Year end is a good time to take a pause for thought and to take a deep look at ourselves, our actions and inactions.
The year 2018 was the world’s fourth warmest year on record after the years 2015, 2016 and 2017. 2019 is set to follow this trend. Of the 18 warmest years on record, 17 have occurred since 2000 according to the European Environmental Agency.
People who are conscious of the spiraling impact of a warming planet are increasingly anxious and feel grief. Acknowledging fears, talking about the issues and taking positive action with like-minded people can help many cope. The millions who joined the Friday Strike for Climate and Extinction Rebellion sparked a global movement as students flooded the streets to demonstrate for climate action and demand carbon neutrality by 2025. They are supported by their circle of influence from all generations. These are the conscious travellers today.
When it comes to driving climate solutions, urgent action accelerated in many industries to be in line with the Paris Climate Agreement in the last few years. But for the travel industry which is responsible for emitting one tenth of the world’s carbon emissions, ‘slow’ is the general speed when it comes to carbon mitigation, full transparency and support of the 17 global goals.
According to a recent Guardian analysis, taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year. 2019 is forecast to be another record-breaking year for air travel, with passengers expected to fly a total of 8.1tn km, up 5% from last year and more than 300% since 1990. Read More.
Tourism is often cited as being the most important employer in tourism destinations and, therefore, a force for good. We agree with this, but there is also an irresponsible side to travel which put people’s livelihoods, their environment and their living culture last. NOW support Responsible Travel as they called to account issues from canned hunting to highly polluting cruises, exploiting children to captive animals, and employers who pays below a living wage or offers unreasonable employment conditions, imports people and services rather than sourcing them locally. There are many issues around irresponsible travel that we can’t skirt around anymore, and the most urgent and often ignored issue in the last few decades is the rising carbon emissions in the industry.
For years, most of us have become keenly aware that carbon emissions are accumulating in the Earth’s atmosphere. These increased carbon emissions are causing global temperatures to rise and are changing the climate of our planet. Most conscious travellers have an internal radar that can detect greenwash and are turned-off by the hyped green messages from airlines, cruise liners, travel operators and hotels (large and small, chains as well as independents) that are doing the bare minimum in order to claim that they have become more sustainable and reducing their carbon emissions. Enough is enough!
Travel editors and journalists need to call-out the cause of growing carbon emissions in the travel industry as ‘irresponsible travel’, connect the dots to climate emergencies and the biodiversity crisis, and expose the greenwash. We believe that many are conscious and care deeply about these issues, but most travel writing is rarely independent since most are influenced by advertising from the travel industry which fund most travel media and complimentary trips for journalists.
There has been a disconnect between reality and what we read and see in travel publications and in the news in the last decade. At this most urgent of times, all who uphold journalism have a responsibility to report the truth, be inherently unbiased, research all information shared by their sources and call-out the greenwash. There is a change of climate in the media as activism, science and politics push the biodiversity crisis up the news agenda. The global news media are, after decades of looking the other way for similar reasons, are finally starting to connect the dots to what scientists have long called an emergency – climate change. When will travel editors and journalists step up as well? Will 2020 be the year when travel editors and journalists become part of the climate solution, call-out the green-washers and the greenwash and companies that do not reduce and mitigating their carbon emissions as irresponsible travel ?
Those who write about sustainability as ‘a buzzword’ or ‘a trend’ fail to understand the lifetime commitment, depth and rigour this solution requires. As we end 2019 and start a new year, Dr. Susanne Becken’s thoughts on carbon offsetting as a bandaid that gains us time and the future of travel comes to mind and will empower NOW in the years ahead. ‘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.’
To ignite bolder action, we need conscious media, influencers and travellers to call-out irresponsible travel, greenwash and use the power of their wallet to only support hotels/resorts/retreats, airlines, cruise liners and tourism operators that takes responsibility for their total impact on communities and the environment, support the 17 global goals and be carbon neutral before 2030.
It must be NOW!