“I thought I better come see the bears because the next time I am in this country they will be all gone.”
— Polar bear tourist in Churchill, Man.
Ecotourism. Sounds so responsible, or least, non-exploitative. But let’s face it: Anyone who flies long-distance to get close to some endangered piece of nature at risk from climate change is doing their bit to push those species that much closer to extinction. A paper published recently in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism tries to quantify the irony. “The carbon cost of polar bear viewing tourism in Churchill, Canada” (Subs req’d) looks at the carbon footprint of the polar-bear viewing industry in which, despite its remote location on the western shores of Hudson Bay, is still the cheapest option for almost everyone to see the species in its natural habitat. Jackie Dawson of the University of Guelph and her co-authors also ask the larger question:
Is there a long term future for tourism in globally peripheral destinations such as the Arctic?