Disappearing destinations

Travel Writers & Books — By on June 5, 2008 at 7:30 am

The website New West has an interview online with Heather Hansen, co-author of the new book, Disappearing Destinations, which looks at the environmental challenges that are plaguing popular tourist destinations worldwide. An excerpt from the interview:

How did you come up with the idea for Disappearing Destinations?

Kim and I were at a conference in Denver, talking about the book 1,000 Places to See Before You Die, which had just come out. We tossed around the idea of “1,000 Places to See Before THEY Die.” Once we started looking at our favorite places in that context, we became obsessed with writing a book that could help travelers see their dream destinations as whole places with real issues that affect the lives of the people who live there and, ultimately, the viability of the locations themselves.

Global warming seems to be the cause of many of the problems you describe … Do you think it’s more difficult for local people to respond to the situation when the cause is so widespread?

In the case of climate change in this region, there’s plenty that people can do on a daily basis to mitigate its effects…It may be difficult to see immediate results but that doesn’t mean we aren’t making a marked difference at a critical time. As Gerald Meehl, a climate modeler at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder says in the book: “The longer we wait, the worse the problem gets. Every day we’re committing ourselves to climate change in the future. When you view it that way, it’s not something that you should just give up on…

Since our expertise is in how to travel more mindfully our message is also that all us have control over the way we move around the world. We have the power to affect change–for worse, or we hope better–in these places with the choices we make. For example, if you go to the Galápagos, you have the choice whether or not to support an outfitter with a proven record of environmental stewardship and investment in the local community.

What do you suggest that people who are concerned about the issues you raise in your book do?

What needs to be done really varies from one location to the next. In some places, responsible tourism is the “great green hope” as I talk about in the Appalachia chapter. Just going there and contributing to the diversification of the economy makes a difference (this is also the case in the Congo Basin and the Amazon where tourism revenue can sustain a population in the long term, while logging cannot).

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