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Launched on July 1st and fluent in 24 official languages of the European Union, Earth Speakr is an artwork that expresses the powerful imagination of artist Olafur Eliasson and invites kids to speak up for the planet.
It’s a safe place for kids to creatively make messages by using the fun Earth Speakr app to record their ideas about the wellbeing of our planet and give them the floor to get their messages heard.
Earth Speakr also invites adults to listen up to what they have to say for the sake of our common future. Adults can participate by listening to the messages, sharing these with others, and creating augmented reality Loud Speakrs to demonstrate with and amplify the powerful messages kids have to share.
Olafur and his team aims to amplify children’s ideas and concerns about the wellbeing of our planet with the active participation of kids across the EU and will be working with a growing network of museums, schools and libraries to expand the reach of this collective artwork.
Art, for Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson (Icelandic: Ólafur Elíasson; born 1967), is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world. Striving to make the concerns of art relevant to society at large, Eliasson’s art is not limited to the confines of the museum and gallery, his practice engages the broader public sphere through architectural projects, interventions in civic space, arts education, policy-making, and issues of sustainability and climate change.
According to a 2018 Gallup estimate which surveyed US adults, the LGBTQ++ community makes up around 4.5 per cent of the population, while the LGBT charity Stonewall UK has suggested the proportion is between 5 and 7 per cent. And though no one can say what the true percentage is, one thing’s for sure – with millions of people supporting the Pride marches each year, it would be easy to assume that the world is becoming more tolerant and opening its doors to gay and trans travellers.
But experts say that when we are eventually free to travel again, once the coronavirus pandemic is under control, LGBTQ++ travellers will still need to be cautious, steer clear of assumptions and research their destination.
According to Jeremy Wilkes, an advisor for the UK-based beTravelwise, which provides travel safety and security awareness training for businesses, what looks like a fun-loving, friendly island, with laid-back beach resorts – Jamaica, for example – could have a far less casual attitude to same sex relationships. And forward-thinking, fast-moving cities – Dubai for one – can be deceptive.
For LGBTQ++ travellers, the consequences of just being themselves in certain countries make for chilling reading. Lucas Ramon Mendos, senior research officer at ILGA World – the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, points out that in at least six countries the death penalty is imposed for consensual same-sex sexual acts. In another six countries the death penalty is technically a possibility, although there is no record of it having been imposed.
At least 70 countries still criminalise consensual same-sex activity – some use corporal punishments such as caning in public ceremonies, while others impose prison sentences ranging from a few months to life.
“While a few countries are making legal progress and seeing an improvement in social attitudes at the same time, many other countries seem to be more resistant to change, both in terms of legal reform and in social attitudes,” says Mendos.
“In parallel to this, we see how many countries, especially those who criminalise consensual same-sex activity, are pushing for the enforcement of these provisions a lot more than in the past, so that makes the situation on the ground a lot more difficult for LGBT people.
“Last year, two men were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment in Zambia after they were caught having consensual sex in their bedroom by a hotel employee. LGBT travellers have been arrested and even deported from countries in the Middle East and in Asia.”
And even if LGBTQ++ travellers don’t flout their sexual orientation, there’s still the risk of entrapment – ILGA World, which is based in Geneva, Switzerland, has had reports of this happening in countries like Egypt, Russia and Turkmenistan.
Mendos warns: “In several countries it’s not completely safe to use online dating apps. Extreme right-wing or vigilante groups have used these apps to entrap people to ambush, humiliate, attack and even torture them sadistically. Attackers create fake profiles, engage in conversation, and then arrange to meet up to attack the victim.”
In late 2019, the LGBTQ Danger Index, compiled by American couple Asher and Lyric Fergusson, who blog about safe travel, ranked the 150 most visited countries. Sweden was named the most LGBT-friendly country in the world, with Canada second safest, followed by Norway, Portugal, Belgium and the UK. The US appeared – surprisingly – at number 24 because gay rights vary from state to state.
The couple pointed out that even if homosexuality isn’t illegal in some countries, LGBT travellers are treated so badly while they are there, they need to be careful or even avoid the country in question.
Jeremy Wilkes explains: “I tell LGBT people it’s not them, it’s the way the world is.
“We celebrate diversity and what they bring to the party, but world views are not something we can change. For LGBT people, the world is a different place, depending where you go. For example, the advice is often to avoid the whole of the Caribbean for the culture factor, although isolated high-end resorts might be okay if people travelling there are very discreet.
“In some countries, it’s to do with when something goes wrong and a complaint is made by a local person or someone who has taken offence. They report the incident to the police, and because of the law and religion, the person or couple end up getting arrested.”
Even within a country, attitudes can vary from state to state, and from town to countryside.
“In America, you might take a trip starting in New York and ending in California. You’ll be fine in New York and fine in California, but go to the middle of America and be yourself, and you could be in trouble,” says Wilkes.
But tolerance isn’t just down to the laws of any particular state or country. Even a change in leader can have a knock-on effect on how LGBTQ++ travellers are accepted. A report by ILGA World in December 2019 revealed the statements made by several conservative political leaders have led to the increase of homophobic and transphobic attacks.
Lucas Ramon Mendos continues: “Leaders are actually very important and their effects should not be underestimated. If high-ranking politicians are overtly hostile against sexual and gender minorities, it is very likely that this will legitimise hostile attitudes against LGBT people on the ground.”
So what can LBGTQ++ travellers do to protect themselves when travelling?
Do your research and make sure you’re prepared, advises Wilkes.
“Use multiple sources and seek advice and recommendations from friends and colleagues, especially those who are also part of the LGBT community,” he says.
“Try and understand the local culture. All travellers should keep a low profile so as not to draw attention to themselves. That might mean not holding hands in public, not wearing swimwear in public places or even walking round with a camera round their necks, looking like a tourist.
“If you don’t have experience of your destination, take extra precautions if travelling with your partner. For example, hotel staff may take offence and report you to the local authorities.
“Make your social media profiles private and consider hiding certain lifestyle or dating apps. Password-protect your devices and stop messages showing on a locked screen.
“If you’re transgender, make sure your legal identity and documentation match your gender.”
For more information, read this advice – LGBT Holidays Guide
NOTE FROM NOW:
Out of the Margins project shared their ground-breaking 2019 research on LBT+ exclusion across 21 countries based on the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals – focuses on five key issues (economic well-being, health, education, personal security and violence, and civic and political participation) and spans 21 countries in 3 world regions:
Sub-Saharan Africa (Botswana, Burundi, Lesotho, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Latin America and the Caribbean (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Jamaica, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela)
Eastern and Southeast Europe, and Central Asia (Chechnya/Russia, Kyrgyzstan, North Macedonia and Montenegro).
Living in uncertainty describes our present and future reality.
We are facing monumental challenges and threats – the undisputable climate emergencies and biodiversity crisis, environmental devastation and loss of species 1000 times their natural rate, lack of trust and widening inequality, virus pandemics and more. We can only reverse or slow the progression if we act NOW to advance sustainability* and support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and amplify our efforts to reach scale at speed.
Business is either part of the problem or part of the solution. CSR with well-meaning initiatives is no longer enough. Today, companies have an enormous responsibility to drive transformative change by mandating development, operations, products and services that deliver on rigorous sustainability expectations with accountability and transparency, and prove this transformation to customers, stakeholders and investors.
The world’s largest asset manager – BlackRock – sent a seismic wave through the business world with their recent announcement – ‘Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support’. The same ‘Or Else’ warning is expected from more investors.
Risks are everywhere and no company is immune to the loss of reputation and financial repercussions. Globally in many industries, the growing importance of sustainability is now ingrained in strategies and is seen as a key business driver and risk mitigation. Lagging behind in seriously “walking the talk” is the travel industry where the term “sustainability” was first introduced and remained voluntary since the late 80’s. In the hotel sector, some Owners and Operators committed early based on values and heart. Over the past several decades, more Hotel Owners and Operators have turned their focus to the importance of sustainability, not for the planet or based on values and heart, but for cost savings, economic incentives from governments, regulatory affairs and corporate brand image.
We believe that no leader wants people or planet to suffer because of their value chain. Yet over thirty years later, many Hotel Owners and Operators are still part of the problem by choosing to delay action, greenwashing and/or settling for easy tick-box sustainability programmes without accountability and transparency, citing the lack of budgets, staff and bandwidth as their reasons for not doing more. It is a huge concern that many today are still not accountable or transparent and are at ease to “talk the talk” on sustainability with creative PR, highlighting the greenwash and apathy towards their stakeholders (guests, staff, media, travel operators, suppliers). Most examples of greenwash can be found in the rooms whereby a hotel puts out a sign for guests to hang their towels and not change their bedsheets, but do little else to benefit the community and the environment. Building resilience and risk mitigation tends to be widely talked about in tourism circles but little understood, as evidence of how unprepared most businesses are when climate extremes hit us and the shock of Covid-19.
Hotels that choose to be part of the solution are Forces for Good. They are aspirational and better businesses because they do more than just sustain, they aim to regenerate and respect limits with sustainability at its core and help achieve the Global Goals. They raise the bar on transparency with full disclosure and commit to an accredited sustainability programme with independent audits to proveaccountability. They inspire consumer trust because they understand that to be truly sustainable, they must take total responsibility for their impacts and the travel experiences offered to guests must help solve societal and environmental problems.
Millennials are the largest group of travellers today and they are influential to all other generations and attracting them is an essential step of a hotel’s recovery plan. Many have embedded sustainability in their personal lives and use the power of their wallets to support what they value – trust, transparency and brand authenticity. One day soon, Millennials will also take-over all global leadership positions.
Sustainability with accountability and transparency is now in the global spotlight with many investors showing confidence that sustainable business practices contribute tangible bottom-line value and this shift is starting to push business leaders in taking a closer look at the inner workings of their operations and supply chain. More investors are recognizing the need for better businesses that think beyond profits and the need to contribute to society for a better world. They have no interest in supporting businesses that are part of the problem.
*itmustbeNOW.com defines sustainability as wellbeing for people and planet; and taking responsibility for a company’s total impact on communities and the environment, to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
With so much uncertainty going on right now, what we need more than ever is a big hug. Of course, that’s the opposite of social distancing so we can’t go around hugging people outside our home, but we can still feel the joy by giving a tree a big ol’ hug.
Be well and hug a tree today! Hugging a tree makes us feel better. It can help us feel calmer, grounded, more connected to Mother Nature and remind us of the interconnectedness of life: trees absorb carbon and release oxygen; we breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon. We’re perfect partners!
Even better, hug a tree and upload your picture hugging a tree (or a plant if stuck indoors) with the hashtag #hugatreenotme and #forestswithoutfrontiers. To encourage people to connect to nature and feel connected to each other, Forests Without Frontiers (FWF) started the ‘HUG A TREE NOT ME’ campaign during lockdown when we couldn’t hug each other. FWF had over 100 people posting pictures – and planted a tree for everyone who took part. FWF is still running the campaign –when you post a picture, please donate to plant a tree (£2), and FWF will match it and plant another one for free too! Donate here Start Planting Trees, Make a Donation — Forests Without Frontiers
Hug a tree for 5 minutes … breathe in the smells, feel the way the tree presses against you, feel its energy, and listen to the sounds. Some studies have suggested that forest bathing and tree-hugging might even work because of chemicals the tree emits known as phytoncides. These chemicals may have physiological effects that explain why hugging trees and immersing ourselves in nature can be beneficial for our health. Forest bathing has been found to improve memory and concentration, reduce blood pressure and lower cortisol levels. In Japan, it is known as shinrin-yoku and has been offered in the national health program since 1982; and it involves leaving behind all devices to detox from technology and mindfully spending time under the tree’s canopies. View NOW Guide to Forest Bathing.
A behavioural study show that looking at nature can brighten our mood and often inspire feelings of awe which changes our sense of self and reduces the barriers we feel between ourselves and others. It fosters altruistic behavior – showing concern for the happiness and welfare of other people rather than ourselves – and being close to nature will accentuate these effects. So let’s get up close and personal.
World Environment Day 2020 is time for nature. From the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink and the climate that makes our planet habitable, we are dependent on nature. To care for ourselves, we must care for nature. It’s time to wake up. To take notice. To raise our voices. To do more. And to do better.
NOTE FROM NOW FOUNDER
“Forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today. That does not alter the vital importance of protecting existing forests and phasing out fossil fuels since new forests would take decades to mature” said Tom Crowther, a researcher at ETH Zürich, and senior author “The Global Tree Restoration Potential Report” published in Science in July 2019 . The report found that there is enough suitable land to increase the world’s forest cover by one-third without affecting existing cities or agriculture. However, the amount of suitable land area diminishes as global temperatures rise. Even if global warming is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius, the area available for forest restoration could be reduced by a fifth by 2050 because it would be too warm for some tropical forests.
According to the World Economic Forum Covid Action Platform, natural habitats are being reduced, causing species to live in closer quarters than ever to one another and to humans. As some people opt to invade forests and wild landscapes due to business interests and others at the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum are forced to search for resources for survival, we damage the ecosystems, risking that viruses from animals find new hosts – us. Given our interconnected and ever-changing world, with air travel, wildlife marketing and a changing climate, the potential for further more serious outbreaks than Covid-19 remains significant. It is human activity – not nature – that causes pandemics.
It is also human activity that can save us. We are the solution.
Nicoleta is a UK based, Romanian artist/environmental activist with in-depth experience in Research & Development of projects, producer of documentary films including Wild Carpathia and international DJ/Music Producer under the name Nico de Transilvania. She is also a yoga teacher. Nico spent her childhood in the forests of Romania, learning how to live in harmony with the environment.
One word that describes you?
What project are you most proud of when it comes to sustainability (on profit, people and planet)?
Forests Without Frontiers (forestswithoutfrontiers.org), the project I launched in late 2018. We planted 25,000 trees in Romania in our first year alone and aim to plant one million by 2025. We use music and arts to engage with reforestation and restoring eco-systems. We want everyone to come together to work to restore nature.
Which is your favourite part of your job and which part do you enjoy the least?
My favourite part is being in nature and working with people who are similar-minded and want to help nature regenerate and keep the hope for a better future alive. The least favourite part is the logistics and paperwork!
What is your personal indulgence?
A whole weekend in deep pristine nature, with natural hot springs, and a comfortable yurt, fully disconnected from internet and e-mails.
The December 2019 UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change warned that we only have until 2028 for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Will we make it? What is your Plan B?
To stand any chance of success we all need to be working together on a global scale – with governments taking tangible action. We need to move beyond the idea of becoming carbon neutral to becoming ‘carbon positive’, working to counter the damage that’s already been done, not just negate what we’re doing going forward. There is no plan B. This is our best option, to fall back in love with nature and look after our home – Planet Earth.
If travel and tourism is a country, it would be the 4th largest emitter of carbon in the world as of 2019, contributing 8% to global emissions with 20% from the hospitality industry. Being fairly late to the game, what must happen NOW to get aviation and hotel companies to commit to rigorous sustainability with accountability and full transparency, and drastically reduce carbon emissions? (It must be now that….)
Firstly businesses and individuals must reduce how much they fly. Obviously Covid-19 has changed flying – for now – but things cannot go back to how they were. Hopefully it will be the start of a greener way to travel, with fewer flights and more considered sustainable tourism. We have an opportunity to change things – a time to pause and look at how we can improve. But it must be now that aviation becomes carbon positive – nobody should fly without planting trees or investing in other projects that have a positive impact on earth and help repair some of the damage we have done. I feel passionate that there should be no flying without doing something to counter the effects – it should be law, there should be a tax or increase in fares to fund this. And hotel and travel companies should be fully responsible for their carbon emissions and be required to have strict sustainability policies in place that can be verified.
In 2019, climate change activism sparked the support of millions, conscious people young and old, unified in their demand for governments and companies worldwide to take urgent action on climate breakdown, biodiversity loss, and the risk of social and ecological collapse. If you could have one hour with a world leader, who would it be and what would you say to support climate action NOW?
Instead of trying to battle with Trump, I’d choose Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand to see how we could work together. Her new bill with serious commitments to zero carbon emissions by 2050 is encouraging to see – although we need to act faster. We need to take the opportunity we have now to build back better – so I would discuss how we can use the pause the corona pandemic has given the world to move forward in a better way. We need a new normal that puts the planet first.
What would you say to those who do little to nothing for the good of communities and the environment?
They need to wake up. We are all interconnected – people and planet – and it’s time they played a role in supporting the planet they live on. I’d ask them to visualise that every time they breathe in they inhale the oxygen being produced by trees and plants – every time they exhale the trees and plants absorb CO2. We wouldn’t survive without this symbiotic relationship and we need to nurture it. We need to support communities that are more vulnerable – particularly in a tourism context, where we are visitors, we need to give back, not keep taking.
How can we build a more stable and just world after the Covid-19 crisis?
We need to reconnect to nature and remember that we are part of nature. We need to help local communities regenerate and look after the more vulnerable sectors of our societies. The pandemic has shown us how fragile we are and how connected the world is too and we need to work together to build back better. The world cannot go back to ‘normal’, companies cannot carry on the way they were before. All companies need to contribute a percentage of profits to support the environment and local communities. We have to take this chance to evolve.
What are you, your family and/or your company doing to reduce and offset your carbon footprint and inspire others to do the same? Are you all walking-the-talk?
Well, I’ve set up Forests Without Frontiers to help do this. I try and live my life conscientiously, taking account of the environmental impact of my actions wherever possible. I only buy local organic food, I don’t own a car, I use public transport as much as possible and I don’t really go on holidays abroad unless I combine them with work as well. So I would like to think that I am walking the talk.
What is your personal favourite place to stay that’s trying hard to be accountable and transparent around sustainability with no greenwash allowed?
Swasti Eco Cottages (www.baliswasti.com) in Bali is a beautiful nature haven consciously developed in harmony with the environment. They grow their own food, recycle, use natural soap and everything is made from local, sustainably sourced materials. Amfiteatrul (www.amfiteatrul.ro) is an eco-lodge in Transylvania with a strong sustainability ethos and a breathtaking view of the Carpathian mountains.
Who is your greatest influence?
My grandma Rozalia. She was self-sufficient and lived in harmony with the environment in a house right by the forest. I’ve a learned a lot from her about living with the seasons, and that there is a cure for everything in nature. Her attitude to life in very hard political times was truly inspiring, always positive and generous with everything she had, ending up adopting seven more children on top of her own 10.
Best advice you’ve been given?
My mum taught me that even when things are challenging we can always find solutions… and to take one day at a time. And I am huge fan of the poet Rumi’s work, I take so much inspiration from his poems and quotes, such as: “As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.”
Your best advice to the young generations concerned about their future?
Remain hopeful. There is always something we can do. Work together and focus on what is good rather than becoming paralysed and disheartened – there are amazing people out there doing incredible things. You can’t change people, but you can change yourself. Always give your best, and treat yourself with love and respect, so that you can treat the others the same.
I don’t regret things, I see everything as a lesson – although I do wish I’d taught my 16-year-old son, who has grown up in England, to speak Romanian fluently. But there is still time!
Until a COVID-19 cure is found, developed and available worldwide to protect travellers, we will live in uncertain times. It does not mean people will stop travelling but it does mean that many will change the way they travel. Once the stay-at-home orders expire, studies show that there is a greater willingness among young people to gather in smaller numbers closer to home – and a reluctance to immediately resume former leisure activities that involve distance and large crowds.
According to the New York Post, millennials are expected to be the first to start travelling once the restrictions are relaxed to take advantage of the crazy low prices right now. It’s a matter of fun – and affordability – over fear. They are worried about the outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic, but most show no fear of the virus knowing they are in the low risk category.
Millennials are the largest group of travellers today and attracting them is an essential step of a hotel’s recovery plan.
Born between 1981 and 1996, millennials make up the largest portion of the world population with children born in the shadow of growing global climatic catastrophe. Most are conscious at all levels and prefer to support, invest in and work for companies with ethical business practices and take responsibility of their impact on communities and the environment with transparency.
Tech savvy, curious and independent, they are raised in a networked world and are the most open-minded and ethnically diverse generation. Not shy about supporting diversity and inclusion at all levels of life, they develop friendships with people across all races, ethnicities and genders, and they fight for equality and human rights.
Social and spiritual awareness encourage them to conserve the environment for future generations. 79% of millennial employees are loyal to companies that care about their effect on society. They believe that corporate social responsibility is key to alleviating poverty and improving life outcomes. Most are trying to make the world a better place by pushing for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Millennial travelers prefer authentic and experiential travel experience that connect them with people and nature in the destination. These are activity-based travel focused on cultural/educational, culinary, voluntourism, and adventure tourism.
Hotels and tourism companies with integrity and a commitment to sustainability with accountability and transparency plus support SDGs will be their preferred choice. Millennials value authenticity over hyped messages of perfection and greenwash marketing. Initiatives should be tech-savvy, adopt technologies and personalized messaging to simply communicate deals and offers, and the extra mile focus on coronavirus protection that promote health, wellbeing and sustainability for people and planet. Communicate this early, often and openly.