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Environmental Studies and Tourism (Group 9: Adam, Lukas, Rohan and Toby)

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    Environmental Studies and Tourism

    Group 9:

    Adam, Lukas, Rohan and Toby





         The academic discipline of environmental studies, within the tourism field, is multidisciplinary, as the effects upon the environment can be both negative and positive. The environment often acts as an attraction and thus enhances the interaction between tourists and the physical environment (Holden, 2006). Nelissen ET AL. (1997 cited in Holden, 2006) define environmental studies as the academic field focusing on the impacts in the relationship between man, both individually and as a society, and the natural environment. In the following article both positive and negative impacts on the environment, through tourism, will be discussed.


    Historical Environmental Issues and Countermeasures


         Many researchers focused on the natural variation in the climate, as was seen in the 150-year little Ice Age or in other drastic changes in weather and climate. Debates on whether climate changes are natural or through the human interaction with the environment have emerged. However, some researchers state that humans impact on climate change and the recognition of human impacts on climate are important (Carey and Garone, 2014). Hodgson (1996 cited in Holden, 2006) points out that first public awareness of negative effects on the environment emerged in the 1950s, as chemicals were disposed at the Japanese coastal line, which led to an increase in illnesses in Japan. However, in the 1950s, pollution, such as smoke from factories, were seen as a breakthrough, from an industrial point of view (Hodgson, 1996 cited in Holden, 2006). The 1960s were an important era for environmental studies, as an academic field, and the public awareness of impacts on the environment, through human behaviour. With the publication of Rachel Carson’s book, on environmental concerns, ‘Silent Spring’ in 1962, the public gained an understanding on how the exploitation of resources effects the nature. Environmental impacts, through human interaction with the environment, as a scientific field of research emerged in the 1960s.  Through the research in environmental studies, issues, such as global warming and the ozone depletion, were recognised as consequences of human behaviour, yet no solution was provided. However, tourism was not commonly seen as a threat, due to the lack of primary pollution at hotels and attractions (Holden, 2006).


           The spacecraft ‘Apollo 8’ captured pictures of earth from space in 1968, which led to the realisation of all resources being limited. Although the awareness about the impacts on nature increased in the early 1960s, in this decade nature became the victim of two major oil spills in 1967.  After the increase in the possession of cars in the western world, societies were increasingly dependent on oil. Two oil spills occurred in 1967 releasing millions of tonnes of oil into the water near the coast of California. Another oil spill, releasing 120.000 tonnes of oil, occurred near the English coast (Holden, 2006). In Europe toxins were found in the River Rhine in 1969, infecting fish and drinking water for millions of people (Dalton, 1993 cited in Holden, 2006). Due to the increase in public concern, in 1970 nearly 20 million U.S. americans demonstrated to express their concern, which is known as the ‘Earth Day’. Furthermore, in the early 1970s NGOs, such as Greenpeace, emerged as a sign of the public reacting to the environmental issues (Holden, 2006). Spowers (2002 cited in Holden, 2006) points out that the high level of pressure put on politicians, by the public, led to a conference in Stockholm, which was run by the UN in 1972. In the late 1970s issues emerged as nuclear power plants were increasingly seen as a threat to nature. Tourism experienced criticism, as tourism as an activity became increasingly common in the western world. Researches were made and negative effects were observed (Holden, 2006). In the 1980s the carbon emissions increasingly gained public concern, as people became aware of the illnesses, such as skin cancer, which can be caused, by the ozone layer depletion. After the disaster of Chernobyl, in 1986, the pressure on the leaders of the countries increased, leading the ‘European Year of the Environment’ in 1988, which aim was to raise awareness on how resources should be used and to reduce exploitation of recourse. Due to the increase in mass tourism in the 1980s, tourism was seen as a factor for economic growth, but also raising awareness by NGOs (Holden, 2006). 


           In 1992 a conference, known as the ‘Earth Summit’, was held in Rio de Janeiro in which representatives of 140 countries were present. This event was not only followed by two more ‘Earth Summits’ in 1997 and 2002, but also led to a separate meeting by 20.000 representatives of NGOs, discussing the same matter. Although these conferences have faced criticism, plans and guidelines, f. ex. Agenda 21, emerged on goals, such as the reduction of carbon emissions. In 1997, the ‘Kyoto Protocol’ emerged, as an agreement of the Nations that participate to try to control global warming. In the 1990s tourism facilities were attacked, as a sign of concern. Ski facilities were burned down, leading to the tourism industry recognising the pressure and importance of environmental protection. Hotels and other tourism facilities began to raise public awareness and educate the tourists, but NGOs outside the tourism industry got involved, in order to protect nature (Holden, 2006).




    Tourism and the environment – A two way relationship


          Tourism has a special relationship with the physical environment of a region. On the positive side, natural resources and attractions are the main reason of attracting tourists to a specific region. It can thus help the local economics for development. On the negative side, it can be detrimental to the environment by bringing forth changes due to human involvement. Study of environment and especially non-human surroundings is of special interest recently due to growing awareness and concern on topics such as global warming, depletion of ozone layer, impact on biodiversity and increasing levels of pollution. Environmental studies has been defined as per Nelissen et al. (1997:13) as the interdisciplinary field that studies various problems in relationship between man, society and its environment. Scientific progress for instance the use of fertilizers has been often criticized to be resulting in ecological damage. Various studies have shown that human progress has come at the cost of environment. Reckless use of resources in the name of development has often been questioned by a number of studies. Green politicians have often objected to building of roads and infrastructure. There is growing awareness in the society due to the work of various NGO’s on the environmental issues.


           Tourism is often perceived as “smokeless industry” with imagery as of exotic beaches and mountain areas. This imagery is not accepted by a possible ecological imbalance caused in a certain region for instance (Milne, 1988) studies the environment in Tahiti Islands in the Pacific Ocean. A number of small towns have been reported to be mutilated due to reckless hotel buildings and development of real estate. In 1970’s Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) observed various negative impacts of tourism such as loss of landscape, increasing pollution and destruction of local plants and animals. Local pressure groups such as Goa Foundation have realized the negative impact of tourism on physical and cultural environment and opposed tourism due to unavailability of essential resources to the local population. On an extreme side, development of tourism projects has been often attacked by local people such as “eco-warriors” in Sri Lanka. In 1990’s tourism industry has responded positively to decrease the negative effects on environment and working on various concepts such as Eco-tourism, green tourism and sustainable tourism.


           Tourism and environment are interdependent. As tourism intends to use local resources, it is bound to have an impact on the environment. On the other hand, if the impacts of environment are not controlled, it could jeopardise tourism in the region. Climate change is a classic example of this kind of interdependency. Hardin (1968) presented a theory based on ‘Tragedy of the Commons’ to show that the resources and ecosystem is pressurized from incremental addition of hotels and not by a few hotels. Tourism seems to rely on ‘common pool resources’ (CPR’s) such as seas, beaches and mountains. Overuse of CPR’s can create pressure on the environment. Coral reef is a classic example on how it has been impacted by Tourism. In the mountain areas, tourism has produced a positive impact on economic development but it has affected the sensitive eco system due to demands of Winter sports industry. Depletion of resources and increase of pollution have a direct impact on decreasing attraction of a tourist destination.  


           Environmental attitudes in a society can play a positive role in conservation of resources such as in wildlife tourism which has transformed from the destructive hunting to the non-obtrusive safari and creation of protected areas for the wild life. An ethical use of natural resources through intervention of individual participation has been emphasised by Norwegian environment philosopher Aerne Naess (1973). He has described deeper connection between nature and humanity which can be brought forward by individual participation. Various stakeholders have realized the importance of environment and created various instruments in their organizations such as code of conduct and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to guide the tourist behaviour in line with the environmental responsibility.





         Pollution is the process by which contaminants that can cause adverse change are introduced into the environment ( Pollution can take different forms within chemicals and energy and could be split into noise, air, water and aesthetics pollution. Pollution is a large byproduct of tourism and is nearly completely unavoidable, and tourists contribute to all types of pollution, and while pollution can be controlled to a small extent, negative impacts can occur when there are too many visitors for the environment to be able to cope with within the “acceptable limit of change” ( Water pollution can be a large problem, Hotels and recreation use vast amounts of fresh water and create vast amounts of waste which often leads to increasing water pollution through sewage. This waste water can damage ecosystems and devastate lakes and seas and important sites such as coral reefs, Sewage can also indirectly damage flora and fauna through pollution of water, not only is water pollution bad for the environment which many countries rely on for tourism, it can also badly affect human and animal health, which can be a large factor in putting off potential tourists.


           Tourism causes large air and noise pollution, and the rising number of tourists as well as the ease of international travel is making this problem worse, there was 80 million air travellers in 1972 and in 1994 there was 344 million (ICAO, cited in and tourists now account for more than 60 percent of all air travel ( All modes of transport are associated with air pollution with CO2 and are directly contributing to the greenhouse effect and to various other issues such as acid rain, air pollution is another factor which can push away tourists and damage a destination's reputation. Noise pollution is also a problem in a growing world where vehicles are easily available, since tourists nearly always require vehicles, noise pollution is nearly always present, it can cause stress or annoyance to humans, and can frighten and affect wild animals, often affecting their behaviour in their natural habitat.


           Another form of tourism, which is quite different to the other forms is aesthetics pollution, also known as visual pollution, which is when new structures fail to integrate with the natural surroundings and perhaps historical structures, this often happens when new tourist related structures such as hotels are built, and often have a new modern look which does not fit in with the historical ambience, the more tourists, the more structures go up and potentially more damage, in addition to the waste from these structures, they can also ruin natural sites such as coastlines. It must be noted that new structures and greater tourist presence can have a large effect on the landscape, damaging the integrity of destinations such as beaches and mountain sides and threatening eco systems.



    Reference list:


    1. Carey M., Garone P. (2014) Forum: Climate Change and Environmental History, Forum Introduction, Volume 19, Issue 2 (pp. 281-364), DOI: 10.1093/envhis/emu004


    2. Holden, A. (2006) Tourism Studies and the Social Sciences, Oxon: Roudledge


    3.,  Retrieved 2015-10-29 from


    4., Tourisms three main impact areas  Retrieved 2015-10-29 from


    5. ICAO, cited in, Tourisms three main impact areas  Retrieved 2015-10-29 from


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