Green Growth and Travelism: letters from leaders
Edited by Geoffrey Lipman, Terry DeLacy, Shaun Vorster, Rebecca Hawkins and Min Jiang.
Goodfellow Publishers, ISBN: 978-1-908999-17-7, June 2012
As useful grassroots case studies are, sometimes you need the big picture, the whole forest and not just the trees, ideally from informed detached and objective observers and opinionated actors/participants alike, who genuinely share your aims for a better, ecological and socially just world. This book is about the big picture and includes the views, presented in the forms of “letters”, of 46 leading tourism practitioners, entrepreneurs, heads of international bodies, politicians, civil servants and academics. The letter length and depth (including depth of environmental convictions) varies significantly, as do opinions and agendas although nearly all are in the centre-right of the political spectrum: pro new-green-economy, pro-big-industry/multinationals, pro-growth, pro self-regulation, anti-tax. There is also a certain promotional / self-congratulatory approach in some of the letters by heads of companies and tourism officials which is fortunately offset by the chapters (letters) contributed by leading tourism academics. It is not a big surprise not being able to find radical green or anti-systemic views in this volume, yet one would have expected the editors to include some environmental, social and travel grassroots and tourism employee representatives among the ‘leaders’ and more representation from the global south.
The book opens with a rather optimistic preface by Maurice Strong, to whom the book is dedicated, who served as the first executive director of UNEP and was instrumental in making the historic 1992 Rio Earth Summit happen also serving as its Secretary General. Strong recognises that green tourism is no longer a fringe idea but a necessity for the whole (mainstream) industry and consequently calls for regulatory, voluntary and market-based mechanisms to achieve this. He makes a special reference to China and its immense potential and responsibilities for a greener global tourism.
Among many interesting thoughts and proposals by the contributors, more memorable ones include the use of aviation taxes and market-based emission management mechanisms to fund fleet emission cuts through research and fleet renewal so that aviation’s carbon burden is not ‘disproportionate’ ; the revamping of tourism education to integrate green ideas; the recognition of Ecotourism as a ‘specific green growth element and an important beacon for the sector’; the importance of ‘eliminating’ greenwashing and encouraging certification programs and the ‘smart’ development of national parks so as to stimulate green growth.
Among the best contributions is the one by Professor Harold Goodwin who reveals some inconvenient (for the gradual reform approach) truths: there has been too much ‘talk of sustainability and too little taking of responsibility’, tourism remains a privilege of the relatively wealthy, tourism reveals inequality, the consumer will not pay a premium for sustainable tourism, communities have not benefited from community-based tourism - favourite of donors and NGOs, while the elephant in the room remains travel, particularly aviation, pollution. Other valuable and inspiring accounts include Vanessa Scotts’, who shares her experience running a small environmental award-winning hotel in Norfolk UK and by Tony Charters who discusses the ongoing relevance of Ecotourism as a spear carrier for green progress. Less inspiring, but revealing of systemic dead ends, are a number of contributions discussing the current impasse between EU and many other countries over the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and its ‘unfair’ impact on non-EU airlines.
The book, which is published to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rio Summit and officially launched during the recent Rio+20 Summit in June 2012 concludes with a useful index of acronyms and abbreviations to help you get through the enviro-jargon. An index and bibliographical references would have been useful in supporting the many interesting facts and figures presented.
Overall the editors and contributors make a convincing case for establishing ‘Travelism’ (travel - including aviation - and tourism) as a unified policy field, so ‘Green Growth and Travelism’ will hopefully find a place on quality travel(ist) company and decision-maker libraries, perhaps not as an academic reference but certainly as a snapshot of mainstream green travel(ist) wisdom of the early 21st century.