My learning outcomes in this course can be divided into two areas: the international component and the writing component. While these two spheres have overlapped throughout the course, and greatly complemented one another, the outcomes are indeed distinct.
As someone who travels whenever possible and loves to explore new places and cultures, the international aspect of this course was the most appealing to me when I registered for the class. After all, who doesn't find international tourism interesting? As it turns out, there are many more complex issues involved in international tourism than one might think.
We studied the fundamentals of the international tourism system and the complex web of relationships between tourists, local populations, infrastructure, government and business. We also studied sex tourism and the exploitation of children by sex tourists, safety issues for tourists, terrorism and environmental degradation.
One of the most interesting components of the international tourism system we studied was interpretation. When most people think of interpretation, they think of interpreting from one language to another. However, the interpretation we studied was regarding tour guides and others interpreting historical sites, natural landscapes, and other attractions to visiting tourists. The way in which a site is interpreted has an enormous influence on what the tourist learns and takes home with them. Interpretation is an art that should relate personally to the tourist, reveal the site in holistic and profound way, and provoke the tourist to engage in the site and its history.
Another aspect of international tourism we studied was "ecotourism" vs "eco-sell." We learned how to become smarter tourists and more responsible international ambassadors by learning criteria to assess tour providers. This allows us to determine whether a tour provider is actually operating a sustainable enterprise, or is just claiming to be "green" while damaging the environment or harming local populations.
With everything I learned this semester, I will certainly be a smarter tourist in the future. This will enable me to not only learn more form the places and people I am visiting, but it will allow me to contribute positively to the destination as well.
Regarding the writing component of this course, I feel that I have learned some concrete things about writing style that have already helped me. Two of the most important things I learned are simplicity and varying sentence lengths.
As a science major, I have spent most of my college career writing scientific papers and lab reports. Because of this, my writing can sometimes be stiff and complex. This course has made me aware of my tendency to use too many long sentences with complex structures. Now I am more likely to simplify complex sentences into several shorter, more readable sentences.
Another writing technique that I learned in this course was to vary sentence lengths. In addition to splitting up complex sentences, I learned that varying sentence lengths is a great way to get some "rhythm" in my writing. Reading similar length sentences over and over can get monotonous. This is especially true if the sentences are complex and wordy. Throwing in a shorter sentence here and there can help maintain interest. Even the occasional fragment!
In summary, this class was a great way to learn about the complex dynamics and contemporary issues involved in international tourism. At the same time, I was able to significantly improve my writing while researching and elaborating on subjects as engaging as international travel, social media campaigns, and environmental awareness.
This blog started out looking at the effects of ocean acidification on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. We learned about the chemical mechanism that causes atmospheric carbon dioxide to increase ocean acidity, and highlighted some eco-friendly tourism destinations that are attempting to minimize these effects. We also illustrated in a very real way how much carbon dioxide is produced when we burn fossil fuels.
Now it is time to talk about the most important aspect of carbon emissions and global climate change:
What YOU can do to help!
Here are five real world steps you can take today to reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Replace your outdated incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent (CF) or LED bulbs. This is especially important in Utah where nearly all of our electricity is generated by equally outdated fossil fuels:
2. Use alternative transportation. I'm not saying you have to sell your car and become a hard-core, year round bike commuter (although it is fun!). Taking the bus or train is one easy way to drastically cut down on your carbon emissions, especially when many city buses run on natural gas, which is more efficient than gasoline. If you happen to be a University of Utah student, this is even easier because a UTA bus and TRAX pass is included in your tuition every semester.
You are paying for it, you might as well use it!
3. When you are driving, try to choose a fuel efficient car and make sure its tires are inflated properly. As we saw in the last post, the fuel efficiency of your vehicle has an enormous impact on your carbon footprint. Each time you fill up with gas, check your tire pressure while you are waiting. Under-inflated tires greatly reduce your fuel efficiency.
If you participate in outdoor activities in Utah, you may find a four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle advantageous. Instead of a large truck or SUV, consider a small wagon or compact SUV, which get better mileage. If you don't actually need four-wheel-drive, a small, fuel efficient car is one of the best ways to drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Besides, who wants to look like a fool driving to the grocery store for a couple bags of groceries in a giant, empty 4x4 pick-up truck?
4. Install a programmable thermostat in your home. Energy used to heat a home is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.
Installing (and using!) a programmable thermostat is a great way to decrease the amount of natural gas you are using without an expensive furnace upgrade. Set your thermostat to 68 degrees during the times you are at home, and lower for when you are sleeping or away at work.
5. The simplest and most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is to just not buy and use so much stuff in the first place! Many of the products we use are made of plastic, transported across the country or around the globe, used a few times and then discarded. One of the smartest ways to reduce this waste is to purchase quality products with a longer service life. Buying cheap, disposable goods over and over again pollutes the environment and the atmosphere every step of the way. Reconsider purchases and ask yourself these questions: do I really need this item? Am I saving a couple bucks in the short run, only to spend more buying a replacement when this one breaks? Can I find this item used in the local classifieds or Craigslist?
Remember the "three Rs" in this order of importance from highest to lowest: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
There you have it: five simple steps to reducing your carbon footprint, making our planet just a little healthier, and keeping the world's coral reefs alive and healthy!
This is a phrase you probably hear about regularly in the media, and maybe from your friends and family as well. But what does it really mean?
This blog post will explain your carbon footprint and what that amount of carbon means for the atmosphere. Most of us probably know by now that burning fossil fuels such as gasoline, coal and natural gas produces carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide then accumulates in the atmosphere and is absorbed into the ocean, trapping in the sun's heat and acidifying the ocean, respectively.
A person's "carbon footprint" is the amount of carbon dioxide gas produced by the activities of that person (or group of people), often in a certain amount of time. The amount of carbon dioxide is usually expressed in tons, but what does a ton of carbon dioxide look like? Since CO2 is a colorless, odorless gas, it is hard to picture.
Turns out, it looks like this:
That's a sphere 33 feet in diameter!
Most insurance companies estimate that the average American drives 12,000 miles a year. According to this handy carbon foot print calculator, that's 6.6 tons of CO2 per year for a passenger car that averages 20 mpg and 9.4 tons for an SUV at 15 mpg. Thats a lot of CO2 for each person!
Another interesting illustration of what a "carbon footprint" looks like in real life is this short video showing New York City's carbon emissions in a very graphic way:
Here's another powerful image from www.carbonvisuals.com that shows a typical cargo ship's CO2 emissions per day!
Clearly, our daily activities produce a huge quantity of carbon dioxide that is warming our planet year after year. While the changes in temperature aren't drastic, around 0.8 degrees centigrade over the past century, this could be enough to upset the delicate balance of the earth's climate. While we can't be certain of the potential effect this greenhouse warming might have on the planet in the future, do we really want to find out the hard way?
Now that we have taken a look at what a ton of CO2 is and what it is doing to our atmosphere and climate, it is time to think about some simple, realistic ways we can all cut down on our CO2 emissions. This will be the topic of the next blog post, see you soon!
Heron Island is a unique resort destination in the Great Barrier Reef, in that not only is it a resort and tourism destination, but it shares the island with a research station and educational facility that has been in operation since 1951. This research station is part of the University of Queensland and hosts 10 full-time staff members and additional students arriving throughout the year to study many types of marine life. This fundamental integration with an outpost of a major research institution is a great match for the ecotourism and fair trade principles that the Heron Island Great Barrier Reef Resort embodies. These principles include: fair working conditions, fair prices, integration into the local economy, fair trade partnerships between all actors, and sustainable and just resource use. We shall see that this integration allows the Heron Island Resort to realize these cornerstones of fair trade tourism in many unique ways.
First, fair working conditions on this beautiful island appear to go beyond just the scenery. The resort provides subsidized accommodations, meals, and social events for their employees, as well as an environment of chemical-free gardening and grounds maintenance. This is especially important in a remote island living environment, far beyond the reaches of cellular phone networks. The Heron Island Resort strives to foster a community atmosphere among their employees, and social events are key to a thriving community environment.
Prices may seem expensive at first, averaging around $380 USD per night. However, when you consider the remote location, included food (but not drinks), free snorkeling lessons and a modest $50 charge for snorkeling trips, $380 starts to seem reasonable. Also, the benefits the resort provides to the research station and low-impact philosophy on the environment are not without cost and might make you feel better about the nightly rates.
As I mentioned above, Heron Island Resort is quite integrated into the local and regional economy as they share the island with the Research Outpost from the University of Queensland, the largest island research center in the Southern Hemisphere.. The resort generates their own power (though their site didn't say how) and potable water, which it provides to researchers at the station. This level of integration is unique in that it is not just an economic integration with the region, but an intellectual integration as well. By helping the researchers to document all manner of marine species they are greatly assisting the preservation of marine life in the region.
Because of the partnership the Heron Island Resort has established with the University, their fair trade commitment involves actors from academia as well as more traditional suppliers of resources such as fuel and food, creating a much more integrated relationship with all community actors. This kind of cohesive network of participants makes everyone vested in the success of the region, which is of course dependent on the health of the Great Barrier Reef and its waters. Therefore, all parties involve may be more likely to make wise resource use decisions, since their financial livelihood depends on it.
Finally, Heron Island Resort supports sustainable resource use and environmental justice by partnering with the Sea Turtle Foundation, among others. This organization is dedicated to preserving sea turtles, their migratory routes, and habitats. One interesting aspect of this partnership will be a very special "hands-on" approach to helping the sea turtles: the foundation and the resort will be purchasing a "turtle stretcher" for volunteers and guests to move stranded turtles from beaches as gently as possible, and return them safely to the waters of the reef.
The Heron Island Great Barrier Reef Resort is a unique integration of luxurious tropical resort, academic research outpost and a responsible steward of the environment, putting into practice the fundamentals of fair trade tourism.
Ecotourism at Thala Beach Lodge
Like most of us that consider ourselves environmentalists, I am very pleased to see that ecotourism and other types of sustainable development are becoming more and more common in the tourism market. Not-so-distant history is full of examples of first world countries exploiting and damaging the resources of tropical paradises for their short term profit and enjoyment, so it is refreshing to see that this appears to no longer be acceptable behavior.
The problem is, what exactly does ecotourism mean? Does it mean that the resort owners now recycle their aluminum cans? Do they have a solar panel mounted in a suspiciously conspicuous place? Has their logo been redesigned in a pleasing leaf green color?
In order to take a real look at what ecotourism is, and the substance behind the "green" term, let's consider one of the most popular definitions.
The guiding principles of ecotourism were enumerated by Pamela Wight (1993):
Now that we have thoroughly defined "ecotourism," let's take a look at a provider of ecotours in the Great Barrier Reef area, and how they live up to these standards:
Thala Beach Lodge, located near Port Douglas in Queensland, Australia, is a great example of a truly responsible ecotourism destination. From the very beginning, this resort has exemplified many of the tenets of ecotourism.
When the property for the resort was first purchased in the 1970s, two-thirds of it had been clearcut by the previous owners and turned into a sugar cane plantation. Rather than build the 700 room hotel that had been zoned for the area, the new owners chose to build a much smaller lodge of sustainable materials and plant thousands of indigenous plant species to rehabilitate the land's previously damaged natural habitats. This is a true case of not degrading the natural resources, but developing them instead.
Another tenet of ecotourism embodied by the Thala Beach Lodge is to involve partnerships with local communities. The elders of the local KuKu-Yalanji indigenous people visit the Lodge to share their knowledge of healing plants, local food and traditional musical instruments. This not only provides visitors with a unique look at the history and indigenous culture of the area, it strengthens the bond between cultures that might otherwise never meet.
So, next time you read the term "ecotourism," or see a logo of a pretty blue and green planet cradled by caring hands, be sure to investigate deeper to see if the claims and the imagery truly live up to the values of the ecotourism movement.
Wight, P. (1993). Ecotourism: ethics or eco-sell? Journal of Travel Research 31 (3), 3-9. doi: 10.1177/004728759303100301
When humans produce gaseous carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-burning power plants, home furnaces, and carbon-powered automobiles, it is released into the atmosphere. The interface between the atmosphere and the constantly moving and churning surface of the ocean serves as a giant transfer zone, and about half of the CO2 we emitted into the atmosphere is absorbed by the ocean. The ocean absorbs this gaseous CO2 because the concentration of atmospheric CO2 is greater than that of the ocean, and thus the ocean acts as a carbon buffer for increasing atmospheric CO2. This is beneficial from a greenhouse gas perspective, mitigating some of the effects of global warming, but is very damaging to the marine environment.
Once in the aqueous environment of the ocean, CO2 binds to water (H2O) to form carbonic acid (H2CO3) which quickly dissociates into a hydrogen ion (H+) and bicarbonate ion (HCO3-). Increases in hydrogen ion concentration are the definition of acidity, so this is where acidity increases, and that pesky carbon atom that we released form burning fossil fuels really starts to cause problems for marine life.
Normally, carbonate ions (CO3 2-) are used by marine life to build their shells, and healthy coral reef growth is directly related to carbonate concentration. Unfortunately, the excess H+ ions in the water combine with carbonate to make even more bicarbonate and reduce the carbonate concentration, ending in decreased shell growth, weak, malformed shells, and ultimately, significant degradation of coral reefs.
In the next post, we will look at how this process effects reefs and where in the world the impact is most significant.
Thanks for your interest!
This blog will focus on the effects of ocean acidification on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. I love swimming, snorkeling and fishing and have traveled to many parts of Mexico, enjoying the Pacific Ocean, the Caribbean, and one of my favorite places on Earth: the Sea of Cortez. Because I live in the high desert of the Intermountain West region of the western United States, traveling to the ocean is an experience of extremes: from the sparse beauty of the arid desert canyons and rugged peaks of Utah to sea level, humidity and the invigorating smell of seawater on the air.
I have snorkeled around some smaller reefs in Mexico, but have never been to a reef anywhere near the size of the Great Barrier Reef. I certainly hope to one day.
As a student of science, and one who loves the outdoors, I am concerned with the effects of human carbon dioxide emissions on our natural resources. This blog is dedicated to raising awareness about the way carbon emissions are adversely affecting our planet's oceans and reefs, particularly the Great Barrier Reef.