Much has been said and written about the importance of economies getting back to ‘normal’ after COVID-19 lockdowns. Recently New Zealand, has reopened normal airline connections with Australia, its second largest trading partner (after China) and a major source of tourists.
The New Zealand government’s decision to re-open air links with Australia has been partly driven by humanitarian issues of families isolated from each other across “the ditch” (the Tasman Sea), but predominantly to prevent the collapse of New Zealand’s large tourism industry.
Little has been said however, on the impact the re-invigoration of New Zealand’s tourism industry will have on climate change and biodiversity loss.
Ironically the decision to create a travel bubble with Australia coincides almost to the day of the announcement from Moana Loa in Hawaii that their instruments have for the first time measured CO2 levels at more than 420 parts per million.
As an island nation, almost all tourists into New Zealand come by plane, and often from much longer distances than Australia (which is 4,163 kilometers away, or an air travel distance of 2,587 miles.). As Atmosfair notes, the burning of kerosene for airline engines is not the only major CO2 producer from jet planes. Jet plane veils and contrails, the build-up of the greenhouse gas ozone in a sensitive atmospheric floor, and the breakdown of methane, are also major factors in increasing CO2 levels and consequent global warming.
Suzuki notes that airtravel will continue to grow rapidly until 2050. If left unchecked, they could consume a full quarter of the available carbon budget for limiting temperature rise to 1.5 C. and …The global tourism industry is responsible for eight per cent of global emissions — more than the construction industry!’ and ...The total carbon impact of a single flight is so high that avoiding just one trip can be equivalent to going (gasoline) car-free for a year.<p class="wp-image-3612" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80"><img class="wp-image-3612" style="width: 450px;" src="https://newantarcticacom.files.wordpress.com/2021/04/co2.png" alt="CO2 Levels Mauna Loa">
Tourism also has a significant impact on biodiversity loss; which, even more than climate change; is the greatest risk to this planet. While some have claimed (including U.N. reports) that tourism can increase biodiversity by encouraging humanity’s awareness of the natural world, and bringing human resources to play which protect species and prevent habitat loss; the arguments are clearly specious.
Providing humans with access to our remaining pristine natural environments necessitates environmental destruction and habitat disturbance. Roads, walking tracks, platforms, toilets, helicopters, boats, water and electrical utilities and housing are just some of the methods by which habitats are degraded by tourist activities.
And that is to ignore the impact of the introduction of pollutants like human sewage, supply waste and the accidental introduction of non-native microbes, weeds, insects and animals.
It is time for us all to throw away the ‘bucket list” and learn to be more present in the here and now, and be content with what we have. Creating mini-gardens, communal gardens and re-growing natural spaces in cities can help us all to understand the world in which we live and with which we are defendant upon.
Learning to observe, respect and value the small pieces of the natural world that are all around us, and to which we are inextricably (and often unknowingly) bound.
The natural world is not something for us to ‘experience’ and take a snapshot of; it is all around us: it is part of us, it is ‘us’.
It is more than time for all governments to demand that all products and services consumed, including tourism, are clearly packaged to show the devastating impacts they have on our ever dwindling natural world via biodiversity loss and global heating.
Then we will at last, know the true costs of our consumer society.