Saving the environment one trip at a time


Over the past week, my dad and I have braved the relentless southern heat and explored a local national park. Just 15 minutes from our house, it’s strange that in the middle of such a busy residential area is a refuge for a variety of flora and fauna, and about 10 miles of hiking trails. We tend to change course every day to keep things interesting, but what stays the same is how many people have the same idea as us. Whether it’s 7 a.m. or 3 p.m., the crowds always arrive, no matter the temperature.

There are nearly 7,000 state parks and 423 national parks located in the United States. Both are active tourist attractions and vacation destinations – last year 4.5 million people visited Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park. Families and individual travelers visit national parks from across the country and abroad, all with a desire to enjoy the beauty and vastness of these federally protected areas. As an admirer of the sights and adventure offered by national parks from coast to coast, I hope to tick each one off my to-do list. But, for each of us to continue to do so, we need to take care of them so that future generations can enjoy the joys our planet has to offer.

As climate change ravages the planet, many politicians, activists and ordinary people wonder how we can continue to enjoy nature’s beauty while protecting it from further irreversible damage. The National Park Service has developed a “holistic approach” to addressing the various impacts of climate change in its parks, with ideas ranging from policy advocacy to scenario planning. When it comes to individual action, it feels like even the smallest efforts make little or no difference – things like using paper straws don’t have enough of an impact to mitigate climate change. Most of the work falls to big business, starting with taking ownership of how they have contributed to global warming, species extinction and the disappearance of an undisturbed environment.

We too have contributed to the damage caused to the environment, especially when we visit these magnificent national parks. Carbon-emitting traffic jams and increased human waste from campers are just two examples of the impact an increase in tourism has had on these conservation spots. When it comes to travel, we need to find a way to be more mindful and environmentally conscious so we can have fun while paying attention to nature’s needs. The best way to achieve this is to respect the rules of ecotourism.

Ecotourism was popularized in the mid-twentieth century as tourism rates and environmental advocacy rose alongside it. The principles of ecotourism emphasize the importance of sustainability and conservation when we travel. Actions endorsed by ecotourists include raising cultural awareness, minimizing the environmental impact of visitors, creating park facilities with low environmental impact, and introducing financial benefits that encourage biodiversity preservation. If we are to continue to enjoy the beauties of the Earth, we must take note of these concepts and apply them to how we build and treat our national parks.

There are other ways to change our traditional travel routines, including where we’re going and how we get there. Staying close to home and avoiding the convenience of air travel when we travel farther afield are the two most important ways to reduce our carbon footprint when we travel. What we do on our holidays also influences the environment – reducing our rate of eating and drinking also has a positive impact on local natural conditions. In order to travel in the most sustainable way, we need to pay attention to where we go, how we travel, and how every movement and purchase we make can positively or negatively affect the environment around us.

Engaging in sustainable travel like ecotourism has a wide variety of climate change mitigation effects. Its principles enable increased cultural literacy around the important relationship humans have with nature, release environmental pressures to sustain themselves, and provide a wide range of services that increase awareness, employment opportunities and standard of living. Yet not all of the consequences of travel are erased by applying ecotourism concepts – choosing nearby holiday destinations can still harm the environment, and there is no perfectly eco-friendly outdoor excursion. the environment. No matter how hard we try, every step we take has an almost irreversible impact on the environment.

To be an ecotourist, you must be fully committed to the cause. This means a commitment to protecting locals from the environment, supporting local and indigenous communities, and educating visitors about the impact of their journey. Taking trips to national parks or exploring different countries and their environmental offerings should be rewarding – travel is an educational and emotional endeavor that makes us happier and well-educated. To get the most out of these trips and allow future generations to have similar experiences, we must treat the environment we enjoy so much with respect. Following the principles of ecotourism is essential in our efforts to reduce the impacts of humans and climate change on the environment and to restore the health of nature and its inhabitants. Being better tourists is the least we can do for our Earth.

Lindsey Spencer is a Opinion Columnist and can be reached at [email protected].


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