Overtourism: the canary in the coalmine?

Tourist your are the terrorists

Overtourism has been around for decades, but what makes it so pertinent now is that whole communities are being affected as well as natural landscapes. And while nature can’t speak out, people can. Residents in popular tourist spots have simply had enough, and their growing protests are a stark warning for local politicians that something urgently needs to be done. How much more tourism can the world actually take, and do we all need it?

Last year NOW reported on overtourism and what individual tourists can do to alleviate the problem, since when several governments and cities have begun to implement specific policies to help manage crowding. Amsterdam and Venice have imposed new taxes to help raise revenue for better tourism management, for example, while New Zealand has decided to collect a fee of NZ$ 25 from each of its international visitors. But residents want far more, and the broader question of tourism’s ‘license to operate’ has also crept into discussions.

Venice Carnival Crowd

Scenes of infamous overtourism hotspots such as Venice have encouraged other destinations and stakeholders to come forward and discuss the challenges associated with tourism growth. National park managers have closed off beaches such as Maya Beach in Thailand, while the Philippine Government closed a whole island (Boracay) to tourism for an extended period using the argument that nature needed to recover (it is now partially reopened).


Tourism growth has long been heralded as a magic bullet – in particular for economic development and poverty alleviation. But whilst this might still be true for some destinations, overall tourism is beginning to fall victim to its own success, most notably when it comes to its huge carbon footprint. According to the 2018 paper published in Nature Climate Change by respected scientist Lenzen and colleagues, tourism emissions make up a whopping 8% of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions. And that’s only the beginning as tourism is growing rapidly.


Could it be that the images of graffiti sprayed on the walls of Barcelona buildings are a harbinger of things to come? Are they negative sentiments against tourism? Will they get worse? We should be deepening discussions about whether the positive impacts of tourism outweigh the negative ones. Tourism is at a significant if not historic crossroads, and decisions need to be made about how the whole industry can rapidly improve its sustainability.

NOW features provide a wide range of ideas and inspirations about what can be done, from environmental reporting and certification to choosing low-carbon visitor experiences and working with local communities. But these actions still rely on a small number of innovators, early adopters, and those who are already passionate about creating a ‘better’ industry.

What we need now is a larger movement, a complete rethink of the whole tourism system, one that includes the question of how we define tourism success in the future and what the ultimate outcomes from tourism should be. More people and more money are no longer guarantees of wellbeing for the industry, for communities and for visitors alike. Instead we need to measure other kinds of impacts, from how happy residents are to levels of carbon emissions – and then make some tough decisions, which could even mean reducing the levels of tourism in places.

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As both an environmental scientist and frequent enthusiastic traveller, Professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University in Australia Dr Susanne Becken was one of the first to link tourism with global problems. She has pioneered research on climate change and tourism, and is behind tools such as the world's first tourism-specific Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard. You can read our interview with her here.

5 recipes for sustainable tasty travel snacks

Alexandra Dudley

London-based food writer, presenter and serial dinner party host Alexandra Dudley shares regular recipes and tips for sustainable living on her blog and is the author of Land & Sea: secrets to simple, sustainable, sensational food. Here she shares 5 simple recipe ideas for travellers who want to eat healthily and sustainably on the move. Find out more here.

1. Almond and herb oat cakes

These make a wonderful on the go snack. I came about the recipe after a fridge clear out. I was about to go travelling and wanted to make use of all the food left in my fridge as I hate waste. Faced with a rather dried out, skinny bunch of herbs (no doubt leftover from a Sunday roast) I set about rummaging through my cupboards. I always have almonds and oats and decided to make oat cakes using the leftover dried herbs. They turned out delicious and were the perfect snack for my journey. I now make them regularly and often pack a few in my bag. The almonds give them a wonderful crunch and the herbs make them a lot more interesting than a standard oat cake. You can use any sort of tough herb here – rosemary, thyme, oregano all work very well, and don’t worry if they have dried out a little, this almost works better. You could even add a pinch of chilli powder if you fancy a bit of spice.

Almond and herb oat cake

Makes roughly 36 oat cakes

250g rolled oats
60g almonds
1tbsp leftover tough herb (rosemary, thyme, oregano) a little dried out is perfect finely chopped
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
200 ml boiling water

Preheat your oven to 180° and line two baking trays with parchment paper.

In the bowl of your food processor pulse the oats until the resemble a rough flour. Then transfer them to a medium sized mixing bowl.

Next place your almonds in the food processor and pulse until well broken down. You want them to be uneven sizes to add texture to the oat cakes but they should be no bigger than about 1/3 of an almond. Add these to the mixing bowl with the oats.

Add your salt and chopped herbs and stir everything together to combine. Next add your boiling water and olive oil. Stir until you have a collected dough.

Roll out the dough with a floured rolling pin until it is about the thickness of two one pound coins. Use a 4cm cookie cutter cut out rounds. I like to roll the dough on a silicone baking sheet or some parchment paper to avoid having to add more flour to the dough.

Once you have stamped out as many oatcakes as you can collect the dough together and roll out again. Repeat until all the dough has finished.

Place your oat cakes onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 40 mins turning and switching oven shelves half way to ensure an even bake.

The oat cakes should be solid all the way through. A good way to check is to pick one up and tap its underside. Switch off the oven and allow the oatcakes to remain inside for 15 minutes to
dry out completely. Remove and allow to cool.

Enjoy with cheese, dipped into hummus, spread with avocado or almond butter or just as they are. Store in an airtight container and consume within 2 weeks.

2. Spiced carrot and almond dip

This delicious and healthy dip is a great way to use up any floppy looking carrots and save them going to waste. Pop it in a little tupperware or jam jar and enjoy it with crackers, oat cakes or chopped veg. Add a spoonful to spruce up a salad or spread on bread or toast to pimp your sandwich. The almonds give it a wonderful nuttiness and creamy element too. If you like spice you can add a touch more cayenne pepper, but if not the 1⁄2 a teaspoon won’t blow your head off so don’t worry.

Spiced carrot and almond dip

Makes one bowl of dip
350g carrots chopped (about 2 large carrots)
100g almonds
1⁄2 tsp mixed spice
1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper (or 1⁄2 tsp if you like it hot)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 200° fan setting and spread your almonds on a clean, dry baking tray. Roast for 10 minutes until they begin to smell nutty. Remove and allow them to cool.

Bring a medium sized saucepan to the boil, add your carrots and cook until soft enough to pierce with a fork. Drain and allow to cool.

Place your roasted almonds into a food processor and process until they begin to form a smooth paste. Be patient at this stage. It may take up to 7 minutes.

Once your almonds are well broken down and smooth add your carrots, mixed spice, cayenne pepper, salt and olive oil. Process again until everything has broken down to a hummus like consistency. You may need to scrape down the sides of the food processor a few times with a spatula.

Enjoy as a tasty snack with crackers, oat cakes, toast, chopped veg. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

3. Forgotten banana-choco-almond bites

We’ve all experienced it. The blackened banana that was left in the car or forgotten in the fruit bowl. Too squishy to eat raw and not enough to make a banana cake. You could make a

delicious smoothie or you could make my forgotten banana-choco-almond bites. These are a tasty on the go snack that are

somewhere between a banana cake, a brownie and a chocolate muffin – all good things. They are simple to make and work very well as an afternoon pick me up or even as a breakfast enroute.

Banana choco almond bites

Makes 16-18 bites
100g flour (I like spelt flour but plain works too)
40g cocoa powder
1⁄2 tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt
50g almonds, roughly chopped – plus 16-18 whole almonds for decorating
50g chocolate, roughly chopped
1 overripe banana
30g butter or coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
3 tbsp honey
1 large egg

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees fan setting. Line two baking trays with baking parchment. In a small mixing bowl whisk together your flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, sea salt. Stir
in your almonds and chocolate.

In a larger bowl smash together your overripe banana using a fork. Add your melted butter or coconut oil, honey and egg and mix until well combined.

Pour your flour mix into your banana mix and fold to combine. Using two teaspoons drop roughly golf ball sized spoonfuls onto your parchment lined trays.

Bake for 12 minutes until slightly risen and dry. Remove and allow them to cool on the tray for ten minutes before transferring onto a wire wrack. The texture should be somewhere between a
cake and brownie. Keep for up to four days in an airtight container.

4. Savoury oat and buckwheat granola

I must confess that whenever I make granola it is usually less than half of it that sees the depths of a breakfast bowl. For the most part I enjoy snacking on granola in handfuls from the jar. This savoury granola is perfect for snacking and a nice change from my usual sweet snack. I take it with me in a tupperware or small jam jar and keep a big jar of it in the kitchen to reach for handfuls from when I’m feeling peckish.

Savoury oat and buckwheat-granola

100g jumbo oats
70g raw buckwheat groats
40g flaked almonds (untoasted)
40g pumpkin seeds
40g sunflower seeds
60g almonds, roughly chopped
2 sticks of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and finely chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsps coconut oil, melted
3 tbsp tamari
1 1⁄2 tbsp. maple syrup
1⁄2 tsp turmeric
1⁄2 tsp cayenne pepper
1⁄2 tsp ground ginger
good pinch of seasalt
good grind of pepper
handful of flaked coconut

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees fan setting and line a large baking tray with parchment paper. Combine all of your ingredients apart from the flaked coconut in a large bowl and stir to combine.

Spread everything onto the tray and bake in the oven for 20 minutes tossing half way. Five minutes from the end stir through your coconut. The granola should be crisp and dry. Allow it to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to 5 weeks.

5. Pack it in a tin

Less of a recipe and more of a tip – my biggest advice for sustainable snacking is to invest in a good snack tin. I usually keep a handful of almonds in mine as they’re brilliantly satisfying and healthy too. Otherwise I might fill it with trail mix or my homemade savoury granola. If you’re ever caught off guard without a snack, try to go for something that has its own packaging such as a satsuma or a banana, avoiding pre cut fruits and veg if you can. Instead try and get into the practice of filling the bottom of an empty jam jar with hummus or my almond carrot dip at the bottom and sticking in some fresh chopped veggies on top.

Little Sun charger and lamp

Little Sun Charge

Perfect for travellers and everyone on the go, Little Sun Charge is a stylish reliable solar charger with a handy inbuilt lamp that can be used to charge your phone, Mp3 player or camera on the move.

A night walk with Little Sun Original
Credit: Franziska-Russo

It’s the brainchild of artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen, whose impressive BCorp-certified company also make the Little Sun Original, a solar-powered Led lamp perfect for camping, festivals or at the beach – kids especially love the bright and cheerful design and usability.

Little sun origional in Ethiopia
Credit: Michael-Tsegaye

Maddalena Valeri

Both products can be recharged by simply being placed in the sun. The best bit? Every product sold delivers a Little Sun to an African community living in off-grid areas without electricity at a locally affordable price.

Little Sun Charge

Little Sun Charge

Little Sun also empowers whole communities by training local entrepreneurs and creating local jobs, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. Find out more at  littlesun.com.

SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean energy

Greta Thunberg is right – we need to panic


Calm and clever 16 year old Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is shining a light on the world’s inaction on climate change and the catastrophe the world potentially faces should governments, companies, citizens and travellers decide not to rise to our climate challenges.

Climate Change Action
Credit: dailytelegraph.com

The solution is simple, she writes in a recent post on Facebook in which she has defended her actions: ‘Yes, the climate crisis is the most complex issue that we have ever faced and it’s going to take everything from our part to “stop it.” But the solution is black and white; we need to stop the emissions of greenhouse gases’.

Climate Change Action

Greta, who has Asperger’s, was conscious of the world’s silence on the climate crisis way back when she was 8 years old, when (she remembers) all she was asked to do was turn off lights and recycle paper. She grew into a climate activist during the course of her childhood, and inspired her sister and her parents to make huge changes to their own lives before taking on the world.

Strike for climate action
Credit: kismetgirls.com

Continually bemused at the world’s inaction on climate change and annoyed by the empty speeches of politicians, Greta decided to take brave action in August 2018 with her solo School Strike for Climate outside the Swedish Parliament. It was recognised internationally, and her confrontation with Swedish politicians has inspired young people from Sweden, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and the UK to stage climate action protests of their own under the hashtag #ClimateStrike.

We want change
Credit: realitynews.com.au

Only last week in the UK, the union of head teachers in the UK backed plans by pupils from schools in 27 towns and cities across the UK including Cardiff, Brighton, Exeter and Glasgow to walk of their lessons in a “strike” to protest climate change (read more here).

Climate Change

Greta has also given an inspirational call to arms in a Ted Talk, and went on to give clear, outspoken presentations to the global climate conference in Katowice, Poland and the World Economic Conference at Davos, Switzerland, in which she says, ‘I want you to panic’.

Act now swim later
Credit: bbc.com

Indeed, all her words are wise and to the point. ‘The media need to put the climate crisis on every headline, on every front page,’ she says. ‘We have not come here to beg the world leaders to care for our future. They have ignored us in the past and they will ignore us again. We have come here to let them know that change is coming whether they like it or not. The people will rise to the challenge. And since our leaders are behaving like children, we will have to take the responsibility they should have taken long ago.’

Credit: adelaidenow.com.au

Shockingly – or perhaps not so shockingly – Greta’s action has caused plenty of hate-filled messages on social media as well as devoted followers and fellow activists. So much so that she has written a post on Facebook to state her case once again (which I quote from in the first paragraph, and which you can read in Common Dreams).

Climate Change
Credit: freedomnews.com

In her post, Greta also says that people who say we shouldn’t be listening to children is ‘easily fixed’. ‘Just start to listen to the rock solid science instead’, she says. ‘Because if everyone listened to the scientists and the facts that I constantly refer to—then no one would have to listen to me or any of the other hundreds of thousands of school children on strike for the climate across the world. Then we could all go back to school’.

Climate change actions
Credit: greenleft.org.au

That Greta has had to defend herself in this manner is unsurprising but also deeply worrying. As Steve Hanely writes on Clean Technica, climate deniers have become master manipulators of the digital universe solely to prop up the obscene profits of the fossil fuel companies. ‘If the world fails to respond to the challenge of climate change in time’, he says, ‘it may be that Google and Facebook and Instagram are as much to blame as feckless politicians’.

Kids strike for climate action
Credit: wsws.org

School Strike for Climate, also known as Justice 4 Climate, Fridays for Future or Kid’s Strike 4 Climate, a growing international movement of students leaving their school to take part in demonstrations for climate action calls for a global strike on Friday, March 15.

Justice for climate

We at NOW urge each person to treat this as a crisis, just like Greta is doing. To take real and bold action on climate change, and to speak out clearly on the issue, no matter how uncomfortable or unprofitable that may be. We need to use the power of our votes and wallets to push all our governments and the businesses we support to be accountable and transparent, and to do whatever it takes for the planet to stay below 1.5C. The bigger your carbon footprint is, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform is, the bigger your responsibility. It must be NOW!

60 seconds with Paul Lister

Paul Lister

NOW talks to the custodian of Alladale Wilderness Reserve and founder of The European Nature Trust.

Paul Lister is the custodian of Alladale Wilderness Reserve(AWR) and founder of The European Nature Trust (TENT), a UK based charity. He plays a role in encouraging people to appreciate the value of nature with trips to the wilder parts of Romania, Spain, Scotland and Italy. TENT co-produces natural history films, organises eco-trips and fundraising bike trips to project areas, as well as organising multiple fundraising and capacity building parties & events annually. Find out more at Alladale Wilderness Reserve and The European Nature Trust.

One phrase that describes you?

Energetic conservationist.

In your own words, what do you do?

Encourage people to connect to nature.

What project are you most proud of when it comes to sustainability (of people or planet)?

The work we have achieved so far at Alladale Wilderness Reserve; amongst our most significant projects we have planted 850,000 saplings, restored our peatlands, educated 1000s of local school children and reintroduced red squirrels.

Which is your favourite part of your job?

Seeing others gripped by nature when enjoying trips with TENT.

Which is the part that you enjoy the least?

The endless flow of emails.

Who or what is your greatest influence?

The work of the Tompkins Conservation Doug and Kristine Tompkins have been at the vanguard of Wildlands philanthropy for 30 years in Chile and Argentina – after successful business careers they found their true purpose in nature.

Best advice you’ve been given?

Look after your health as best you can, without which nothing is possible.

What was your Plan B?

Be a musician – Chris Martin comes to mind!

What is your personal indulgence?

Following and watching ATP Tennis.

What do you do to make any travelling you do sustainable?

80% of all my trips and holidays are TENT related projects, and so hopefully leave a lasting impact. Also the tree planting at AWR makes a significant contribution to offsetting my carbon footprint.

What do you do about carbon emissions?

Travel is not the big issue when compared to child birth! I have no kids – having kids is possibly the biggest contribution to climate change and the consumption crisis that individual can make.

What is your personal favourite place to travel to that’s trying hard to be sustainable?

I love travelling to visit conservation projects in Eastern Europe under my own steam. I’m trustee of a project in Romania called Carpathia, which has some fantastic tourism projects. More at Carpathia – European Wilderness Reserve.

What steps do you take to make your daily life more sustainable?

Help save old forests, plant trees, use public transport and cycle as often as possible.

What must happen now to help make our planet more sustainable?

Well I don’t think capitalism serves us particularly well; more and more wealth in fewer people’s hands. Also the notion of never ending, exponential growth on a finite planet with limited resources is nothing short of ridiculous. We must truly appreciate our place on this planet and become more humble and caring of mother nature. We depend on nature (my god), nature does not depend on us – we simply cannot survive on a depleted planet. We must stop living in the past and instead challenge all the crazy habits we have manifested that have adverse effects on the planet.

If you could have one hour with a world leader, who would it be and what would you say?

I don’t wish to meet any of them. I believe we need a global environmental policy for all countries alike. We are all far too individualistic, disconnected and often arrogant.

Any regrets so far?

Just wish I had given up the furniture business 10 years earlier.

To find out more about Alladale’s rewilding project, read here.

To find out more about wellbeing retreats at Alladale, read here.