Is eco-tourism bad?

grand canyon
Image by nancydowd via Flickr

A note from the blog author, Robert Miller:

If you are at all interested in the environment, or even nature (if you hesitate when hearing the “e” word),  then you probably are like me – you are refreshed by spending any time in the wild or visiting the natural wonders of the world, from the Grand Canyon to the glaciers of Alaska and beyond.

You and I are certainly not alone in this, because, ironically, as people spend more time indoors, and our cities grow, more and more people like the idea of spending time in an environment free from cars, traffic, and tall buildings. Ecotourism is dedicated to help keep the environment clean.

However, ecotourism is not without its critics.

One Reason Ecotourism is Bad:  Animals might Eat You.

In the rural locations where animals can be observed in the wild, that is, in their natural habitat (my favorite type of eco-tourism, bar none), the territory, almost by definition, is dominated by the animals, not humans.

Most animals are territorial, and don’t appreciate surprise, or encrouchment on their turf.  Any type of animals that are in the wild are, of course, not tame. This becomes a greater and greater problem as civilization stresses the natural environments that are a native species’ home, and bringing tourists (who in turn are not necessarily savvy to the behavior of wild animals, and sometimes have food), is going to become an increasing problem for the animals and the tourists.

Another reason Ecotourism can be bad:  Trash.

Anyone that has even been to a tourist spot – of any kind, sees trash. It makes no difference how smart the park rangers are, the forest is a very large place and can sometimes be too large an area to locate and dispose of every piece of trash. Trash in the forest, aesthetically, makes the environment look degraded, but more importantly, it’s harmful to any living thing that takes up residence in that environment.  As just one example, most plastic water bottles are very hard to destroy and take decades to degrade and decompose.

Reason #3 Why Ecotourism is Bad

The most controversial reason why ecotourism might be seen as wrong is due to the structures that are made for different ecotourism tours.  Parks build nature paths, which mean areas cleared out of the trees so that there are more room for paths. In some parks, there are lookout towers that are built in among the tress. These items help manage crowds, but have some unintentional damage to the precious environment.

Opinions differ on this subject. I can appreciate that it’s very frustrating to try to make travel plans in a location where the amount of total tourists that visit are strictly limited.  However, in general, it’s all for the better, and just requires more and better planning on the tourism side.

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