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Environmental Studies and Tourism - Group 3
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Group - 3: Moa-Lee Fast, Ida Selemo, Frederick Duodu, Luis Tipula
The environment, both natural and physical, is highly imperative for tourism, and tourism activities without a doubt wholly depends on the environment in order to be able to thrive as a competent industry worldwide. Due to the tourism industry’s tremendous reliance on the environment, it is a necessity to indulge in more study and research that is centred on the conservation of the environment and the preservation of its natural resources.
Environmental studies emanated as an academic study as a result of an awareness that human action was impacting the environment densely which was causing instability for the environment with various environmental threats; pollution, global warming, biodiversity loss, ozone depletion and so on (Holden, 2005). In relating to the history of tourism’s relationship with the environment, the sustenance of the environment is one that is very indispensable to the tourism industry though the connection between the two is eminently complicated.
In the 1960’s, the tourism industry drew less attention as both scientific and media interests heightened about the effects of human activity on the environment and the only mention of tourism around that time was in the circumstances of a ‘smokeless industry’ (Holden, 2005). The ‘smokeless industry’ was appreciated by viewing the tourism industry in an eco-friendlier manner in terms of acknowledging mountainous regions, wildlife conservations etcetera. Even though there was an appraisal of the tourism industry being perceived a smokeless industry, it still raised some criticism from critics who mentioned that viewing the tourism sector from a wholly ecologic point of view is highly detrimental for the growth and development that the tourism industry attracts (Holden, 2005). The relationship between tourism and the environment is undoubtedly reciprocated and not narrow in a sense that tourism relies on the environment as it uses its natural resources which can have a positive or negative impact on the environment. However, in the same way, while the tourism industry may affect the environment, altercation in the environment may also affect or influence the tourism industry (Holden, 2005). Tourism and the environment have a complex relationship and several activities like the airports, roads and tourism facilities including resorts, theme parks, hoteliers and so on can bring about adverse environmental issues. Furthermore, not only does the tourism industry affect the environment in a negative way but also some positive impacts evolve as tourism seeks to contribute to environmental protection and conservation (UNWTO, 2013).
Negative Environmental Impacts of Tourism
The tourism industry’s negative impacts mostly take place when the environment or the destination is unable to cope with tourism activities as well as human activities. The relationship between tourism and the environment is determined by the carrying capacity of the resource, and the environment eventually becomes strained when the human activity on the environment exceeds its capabilities, in other words, when too much pressure is exerted on both land and resource use (Cooper, 2012).
Strain of Natural Resources
The overuse of strain of natural resources is a primary concern when relating to the impacts of tourism. When tourism is totally dependent on the environment, there arises the problem where the tourism sector puts pressure on natural resources and ecosystems.
Water resources: water resources, for example, rivers, lakes and specifically clean water are very important natural resources but over the past decade the tourism industry has overused these resources in hotels, for swimming pools, for watering gardens etcetera. It has become evident that in regions where there is scarcity of water even for the local people, tourism activities and tourists always had provision of water (http://unep.org). An average golf course in a tropical country such as Thailand needs 1500kg of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides per year and uses as much water as 60,000 rural villagers (http://tourismconcern.org.uk). Another example can be identified by the overuse of coral reefs for tourism purposes in places like Australia, Philippines and India.
Land resources: Land resources can also be highly affected by the activities of the tourism industry. Essential land resources include productive land for agriculture, minerals, forests and wildlife are all threatened when there is increase in construction of tourism facilities such us hotels, roads, bridges as well as recreational facilities (http://unep.org). Tourism activities also affect land resources in sensitive such us when flora, which is natural plant life occurring in naturally in a region comes under pressure due to certain tourism activities such as trampling and camping. Fauna, which is also animal life is strained as tourism has an intentional negative impact through activities such as hunting tourism, poaching and so on (Cooper, 2012). Tourism can also place massive pressure on local agricultural resources such as food and raw materials.
In addition to the over usage of the environment’s natural resources, another negative environmental impact of the tourism industry is pollution. Pollution can be in many forms such as noise, air, water and land pollution and tourism activities produces this in different ways.
Water Pollution: Water pollution is a leading negative effect that the tourism sector brings to the ocean's coral reefs as a result of untreated sewage being exhausted into these reefs, and this water pollution leads to a larger pollution scale than just that of the coral reefs. Water pollution caused by the impacts of the tourism industry can also lead to health problems with humans, from shallow stomach infections to more serious ones such as typhoid. Human use of motorboat, littering of garbage, and grey water affects the water negatively (Holden, 2005). Sewage or wastewater has contaminated seas and rivers that surround tourist’s attractions destroying the marine life that exist in these waters. Water pollution can threaten both human and animal life.
Air Pollution: Air pollution is another negative impact of the tourism industry on the environment. The increase demand for transport and other modes of travelling is the main reason for the hike in air pollution. Aircraft traffic has increased every year around 5% to 6% in the last 50 years and as there is a heightened demand for cheap airline travel, air pollution keeps increasing (Holden, 2005). A major aftermath of the increase in air transport is that the tourism industry now accounts for more than 60% of air travel and is therefore responsible for a significant share of air emissions. Air pollution also contributes to global warming as transport emissions from aircrafts and automobiles causes normal temperatures to change. A study estimated that a single transatlantic return flight emits almost half the CO2 emissions produced by all other sources (lighting, heating, car use, etc.) consumed by an average person yearly. (Mayer, 1996).
Noise Pollution: Noise pollution, another form of pollution may cause a stress factor in humans. This also applies to the noise from for example nightclubs and pubs. Traffic congestion and open touristic markets can all contribute to noise pollution. Noise does not only cause stress and perhaps loss of hearing but also noise from airplanes, cars and snowmobiles causes discomfort to wildlife and prevent certain natural activities from taking place.
Apart from the above mentioned, pollution and the exhaustion of resources creates an imbalance in ecology and also threatens the tourism destination’s attractiveness (Holden, 2005).
Solid waste and littering
The problem of solid waste and littering is mostly found in areas where there is a high concentration of tourist activities or if the destination is an attractive and appealing destination. Therefore, when solid waste is not disposed properly, it becomes a crucial problem as it pollutes the waters and gutters which can cause flooding when it rains. A good example is cruise ships in the Caribbean have been estimated to produce 70,000 tons or more of waste each year and solid waste and littering can deteriorate the physical appearance of the water and shoreline and damage or destroy marine animals (UNEP, 1997).
Positive Environmental Impacts of Tourism
The positive environmental impacts of tourism are controversial as there is difficulty in accepting how any human activity on the environment can develop into an advantage. Due to this, in considering the positive environmental impacts, we tend to relate tourism as a way of safeguarding the natural environment from development activity like mining or logging that possibly harm the environment (Holden, 2005).
Conservation: One major positive environmental impact that tourism brings to the environment is that it promotes the preservation of historic monuments, marine reserves, national parks, archaeological sites as well as the conservation of wildlife (Cooper, 2012). The tourism industry promotes the conservation of wildlife and natural resources as it protects and maintains these sites so that they can last longer and not deteriorate or become extinct in the case of wildlife.
Environmental Education: Environmental awareness or education is another positive environmental impact of the tourism industry. Tourism stimulates an awareness to sustain and protect the natural resources and wildlife. Tourism raises an understanding of the values of the environment in many protected regions and sites of historic interests (Cooper, 2012). Tourism becomes a mode where people can learn to appreciate the environment and its natural resources as well as wildlife. There have been cases where school trips have been organised to forest reserves and animal life reserves to educate people about the need to be able to protect the environment.
Built Environment: Another significant positive environmental impact of the tourism industry is the built environment. This is where buildings and landscapes are mainly designed for tourism and pleasure but also mainly to preserve gardens and so on. For example, the tourism industry provides capital to be able to maintain and manage coastal resorts, historic landscapes and so on. An example of this is the historic landscaped gardens of the United Kingdom (Cooper, 2012).
The relationship between the environment and the tourism industry must correspond to each other in in a way that pressure is not exerted on the environment as well as the tourism industry. And this is where the theory of sustainability comes into play. The sustainability theory is more concerned about people, the richness of the environment and conservation of natural resources and ecosystems in the tourism industry. Alternative and sustainable development adjoins human development with the maintenance of natural resources; this is known as sustainable development. This theory addresses the issues of environmental degradation and how to preserve and relief the environment from the negative impacts of industrialisation in the tourism industry. The definition of sustainable development has had many spheres but one that was confounded is that Sustainable Development is development that meets the current needs without compromising the future generations’ ability to meet their own needs. Sustainability reiterates the need for a genuine concern for the environment and the conservation and preservation of earth’s natural resources and though its goals tend to be in conflict with each other, it has a collective and understanding approach as to how the environment should be kept preserved in order to allow the future generations to be able to produce what they need (Holden, 2005)
The tourism sector depends on the environment heavily to be able to survive, and while there is the need for development in the industry, more attention should be placed on the environment and the natural resources as well as wildlife. Since the tourism industry mainly relies on the natural resources, more steps should be taken in order to safeguard the environment from any physical deterioration or harm. Measures should be taken to limit carbon emissions from airplanes and eco-friendlier awareness should be made in the tourism industry to help protect the environment.
Holden, A. (2005). Tourism studies and the social sciences. London: Routledg
Cooper, C. (2012). Essentials of tourism. Harlow, England: Pearson
Mayer Hillman, Town & Country Planning magazine, September 1996. Source: MFOE
World Tourism Organization (2013), UNWTO Annual Report 2013, UNWTO: Madrid
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