Ecotourism is a fantastic way to combine luxury and environmental awareness. Ecolodges are quickly gaining momentum as a popular vacation choice and as a result they are now popping up all over the world. This is great, in theory. More ecolodges should mean better environmental awareness and more preservation of land and species. But is ecotourism truly sustainable?
What, Exactly is Environmental Sustainability?
Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time.
In layman's terms, this simply means keeping our wilderness as is, and decreasCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cerro_Mbatovi.jpging or stopping human impact all together.So how does does ecotourism relate to sustainability? Well ecotourism focuses on bringing sustainable or "green" practices into the tourism industry. This means recycling and reusing materials for the construction of hotels and lodges, composting organic material, using solar and wind energy for electricity and possibly collecting rain water for cleaning. Therefor the ecolodges that utilize these practices reduce the impact of tourism on the environment and build environmental awareness in the process.
The Negatives of Ecotourism
As with most things. Ecotourism is a debatable subject. Many people say that despite their efforts, ecolodges and ecotourists are still having a negative effect on the environment. And we humans would be better off removing ourselves from the untouched wilderness altogether. Others say it is a good model, but does not reach enough people. Many ecolodges are very expensive, and therefore out of reach for the average person. This, however, is not always the case.
With ecotourism this is always a danger of civil or political wars endangering their efforts, therefore it is not a 100% guaranteed method of environmental protection.
Then there are those who would take advantage of the rise in ecotourism, claiming to be "ecofriendly" but actually only looking to make money and doing the environment more harm then good. Of course even if and ecolodge is what it claims, the rush of tourism it receives could force expansion and we would once again end up harming our environment.
The Positives of Ecotourism
The positive side of ecotourism is of course, much brighter. The fact is, ecolodges DO reduce the impact of tourism on the environment. They save electricity, reduce pollution, protect forests and help to prevent species endangerment or extinction. Though as long as there are still other resorts about offering their services, not much headway can be made.
Ecotourism also brings employment opportunities to impoverished areas of countries.
Ecotourism also brings in income to support and protect land, preventing future harmful development, and preserving what little natural wilderness we haveCredit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ecotourism_Svalbard-WB.jpg left. Many ecolodges are placed on national parks or reserves. Their being there insures the protection of the land for future generations.
Perhaps the most important positive effect of ecotourism however, is awareness. People visit these ecolodges, witness the pristine, untouched environment first hand, and then understand why it's important why we work to protect it. Some ecolodges even offer insight into their construction, how they are environmentally friendly and what we can do as individuals to bring these practices into effect in our own communities. This awareness spreads and the idea is, eventually we as a human race are finally working together to protect our fragile environment. A big dream, but not a hopeless one.
Do I think ecotourism is a sustainable practice? Yes, I do. People will not stop exploring the unexplored places of earth. It's just our nature. Ecotourism just helps us to remove the negative effects of such exploration.If it is used correctly, ecotourism can greatly reduce human impact on the environment, it can raise awareness about environmental issues and offer very real solutions to global problems.