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  • Alpha Submarine Adventures

Making Sure Ecotourism Benefits Ecology

Ecotourism—the responsible enjoyment and preservation of nature beyond one’s own homeland—provides myriad benefits to the communities that host it, including financial support and increased global awareness of the importance of local ecology. But, as much as many people would like it to be, ecotourism is not necessarily environmentally sustainable or inherently beneficial. Rather, it can often be a double-edged sword: the infrastructure, fuel, and other materials needed to create and sustain an ecotourist destination or attraction often ends up harming the local environment.

For example, whether they’re going to the Caribbean coral reefs or the mountain lakes of Patagonia, ecotourists from around the world burn tons of jet fuel flying to far-off places. The massive carbon emissions from jet fuel contribute to global warming that harms the very environments ecotourists would like to see preserved in nature. So in one sense, ecotourists step off the plane already having done some kind of damage to sensitive environments everywhere. In addition, clear-cutting island forests to build hotels, docks, and other facilities to support ecotourism incurs another, more direct ecological cost.

This is not encouraging, but neither is it a reason to abandon ecotourism. Indeed, it only emphasizes the need for sustainable ecotourism to be both responsive and responsible for preserving the natural environments that support it. Sustainable ecotourism organizations and companies, as well as governments that support and regulate the industry must always be aware of these ecological tradeoffs and work to ensure the positive effects of ecotourism outweigh the negative impacts.

At Alpha Submarine Tours, for example, our guests can take comfort in knowing that they are funding (and participating in!) actual marine research that will help preserve and protect the Caribbean coral reefs from the ravages of, among other things, emissions-fueled climate change and other harsh realities of our modern world. Ultimately (and ideally), the knowledge and policies developed from the work of Alpha and other forward-thinking ecotourism organization

s will result in changes that offset the detrimental effects of, say, tourists jetting over to the Caribbean, and the associated development on the islands to preserve and benefit the natural ecology there.

If you are an avid ecotourist, be sure to ask questions about how you’re supporting sustainable ecotourism, no matter where in the world it is. Are the local businesses and governments ensuring that their ecotourism is actually working to benefit local ecology and not against it? If you’re interested in learning more about ecotourism or want to help support a sustainable ecotourism operation that directly benefits the ecology in which it tours, check out Alpha Submarine Tours!

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