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Don’t Cancel, Don’t Postpone: Sustainability needs to be the basis of rebuilding tourism now

Jeremy Smith, writer and consultant, and co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency

Jeremy Smith, writer and consultant, and co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency

LONG THINKER PANEL

By Jeremy Smith, writer and consultant, and co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency

 

One of the pandemic’s recurring social media memes has been videos of nature recovering in destinations devoid of tourists and other people. Although some have been shown to be fakes, the truth they all embody remains. Stop human interference, and nature flourishes.

 

However, there’s nothing for people to celebrate in a world without people. If sustainability becomes associated with economic collapse, it will strengthen those voices saying we don’t have time for sustainability now. That we have to fix the economy first. Bail outs with no green strings attached. The greatest risk is that a successful suppression of Covid-19 is spun as an overreaction to an overstated fear, and this used to argue against an increasingly urgent response to the climate emergency.

 

If sustainability becomes associated with economic collapse, it will strengthen those voices saying we don’t have time for sustainability now.

 

The decisions of the next two years have to be taken in that context, and (in Europe at least) they will be epitomised by how we answer one question: do we prioritise rail or aviation?

 

Our goal should not be rebuilding industries, but restoring communities. Our indicators for success not return on investment, but return of species. And we must stop seeing “green strings attached” as meaning tiresome restrictions to the economy, and rather the natural principles that allow life to flourish.

We must stop seeing “green strings attached” as meaning tiresome restrictions to the economy […]. 

 

The pandemic has forced us all to experience the terrible damage ecological breakdown has on human health, especially for the most vulnerable and marginalised. Yet the experience of relaxing on holiday can offer the ideal place for people to appreciate and savour how ecological wellbeing and human wellbeing go together.

 

But sustainable travel cannot be a virtue signalling luxury for wealthy people looking to isolate. A truly transformative tourism would help as many as possible enjoy being more connected to the natural world and one another.

A truly transformative tourism would help as many as possible enjoy being more connected to the natural world and one another.

 

What will success look like? When the videos being shared in a few years time are of destinations where nature flourishes, local people are happy, and visitors feel welcome too.

 

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TOURISM DECLARES

 

Tourism Declares supports tourism businesses, organisations and individuals in declaring a climate emergency and taking purposeful action to reduce their carbon emissions.