Ecotourism vs. Global Carbon Emissions Reduction?


Some of Canada's most desolate areas also happen to be the most sought after by ecotourists. Wikipedia defines ecotourism as "a form of tourism involving visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undisturbed natural areas, intended as a low-impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial mass tourism ... Ecotourism focuses on socially responsible travel, personal growth, and environmental sustainability".  Ecotourism also focuses on offering tourists an insight into the impact of human beings on the environment and to foster a great appreciation of our natural habitats. 

Ecotourism Could Have Benefited the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Australia

A Prime Example of the Value and Importance of Fostering Ecotourism

By contrast, one great example of what is not ecotourism Great Barrier Reef in Cains, Queensland, Australia. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef system composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 km over an area of approximately 344,400 square km.  Over the  years, the high popularity of the Great Barrier Reef amongst tourism combined with the ease with which tourists can scuba dive (no license is required) has lead to massive amounts of commercial boat traffic, and tourists breaking pieces of coral off the Great Barrier Reef as a souvenir.  The commercialization of the Great Barrier Read as well as the massive volumes of tourists that visit the Great Barrier Reef every year has lead to the destruction and decolouration (due the fuel of commercial boats in the area) of some of the most pristine areas of the Great Barrier Reef, such that today it is no longer possible to witness the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef without visiting areas that are beyond the reach of commercial mass tourism. 

Ecotourism and the Saguenay Estuary

Undermining Ecotourism in the Saguenay Estuary?

One area in Canada that may be facing the same kind of threat as the Great Barrier Reef is the ecotourism destination of the Saguenay estuary in Quebec's Upper North Shore region, which leads to the St. Lawrence River.  Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, the Saguenay estuary has not drawn commercial mass tourism.  Instead, it has been designated as a preferred destination for ecotourists.  While the ecotouristic destination of the Saguenay estuary does not attract commercial mass tourism, ecotourists nevertheless face a challenge that is not too dissimilar to the challenge faced by the Great Barrier Reef that is, industrial shipping.  Indeed, the Saguenay estuary also happens to be endowed with one of the most important industrial shipping lanes for liquified natural gas and heavy metals.  As of the date of this writing, local communities in Saguenay are also monitoring three (3) major projects being developed in the region: (1) a liquid natural gas refinery; (2) a phosphate mine; (3) a metal transformation plant. 

Ecotourism vs. Industrial Activity

Do the Benefits of Ecotourism Surpass those of Industrial Activities?

At the heart of the debate surrounding the Saguenay estuary as a major industrial shipping lane, ecotourists have underscored the economic benefits of ecotourism in the region.  However, considering the nature of ecotourism, one would expect more of an environmentally-oriented justification for protecting the Saguenay Estuary from industrial shipping.  Yet, much of the debate has focused on the economic value of ecotourism in the region, which inevitably leads to the question: is ecotourism more valuable to the local, provincial, and/or national economy than the activities that are facilitated by industrial shipping in the region?  Worded differently, one would expect much stronger philosophical, moral, and theoretical justifications from ecotourists than simply underscoring the economic benefits of ecotourism.  Case in point, Lilas Lamontagne, a spokesperson with the "Mouvement cityoen littoralement inacceptable" affirmed that "it is absolutely illogical to build a methane terminal in this location and to have tankers passing through the fjord" - no mention was made of any assumptions, presumptions or major or minor premises underlying her claim that it is "illogical to build a methane terminal in this location and to have tankers passing through the fjord".  


Local Ecotourism vs. Global Carbon Emissions?

Industrial activities occurring in the Saguenay region undermine the economic benefits ecotourism in the region.  No concrete comparative figures are made between the economic benefits of ecotourism in the region and the economic benefits of the various industrial activities occurring in the region.  More importantly, however, the proposed industrial activities (i.e. liquefied natural gas) in the area affirm will replace coal-fired industries elsewhere on the planet, and will contribute to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  Viewed through this perspective, the industrial activities in the Saguenay estuary would do better good than passive ecotourists vacationing in the Saguenay estuary passively admiring the beautiful nature of the Saguenay estuary. A spokesperson for Caolition Fjord, for instance, had nothing better to say than he is concerned that an increase in traffic could impact the adventure ecotourism industry, renowned for its whale-watching and kayaking tours.  He offered no explanation or justification as to why this was more important than the three (3) aforementioned energy projects contemplated in the region. 

Comments