Back in the mid-nineties Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), a UK charity, asked its volunteers working in developing countries around the world about the most significant issue confronting people in the communities they were working in. Tourism came top of the list, a year or two later it would have been AIDS. VSO decided to campaign for ethical tourism, and I was asked to join them.
Travelling raises many ethical questions about where and how you travel and about the impacts you have while travelling. As Jost Krippendorf reminded us in his seminal text on the effects of leisure and travel, The Holiday Makers, “Every individual tourist builds up or destroys human values while travelling.” The choices we make about how we travel and the way we behave and interact with local people and other travellers make travel what it is.
Subsequent work with the Association of Independent Tour Operators in the UK revealed that the ethical agenda was too broad to be claimed. How would an operator claiming to be ethical, respond to a challenge about why they placed guests in accommodation that served meat, or how could any travel to a country with a poor human right record be justified. From the dialogue with operators, the concept of Responsible Tourism gained traction.
Responsibility can be understood as applied ethics. It is as relevant in business as it is to the choices we make in family life and in our leisure activity, including our travel and holidays. Few of us, probably no one, can be responsible, in an absolute sense, in every aspect of our lives. We choose the things we will take responsibility for in the society in which we live.
Doing tourism business responsibly starts with looking at the impacts of the enterprise, economic, social and environment, and the issues which arise in the neighbourhood—then deciding which of those issues can be addressed through the particular tourism business. Climate change driven by our carbon emissions is a clear and present danger. Greenhouse gasses are accumulating in our atmosphere and making our planet inhospitable for us and other species.
As part of the series of interviews, we have been curating on decarbonising aviation we interviewed Dr David Suzuki. David is the closest North America has to a David Attenborough, with a television series, the nature of things, on CBC; and the David Suzuki Foundation with a mission to protect nature’s diversity and the well-being of all life, now and for the future.
He makes an impassioned plea for decarbonising aviation
David passionately argues that by contributing to changing our planet’s atmosphere and environment, we imperil the future of our planet, our species and our children.
Politicians from the right rail against the debt burden we may impose on our children through borrowing while turning a blind eye, or denying, our responsibility for bequeathing global warming to our children and their children. For sure, it will be easier for them to deal with the financial debt than it will be for them to survive climate change. Our failure to decarbonise now imperils their future.