Sustainably in - 13 June 2024

When the destination is not the place, but a new way of seeing things

The "Last Chance" tourism dilemma: between awareness and catastrophism

It's 5.40pm on Bee Day and I just left the office. Finally the days are long and the light that is still there at this time always gives me the energy to plan new activities. I admit that in this period I have a obsession: I can't help but think about organizing a trip. The period is certainly an accomplice, but even more so what Gino told me.

Who is Gino? Gino is my colleague, the one with the curls, young and athletic. A Judo champion, but not only that.

Freud said:

“There is a story behind every person.

There's a reason they are the way they are."

Gino really has a lot of stories to tell, in fact Gino even knows how to write stories. For example? His latest novel “Inside to the Bones”. But do you know why I'm telling you about it? Because to be able to publish it he launched a public crowdfunding linking it partly to the publication of the book, but partly to the support of the "Judo Everest Scholarship project" to help the community of a Nepalese village where the highest judo gym in the world is located world (almost 4000 meters above sea level).

So yesterday he told me about the trip he took to Nepal to get to know the school he helped firsthand. An incredible journey, in one of the countries hardest hit by the climate crisis: of its 75 provinces, 29 are highly vulnerable in the event of natural disasters, 22 are threatened by severe droughts and 21 may suffer catastrophic floods.

Sono le 17:40 del Bee Day e sono appena uscita dall’ufficio. Finalmente le giornate sono lunghe e la luce che c’è ancora a quest’ora, mi regala sempre l’energia per pianificare nuove attività. Ammetto che in questo periodo ho una fissa: non faccio che pensare ad organizzare un viaggio. Sicuramente è complice il periodo, ma ancor più quanto mi ha raccontato Gino.

Chi è Gino? Gino è il mio collega, quello con i ricci, giovane e atletico. Un campione di Judo, ma non solo.

Freud diceva:

“C’è una storia dietro ogni persona.

C’è una ragione per cui loro sono quel che sono.”

Gino di storie da raccontare ne ha davvero molte, anzi Gino sa pure scriverle le storie. Ad esempio? Il suo ultimo romanzo “Dentro fino alle ossa”. Ma sapete perché ve ne parlo? Perché per riuscire a pubblicarlo ha lanciato un pubblico crowdfunding collegandolo in parte alla pubblicazione del libro, ma in parte al sostegno del progetto “Judo Everest Scholarship project” per aiutare la comunità di un villaggio nepalese in cui si trova la palestra di judo più alta del mondo (quasi 4000 metri sul livello del mare).

Così ieri mi ha raccontato del viaggio che ha fatto in Nepal per conoscere da vicino la scuola che ha aiutato. Un viaggio incredibile, in uno dei paesi più duramente colpiti dalla crisi climatica: delle sue 75 province, 29 sono altamente vulnerabili in caso di calamità naturali, 22 sono minacciate da severe siccità e 21 possono subire inondazioni catastrofiche. 

According to the United Nations, Nepal is the 4th most vulnerable country in the world to the climate crisis.

Reflecting on this, I thought I'd tell you about a new phenomenon that is spreading. This is certainly not the case with Gino, but many are now attracted by that type of tourism defined as "last chance".

Two researchers from the University of Groningen, Anne van Valkengoed and Annette Scheepstra, have highlighted a worrying phenomenon linked to tourism in areas of great environmental value. These places, often visited with the intention of admiring their natural beauty before it is too late, can be linked to forms of ecoanxiety. The phenomenon is known as "last chance tourism".

Last chance tourism certainly has the ability to act as a powerful awareness raising tool. Places marked by the climate crisis, when equipped to be told to a large audience, acquire a new value. In fact, they become instruments of memory and awareness capable of educating and mobilizing consciences.

However, "last chance" tourism has a "dark side". It feeds on a morbid relationship with catastrophe, transforming the direct experience of climate collapse into a real attraction. The expected growth of this phenomenon in the coming decades raises questions about possible negative effects. There is a risk that the impact of mass tourism on these fragile ecosystems could overshadow the educational benefits of such travel.

The first cases of "last chance" tourism are linked to the melting of the ice, a melting that also takes away our memory. The most popular destinations? Obviously the Arctic pole, but also the glacier located on the French side of Mont Blanc, the Mer de Glace. The impacts? The data has yet to be consolidated, however it is estimated that Arctic summer tourism in terms of CO₂ grew at least fourfold from 2006 to 2016.

Without forgetting that the tourism sector alone is responsible for 8% of greenhouse gas emissions in the world.

While the Mer di Glace loses an average of one meter of thickness per year.

As New York Times journalist Paige McClanahan explains:

“For thousands of years, humans have competed to be the first to scale a peak, cross a frontier, or document a new species or landscape. Now, in some cases, we are rushing to be the last.”

While this tourism can be the push to act on the one hand, on the other hand it generates more emissions. Furthermore, as emerges from the Volotea survey, there is still little interest in sustainability.

We want to be sometimes the first, sometimes the last, but necessarily without responsibility.

The one that we can all have in the little things. A sum of small things.

Do you know what the kids from the Judo school asked to bring from Italy to Gino? Fruit, simply fruit.

Chiara Pontoni
Sustainability Manager Gesteco