Those in the hospitality industry know how challenging it is to keep up with ambiguous sustainability standards. In fact, for years, the UN World Tourism Organization’s “Indicators of Sustainable Development for Tourism Destinations” has been the lone source of guidance for international attractions and accommodations. Thankfully, that will change once the Global Sustainable Tourism Council establishes its Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria for Destinations.
“While many destinations have been impacted by unsustainable development in the past,” says Erika Harms, Executive Director of the GSTC, “more and more destinations are now realizing the importance of sustainable tourism and are seeking outside support and guidelines to help set them on the right path. The GSTC’s Destination Criteria outline 45 specific actions that a destination can take to choose a different future—to make their cultural and natural attractions a source of delight for visitors, and a source of employment for locals, for many generations to come.”
The Destinations Criteria –the guidelines will discuss everything from community support to cultural heritage protection and waste management– were instituted by a panel of business owners and government officials after they analyzed the WTO’s indicators. Because it’s deemed as an internationally recognized set of sustainability steps, the Destination Criteria are viewed as baseline that each destination should adjust as needed.
Another promising aspect to the new criteria is that they won’t be shaped solely by hotel managers and academics; public consultation is also being sought in the matter. Through June 2, 2012, any concerned individual can write in here with suggestions to help the Destinations Criteria establish itself as the global voice in sustainable tourism. –DEMARCO WILLIAMS
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Amur Leopards are “teetering on the brink of extinction” says Dr. Sybille Klenzendorf, head of the World Wildlife Fund’s species program. Classified as critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), only about 30 of these amazing animals are believed to exist in the wild, with a just few hundred others remaining in captivity.
Fortunately, the world’s rarest wild cats (which are also known as the Far Eastern Leopard) have been given a home in the newly established Land of the Leopard National Park in Russia’s Far East. The park is set on 650,000 acres of contiguous forest in the Amur-Heilong watershed. The Amur-Heilong is an area roughly equal to the size of Alaska which holds numerous species that only exist in this region, including Amur tigers, musk deer and brown bears. Needless to say, both the area and the animals that inhabit it are well worth protecting.
But the Amur leopard is the penultimate concern of wildlife conservation efforts in the area. These gorgeous cats have been continuously threatened for decades by poaching, exploitation of forests, encroaching civilization and climate change. Human-induced fires are also a concern to the leopards’ survival, as these fires create open, savannah-type landscapes that leopards tend to avoid, creating an unsuitable habitat for the rare cats.
These are some of the many reasons that the Land of the Leopard National Park has been established. As part of the wider Amur Leopard and Tiger Alliance (ALTA)– an cooperative initiative between Russian and western conservation organizations to conserve the Amur leopard and Amur tiger– the park will include protective measures such as 4 anti-poaching teams, a 5-member fire-fighting team, a special police task force of police and satellite devices to keep the leopards safe. The conservation efforts also include education programs and media campaigns around the world to help protect what very well could be the last chance for Amur leopards’ survival. For more info on how you can help protect the Amur Leopard, visit the ALTA website. –Raffi Simel
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In 2011, for the first time in history, the total trilateral merchandise trade among the United States, Mexico, and Canada surpassed $1 trillion. This increasing economic interconnectedness has led to a desire for something even more urgent– energy cooperation.
Meeting last week in Washington, DC, President Obama sat with the leaders of Mexico (President Felipe Calderon) and Canada (Prime Minister Stephen Harper) to increase dialogue and expand cooperation in energy sharing. The three leaders pledged to develop “continental energy, including electricity generation and interconnection” across national borders.
The leaders expressed intentions to accelerate reduction of emissions of “short-lived climate pollutants,” saying that, “reducing our emissions of these substances, which include methane, black carbon, and many hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), offers significant opportunities to reduce the rate of global warming in the near term, in the context of our broader efforts to address climate change, while also yielding many health, agricultural productivity, and energy security benefits.” Though few definitive plans have been made, the commitment is a great step towards combating climate change, creating clean energy jobs, and promoting investment in clean energy technologies.
In a joint news conference, President Obama said, “Between us, we represent nearly half a billion citizens, from Nunavut in the Canadian north to Chiapas in southern Mexico. In between, the diversity of our peoples and cultures is extraordinary. But wherever they live, they wake up every day with similar goals– to provide for their families, to be safe in their communities, to give their children a better life. And in each of our countries, the daily lives of our citizens are shaped profoundly by what happens in the other two. That’s why we’re here.” It’s encouraging to witness the U.S., Mexico, and Canada entering into a collaboration as important as this one. But only time will tell if they’ll adhere to their commitments. –Raffi Simel
Tonight, March 31, at 8:30 pm local time, people and major organizations around the world are being encouraged to celebrate Earth Hour, demonstrating their commitment to conserving the planet’s natural resources by switching off their lights for 60 minutes. This eco-friendly call to action will serve to recognize the benefits of energy conservation and sustainable living practices on every continent, with hundreds of countries, businesses, communities and famous landmarks– including New York’s Empire State Building, Wrigley Field, Washington, DC’s National Cathedral and even Times Square– taking part by switching their lights off. But even when the lights go back on, this event encourages all of us to be more conscious of little things we can do to benefit our beautiful planet, whether it’s donating to supporting pro-environment causes, joining WWF’s Conservation Action Network, shopping for eco-friendly products, working to optimize your home’s energy efficiency, or taking political action to promote environmental causes and curb climate change. We here at Green Global Travel encourage all of readers to do their part to help, for Earth Hour and every hour! –Bret Love
What the Frack?! Under a new provision buried in federal environmental law, doctors are now forbidden from sharing information with patients exposed to the effects of “fracking.”
Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing (and featured in the Oscar-nominated documentary film GasLand), is the process by which a high-pressure mixture of sand, water and chemicals is blasted into rock to tap into veins of natural gas. Halliburton and many other companies that use fracking for extraction have come under fire since a 2010 congressional investigation revealed that they used 32 million gallons of diesel products (including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene, all toxic chemicals) in the fluids they pump into the ground. Low levels of exposure to these chemicals can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue, while higher doses can cause certain cancers.
The state of Pennsylvania is increasingly in the limelight of these recent debates over fracking. A discovery in the Marcellus Shale region of the state has led to advancements in the fracking process. Pennsylvania law currently allows doctors to access information about chemicals used in gas extraction, including fracking. However, this new provision will disallow doctors from sharing that information with their patients.
Critics of the law (i.e. anyone who does not profit from hydraulic fracturing) argue that it will prevent doctors from raising concerns over the impact of oil and gas extraction on the general public. According to Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach, the provision was not in the initial versions of the law that were debated in the House or Senate, but was added between the two chambers, and many lawmakers did not even notice this “broad, very troubling provision.” He also made the point that, “People are claiming that animals are dying and people are getting sick in clusters around [natural gas drilling wells], but we can’t really study it because we can’t see what’s actually in the product.”
A closer look at the history surrounding natural gas legislation at the federal level, however, makes this new provision no surprise at all. The oil and natural gas industries are not only exempt from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxic Release Inventory (the program that ensures information is provided about what chemicals companies are releasing), but also from EPA regulation under the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Perhaps the most important point on this new law has been raised by Walter Tsou, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility: “What is the big secret here that they’re unwilling to tell people, unless they know that, if people found out what’s really in these chemicals, they would be outraged?” Which also begs the question, why does such a high-risk industry have federal exemptions when no other industry does? Somehow, we suspect it all boils down to money… –Raffi Simel
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