How to reduce travel guilt
Renton De Alwis, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourist Board, says
that the shape of Sri Lanka on the map looks like a Green Lung. Just
like our lungs are the essence of life, plants and trees are essential
for the continuation of human life because they take in Carbon dioxide
to grow and sustain.
On the 13th of November 2007, Renton De Alwis gave a 'Climate Change
and Tourism' speech for the United Nations World Tourism Organisation
Summit at the World Travel Market London, UK.
He highlighted that even though Sri Lanka was a hydro-civilisation
very much of it has changed with development. From winning the Global
Ozone Prize for 2007 to Professor Mohan Munasinghe's Nobel Peace Prize
winning contribution for Climate Change, Sri Lanka is one of Asia's
hotspots of bio-diversity and endemism.
Even our 'Sinharaja' forest is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
According to the UNESCO report, Sri Lanka is one of the most green and
most liveable countries in the world.
De Alwis points out that the dominant western cultural beliefs meant
three factors - growth is good, big is better and chemical fertilisers
increase production. However, when he tested it empirically with his
then professor, Kenneth Watt in lieu of his Conservation Economics
degree, the results were that:
In the short-term, it was true
In the medium-term, some points were true
In the long-term, it wasn't true at all
Today's serious Climate Change issue is that it is likely to impact
Sri Lanka drastically. De Awis points out that "Tourism is dependant on
the environment and we need to look at it in a holistic approach which
is the bigger perspective". His focus was that even though we are
blessed with beautiful Mother Nature, our environmental habits and
values need improving in order to sustain and develop Mother Nature.
Further comments made by the Chairman include how the conscious
traveller seeks to reduce 'Travel Guilt' by curbing the carbon emissions
produced by them just to be there.
Just like the Bishop of the Catholic Church of London commented that
it was a "Sin to travel by air or car", Sri Lanka needs tourism
development to bring revenue to the country but in a clean and green
way. Right now, Sri Lanka is placed 36th in energy efficiency and
environmental health categories and 37th in the greenhouse gasses
Sri Lanka has approximately 30% forest cover comprising of 2 million
hectares and every year about 1,000 hectares are reforested.
De Alwis revealed that the 'Earth Lung' community is aimed at
promoting and sustaining the tourism sector. "We shouldn't plan to make
Sri Lanka a Great Green Destination within 10 years", envisions De Alwis.
He noted that "We shouldn't trade and sell our carbon credit but retain
it for the future" a concept known as 'Trade Before Aid'.
There are many organisations who are working towards this vision for
a Carbon Clean Sri Lanka. Many NGOs and the Hospitality industry all
help visitors plant trees to offset their carbon emissions. Stopping
deforestation, ensuring re-forestation, encouraging alternative energy
use and mitigating pollution all lead to good environment stability.
By collaborating with local and regional entities, we can work
together to combat global warming. "The plan is to make Sri Lanka a
Great Green Destination within 10 years", envisions De Alwis.