Give Earth a Break: Eco-tourism is the Way Forward

By: Andrew Regan

It's only natural to be shocked by the latest findings of climate scientists at the Centre for Alternative Technology and elsewhere, as we gradually start to understand the impact that our privileged lifestyles have upon the planet and its people.

Disturbing predictions include doomsday situations such as rising sea levels, flooding, chaotic and destructive severe weather causing crop failures and the spread of water-borne diseases, and skin cancers from heightened UV exposure. Such nightmarish scenarios are all too likely to become reality, within our lifetimes, if our energy consumption and pollutant emissions are not seriously curbed.

The aviation industry is the fastest-growing source of climate-changing 'greenhouse gases', and Britain is responsible for more emissions from air travel per head than any other country. We love to travel, but with these facts in mind, it's becoming difficult to imagine jetting off on a 'well-earned' foreign holiday without serious cause for concern. However, the growing industry of ethical and ecologically sustainable tourism offers diverse, exciting, adventurous holidays which can minimise impact or even benefit the environment rather than wasting resources and causing harm. Guided walking and cycling tours, for instance, are a great way to see stunning landscapes and learn more about wildlife and plants whilst contributing to the local economy in a responsible, non-exploitative industry.

Solar-powered, self-sufficient B&Bs are springing up in dreamy destinations like Portugal and Normandy. If you're looking for something more adventurous, how about cross-country skiing in Norway, dog-sledding in Finland or sea kayaking and diving off Croatia? There are hundreds of inspiring destinations in Europe which can be easily reached by Eurostar and train or sea. A night in a cabin on a ferry crossing to Scandinavia, or on one of the luxurious 'trainhotels' which cover France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland and beyond, can be an exciting, fun experience bringing back some of the traditional romance of travel. Longer-haul overland travel affords unique opportunities to see the world - if you've got a backpack and a tent, you're free to stop off and linger anywhere you please along the way. And anywhere really could be anywhere: there's even an 'adventure travel company' offering a 12-week overland voyage through 20 countries, from London to Sydney, Australia!

For the serious ethical traveller, voluntary conservation projects in beautiful locations, such as Iceland's National Parks, offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to enjoy and learn about these amazing landscapes while making a real, positive difference for their future.

Eco-tourism and responsible, sustainable living is not necessarily expensive, either; you may actually be pleasantly surprised by the low financial cost of living at a low environmental impact. Consider a cheap and cheerful InterRail pass for total freedom to travel by train, either within one country or the whole of Europe, when compared to the prices of destructive short-haul flights (not to mention getting to and from provincial airports). Still, like any holiday, getting everything booked at once may mean taking a painful bite out of your cashflow, in which case manageable loans could help to spread the cost of your unique adventures. Once you've started to explore, you might just find yourself hooked on the feel-good thrills of travelling off the beaten track.

Travel and Leisure
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