Ecotourism, also known as ecological tourism, is a form of tourism that appeals to ecologically and socially conscious individuals. Generally speaking, ecotourism focuses on volunteering, personal growth, and learning new ways to live on the planet. It typically involves travel to destinations where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions.So places "where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions" shall now be overrun with tourists who need transportation, lodging, food and all manner of daily life support in places where no such accommodations already exist, for tourists, that is. And once the locals find out how much money the environmentally sensitive ecotourists will pay for the privilege of ruining the formerly pristine areas, why, the locals will build new roads, new hotels, new restaurants (serving, no doubt, nothing but lentils and soy) and communicatons infrastructure - because what the heck in the point in visiting a place "where flora, fauna, and cultural heritage are the primary attractions" if you can't email photos home of yourself standing in the midst of it?
Here is ecotourism in action:
Recently, on behalf of The Sunday Telegraph, I made my maiden voyage as an "eco-tourist". My destination was the Findhorn Foundation, a community on the north-east coast of Scotland that defines itself as "a centre of spiritual service in co-creation with nature". It attracts 14,000 visitors a year, who go to embrace its philosophy of "living more lightly on the planet", achievable by doing things such as sharing cars and building houses with turf roofs. I spent two days experiencing this "light-living" for myself - an excursion for which the environment paid heavily.But you can feel so good about yourself while you're at the banana farm because you're saving the planet. Not!
My trip began when a friend drove me from Hammersmith to Luton airport in a gaz-guzzling Cherokee Jeep. There, holding a ticket issued on non-recycled paper, I boarded a flight to Inverness. While it disgorged carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, I lunched on a sandwich that had been wrapped in plastic.
On landing in Scotland, I was transported to the commune by the first taxi that became available - a delapidated people-carrier that blazed across the moors amid a fug of black exhaust fumes. The journey would have seemed marginally less eco-hostile had anyone been sharing the seven spare seats. After a couple of days spent eating lentils and learning how to mix organic compost, I returned to London by the same means of transport.
The International Ecotourism Society (Ties) defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people". It's a heart-warming idea, but one with a major stumbling block. For, as my trip to Scotland showed, when environmental conservation is on the agenda, the words "responsible travel" begin to sound like an oxymoron.
Take, for example, flying, which is one of the world's most polluting means of transport. There are now "earth-kind" hotels and resorts in every corner of the globe - the Bahamas, Kenya, Las Vegas - but even the most dedicated of them rely on the mainstream travel industry to transport their guests. Yet it is a melancholy truth that even the greenest of eco-tourists turns a different shade when he's at 30,000 feet.
The average jet pumps around a tonne of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every passenger it carries from London to New York. With one return visit to, say, an organic banana farm in Peru, you're responsible for more carbon dioxide production than a year's motoring.