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The Problem with Travelling? Holiday Edition Part 1

Updated: Nov 26, 2019

The holidays are a time for the family but it also has become a time where Canadians attempt to escape the winter cold or seek out thrilling winter activities. Many people have started to recognize the heavy environmental costs of air travel. For those who don't know, here is some general data published by the BBC. The article shows that Aviation contributes to 2% of the global CO2 emissions. If you can't visualize the amount I attached a bar graph that could help in understanding the impacts of air travel.

With that being said, I am somewhat a victim to Wanderlust as well. I dream of visiting the beaches of Portugal, Hawaii and New Zealand. A double whammy for me is that my partner lives in California while I finish my graduate degree in Ontario. Flying and travelling seems to be in my inevitable future. I travel for food, culture and nature, but it came to my awareness during my Human Geography class that eco-toursim and visiting natural landmarks can be pretty hard on the natural environment. Let's take the Athabasca Glacier in Jasper National Park! It's one of the biggest landmarks in Canada's touristic destinations. Not only has it be retreating because of the global warming, constant visitation has been accelerating its degradation. There are more than 1.2 Million visitors to this site every year with many opting to take a bus to drive onto the glacier. These bus tours are run by the company Columbia IceFields Discovery, which take visitors up the glacier in large busses.

These busses run every 15- 30 minutes taking visitors up and down the mountain starting from 9 am and ending at 5 pm. That's two trips up then two trips down the glacier every hour. That's around 32 trips every day, starting from April and ending in October. Now let's think about the amount of CO2 is being emitted by these busses, then take account of the air travel to get to Alberta and car travel to the park. It really does add up! CO2 emissions aside, the constant compaction of the ice from the busses and regular visitation is probably increasing the fragility of this system. In a time where the search for a unique destination is booming, or visits to disappearing locations (aka Last Chance Tourism), we cannot ignore the stress we put on these rare locations. The question to ask yourself now is, is there a way of doing it better? I'll be giving some more tips on what to consider before your next vacation.


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