and the eroding atolls of the Maldives".


Masquerading as eco-tourism, doom tourists are rushing off to see the summer Arctic ice before it melts, the last snows of Kilimanjaro, the Amazon rainforest before its wiped out by deforestation and climate change, or the Great Barrier Reef before the coral dies in an acidic sea.

According to the NY Times story, some environmentalists believe the doom tourism is helping contribute to the destination's demise. "This kind of travel, they argue, is hardly green. It's greedy, requiring airplanes and boats as well as new hotels. However well intentioned, these trip takers may hasten the destruction of the very places they are trying to see."

Indeed the sinking last month of the GAP Adventures cruise ship, Explorer, in Antarctica is symbolic of the eco-tourism problem. By visiting the Antarctic, striking an iceberg and sinking, the oil spill from the ship is now endangering the Papua penguin population. An example made all the more dramatic by the ship's sinking.

On "eco-tourism" from the NY Times story:

This is all a ruse, said John Stetson, a spokesman for the Will Steger Foundation, an environmental education organization in Minnesota. "Eco-tourism is more of a term for the marketer," he said. "Many people want to do what's right, so when something is marketed as the right thing, they tend to do that."

But, he says, traveling by jet to see the icebergs contributes to global warming, which makes the icebergs melt faster. "It's hard to fault somebody who wants to see something before it disappears, but it's unfortunate that in their pursuit of doing that, they contribute to the problem," he said.

Not only are governments and oil companies racing to these remote areas to map the claims to the "spoils of global warming" as the Wall Street Journal described it, but so too are wealthy eco-tourists rushing off to be the last people to see a dying earth. These travelers are "eager to be the ones to see things last." This type of travel reminds me of eating endangered animals.

So when news like in today's The Guardian come along, I smile to myself sadly. The story, "Pygmy possums and giant rats stalk lost cloud forest", is about an expedition in western New Guinea to a mountainous rainforest known as Indonesia's "lost world" that may have discovered more than 40 new species.

While I think it is amazing and exciting that new species, especially mammals such as tiny possums and giant rats, can be found in the 21st century. My sadness is that for many of these newly discovered animals, their first sighting may also be their last.

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and his equally exotic "notice me comment".
by Magnifico on Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 02:55:01 AM EST
Hi, Magnifico, I have a question:

Are you also known as "The Mule"?

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 03:44:17 AM EST
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for choosing the name for blogging. I like Asimov's books.

Another source of inspiration was Lorenzo il Magnifico and then there's always ice cream.

by Magnifico on Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 05:09:48 PM EST
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European Tribune - Comments - Doom Tourism
or the Great Barrier Reef before the coral dies in an acidic sea.

Acidifying, not acidic. To actually get the world's oceans acidic humanity needs to do a whole lotta more damage.

But well. Acidic oceans just sounds so much more harmful than "less alkaline"...

Depressing stuff, nevertheless.

by Nomad on Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 06:31:28 AM EST
It's my editorial hyperbole... For me, "acidifying" just doesn't have the same punch behind it. But, yes it is an incorrect usage. The seas won't be acidic until we pump a lot more CO2 into the ocean, but I have every confidence that people will keep trying to meet that dubious "goal". After all, what is the ocean but not a big carbon sink?
by Magnifico on Tue Dec 18th, 2007 at 05:03:09 PM EST
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Crikey - another NYT story treated respectfully ! :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Dec 19th, 2007 at 03:40:07 PM EST
European Tribune - Doom Tourism
According to the NY Times story, some environmentalists believe the doom tourism is helping contribute to the destination's demise. "This kind of travel, they argue, is hardly green. It's greedy, requiring airplanes and boats as well as new hotels. However well intentioned, these trip takers may hasten the destruction of the very places they are trying to see."
This must be the latest incarnation of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Dec 19th, 2007 at 04:07:24 PM EST
Thank you for this.

A good acquaintance is planning a family trip to the Arctic "to see the polar bears before they disappear" without giving any sense of how their profligate energy lifestyle is contributing to their demise.  (Just in aviation travel, with kids, that family is probably 70k+ miles, per person, per year. Let us put aside the large house, year-round (not covered) heated pool, etc ...)

Blogging regularly at Get Energy Smart. NOW!!!

by a siegel (siegeadATgmailIGNORETHISdotPLEASEcom) on Wed Dec 19th, 2007 at 04:14:38 PM EST
Polar bears are amazing animals and I've seen them too... at a zoo, quite few different zoos in fact.

Granted it's not as exotic as seeing polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba and I have very mixed feelings about zoos, but it is a lot more environmentally friendly way "to see the polar bears before they disappear".

Heck, some zoo polar bears are star attractions like Knut is at the Berlin Zoo.

Quite a few zoos around the world have captive polar bears. Here's a list of Zoos with Polar Bears from Polar Bears International.

by Magnifico on Wed Dec 19th, 2007 at 07:11:25 PM EST
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