A satisfying day of inspirational nature-born, sustainable tourism experiences was followed by a more sobering barrage of news about the manmade climate emergency, at this year’s IMPACT Sustainability Travel and Tourism conference in Victoria, reports Press Today’s western editor, Ted Davis.
The double jolt of good news, then bad, served to galvanize attendees to the conference, which started early in the week and is in its third year of operation.
Some delegates took advantage of the opportunity to spend a Day of Impact meeting sustainable tourism business operators and then taking to the shoreline waters to seek out wildlife encounters.
They got that in spades, said one attendee on the trip. The coastal cruise on two boats operated by by Eagle Wing Tours had numerous encounters with water-based wildlife, including orca whales, humpback whales, elephant seals, stellar sea lions and more.
It was an amazing day of perfection,” said Kristen Soder, the executive director of Destination Campbell River.
And it was achieved while being completely carbon neutral. Eagle Wing measures its carbon footprint by converting all of its activities such as electricity consumption, fuel use and waste to tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
It reduces those emissions by optimizing the fuel efficiency of its boats, buying local and other measures. It then neutralizes the remaining emissions by purchasing verified carbon offsets with Wilderness International.
Other sustainable tourism businesses from Victoria took part in the tour with their own presentations during the cruises.
Delegates got a more sobering dose of environmental reality at the conference on the next day, on Monday. One of the keynote speakers was Bob Sanford, chair for water and climate security at the United Nations University Institute for Water, Environment & Health. He delivered a measured assessment the overall climate emergency facing the planet.
“Climate change is accelerating far faster than expected,” said Sanford. He noted that the jet stream has changed direction and meanders further north and south now, bringing unusual weather events – and longer weather events – with it. He pointed to the recent “winter hurricane” in Newfoundland as an example.
He also noted that the earth’s heat is rising faster than predicted, leading to the rapid, massive losses of glacial ice in mountain ranges like the Alps. Switzerland lost 2% of its glacial ice last summer, leading to many dangerous rock falls. “The Alps are crumbling,” he said.
“We are on the doorstep of the unthinkable,” he warned. “The climate emergency will eventually rob nations of the prosperity of tourism if there are not more efforts to stop it.”
The IMPACT conference has been convened to seek out solutions and continues to the middle of this week.