What tourism looks like in a net-zero world

Tea & Talk
Publication Date
18/11/2021
Featuring
Dr Sandro Carnicelli
Dr Leslie Mabon
Tea and Talk with the RSE
Tea and Talk with the RSE
What tourism looks like in a net-zero world
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We chat with members of the RSE Young Academy of Scotland, Dr Sandro Carnicelli and Dr Leslie Mabon about the impacts of climate change on tourism.

Sandro Carnicelli is a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of Scotland where he leads work and conducts research on Marketing, Events and Tourism.

Leslie Mabon is a lecturer in Environmental Systems at the Open University looking at the governance of complex environmental issues and how you balance scientific knowledge with social and cultural considerations.

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Episode transcript

Please note transcripts are automatically generated, so may feature errors.

[00:00:00] Rebekah Widdowfield: Hello, and welcome to the RSE’s Tea & Talk podcast series, a programme inspired by the coffee houses of the 18th century where great thinkers would come together to discuss ideas and matters of the day. I’m Rebekah Widdowfield and I’m Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s National Academy.

Our mission is to advance learning and make knowledge use. And to do that. We are holding conversations with some of our fellows and other leading experts in Scotland to talk about important issues and the challenges that we face as a society. You can find out more about our work on our website at rse.org.uk

Today, I’m speaking with Dr. Sandro Carnicelli and Dr. Leslie Mabon about tourism and climate change. Both members of our RSE’s young academy. Sandro is a senior lecturer at the university of the west of Scotland, where he leads work and conducts research on marketing events or tourism. While Leslie is a lecturer in environmental systems at the open university, looking at the governance of complex environmental issues and how you balance scientific knowledge, social and cultural considerations.

So tackling climate change requires us all to think about how we live our lives, how we travel, what we eat, what we buy, what we throw away. And I guess how we holiday as well. Then we maybe get, uh, have less attention on that. But Sandro, in headline terms, what for you are the main implications of tourism for climate change?

[00:01:31] Sandro Carnicelli: Hi, Rebekah thanks for having us here today and talking to you. It’s always a pleasure. I think, one of the interesting things is a lot of people when they hear about tourism and climate change or cover carbon emissions, they think about traveling and they always associate with airplanes. And in reality, tourism and climate change is way bigger than that.

And involves everything that you just said is the consumption. It is where you stay is what you eat is what you dress. So it is way more complex than just airplane carbon emissions, even if recognising the airplane carbon mission is this is an important point. So I think it’s important for us to discuss just now how the overall contribution of tourism in, in, in a more macro terms is impacting the world is changing communities and is changing the environment.

[00:02:17] Rebekah Widdowfield: And just in terms of that, Leslie, how do you see some of that being played out in the on the ground and some of the areas that you’ve been working on.

[00:02:26] Leslie Mabon: I think a number of ways in which climate change tourism are starting. We’re starting to see some of the effects and consequences of that in Scotland, to an extent of covid and what we’ve seen in the last year and a half.

Perhaps inadvertently has given us a kind of speedrun before we might see in the future. So there’s a lot of talk about, particularly in the global north, in wealthier parts of the world, like where we live, about how we may have to reduce emissions and clearly flying international travel for leisure is a large source of that.

I’m assuming that for a number of years, people have been talking about, well, does this mean people may conduct more of their kind of recreational and tourism activities domestically. And I think what we’ve seen is that what you start might have positive effects in terms of carbon dioxide emissions on the ground.

We then need to think about, well, what does that mean in terms of big environmental and ecological effects for the places that might be picking up some of those visitors? So just to give you a very quick example, I live in Oban, the west of Scotland. We’ve actually not seen a reduction really in the number of tourists that we have because we’ve maybe lost international visitors that we’ve probably picked up anecdotally at least a lot of people that otherwise might be going overseas.

Camp sites, perhaps don’t have the capacity to deal with more campervans, larger vehicles coming in. You maybe have people who through no fault of their own haven’t, have the exposure to the sort of knowledge and education about how to visit a rural or wilderness environment which creates problems around waste.

You maybe have more vehicle transportation, which has other pollution aspects. So there’s that tension to be balanced, to be thought about between maybe the global ambitions of flying, which is just the most obvious thing we think about when it comes to climate change in tourism, on these other environmental and ecological and social impacts for the places that are picking up the slack.

[00:04:40] Sandro Carnicelli: Interesting. You’re saying that largely because when I meant to let the complexities of tourism and environment is all about that is we think a lot about the long haul flights, as I said is very important, but there is a lot of other problems in terms of emissions that are, we think as a secondary, but the more I work with students, the more we realize, for example, fast fashion is increasingly a problem of tourism because people decide to go traveling and they go for fast fashion brands to just find that location. So when we think about the impacts on communities and the impacts of tourism in coastal communities or in the environment, we are also talking about the volume of waste produced and in many cases, this waste, it’s new waste, it’s not old waste. It’s like new waste generated in Oban, for example, because actually the volume of tourists arriving is not lower. It’s actually bigger because of the domestic market is rediscovering the place.

[00:05:50] Rebekah Widdowfield: It sounds like, I mean, what you’re both saying is this is much more complex than emissions from travel. It’s emissions from a lot of other things as well, and it’s actually more complex than, than emissions as well in terms of the wider environmental impacts. So, I mean, do we need to change the way we think about and talk about tourism?

[00:06:06] Sandro Carnicelli: I think so. I think when we proposed the recently in a paper that we wrote, that we need to look through environmental justice. We don’t need to look to social justice and we also need to look to the ethics of care. So trying to look to how much we care for the communities, how much we care for the environment, how much we care for the planet. But also thinking about the actions that we do, the way we consume things nowadays.

It’s very easy to talk about consumption and thinking about a sandwich or something that is tangible. But when you talk about consumption of experiences, we also need to understand that it is not tangible, but there’s still a significant impact. And that environmental impact is important in terms of experiences that we do and what we actually decided to, to buy in terms of visiting places or visiting locations and areas. So for me, I think we need to look to tourism under a different environmental perspective, social justice perspective, but also in terms of the care in our relationships with the communities, with each other and with the world.

[00:07:23] Rebekah Widdowfield: Leslie, I think that’s been sort of quite a focus of your work is that balancing, as I said, in my introduction of this sort of, I guess the scientific dimension, but also the social and cultural considerations, that’s complex stuff. How do you balance those different dimensions?

[00:07:39] Leslie Mabon: I suppose in very general terms, one of the ways that we think about that and it’s going to sound like something that I’m just trying to promote my own work, but the importance I think of getting social sciences and humanities and arts perspectives into how we think about sustainability right from the start. So, I’ve kind of been in something it kind of is frustrated me and you still see strands of it…

The social science is something that you tend to be thought of as, almost as an afterthought when we do scholarship and climate change and sustainability. And we agree the hard science and we agree the engineering and technical solutions and the role of social sciences becomes about how you then convince the public of a particular course of action and, or, you know, how you then find public attitudes that problem maybe sustainable tourism actually – I’ve been learning little bits about this in the last couple of years. And I think it represents it very well, so from us, as I understand it and Sandro might correct me, you know, I’ve seen lots of things in the past, maybe from a kind of tourism perspective that have looked at sort of people’s awareness of environmental issues and public attitudes, the landscapes and things like that.

But then more recently, if you look at a lot of the sustainable tourism literature, it deals in much more depth with these questions of what kind of society do we want to live in? What kind of economy do we want to run? Do we, even want to challenge, some of the assumptions about constant economic growth.

So I guess somewhat from a kind of scholarly and research perspective, it’s embedding these big questions about, you know, what is our destination point embedding these in our research and scholarship agenda, right from the outset. So that, you know, you’re not coming in with that kind of predetermined strategy and they’d try to assess public attitudes to it.

But rather that you’ve got pathologists, environmental scientists, social scientists, humanities, working together on working in collaboration with communities, in fact, to understand about right from the same. I appreciate that it’s much easier said than done, but that’s the sort of direction of travel if you have excused upon at the moment.

[00:09:59] Sandro Carnicelli: But it’s interesting because that’s exactly what we are starting to look more into tourism research, a lot of the past tourism research focus on tourists. Right. So tourism, tourists, and actually what we need to go back a little bit is to look to the concept of hospitality. You can only be tourists. If there is someone hosting you and welcoming you and who is welcoming you is the community is the environment, is it a location.

And when you start to think of and shift that, that angle, then you start to value way more actually. Well, that’s my house, this is my environment. This is my beach. This is my coast. This is where the community is placed. You are coming here, let’s work together to maintain and preserve that because in two days time, you’re going to go back home, but I’m left with all your rubbish, right? Or before your impact. So when you start to actually shift the narrative, from actually the privileged and the hedonism of the tourists and move that towards the local communities and the rights of local communities for a safe environment, a clean and an economic viable environment, even that’s how we kind of started to change.

Now there’s a lot of changes in terms of how we see society and how we leave society and how we consume that impact your role in all of that. So some of the data, for example, show that in Scotland, that is two times more people on domestic tourism going to self-catering than using hotels. So what did that mean is a lot of these people are using websites that rent houses and stuff on houses and things like that. And that can be interesting, but it can also be problematic considering the changes that it creates in the economics of the location, in terms of the prices of houses and so on. Right. So all these changes that we see now with the sharing economy, with the experience economy will also impact on our relationship with the environment. And I think we need to rethink that because when we shift from tourists to community to hospitality, then we start to see in a different relationship with the environment.

[00:12:18] Rebekah Widdowfield: That’s really interesting. And I maybe should hold my hands up, having come back from a self-catering holiday near Fort William a few weeks ago. But actually, what was really interesting about that was a self-coaching cottage was, it was probably the first time I’d seen a statement, which I can’t rememberif it was about a responsible tourism, but it was actually was locating you in and reminding you, you were coming to a local community and to sort of be caring about that.

And part of me when I read that thinking, well, I’m really sorry that people need to be told this, you know, but actually it was very, it was very well done in terms of actually getting you to think maybe a little bit more broadly around the environment in which you were coming into. But I guess there is that sense of you know, tourism has historically been seen as a positive thing. It’s understanding and getting new experiences. It’s getting to know different places, getting to know different cultures. It helps your understanding of the world. How do we sort of, I guess, balance that the positivity of tourism, because I don’t think, I really you’re saying we shouldn’t have tourism, but how do we make tourism, I guess sustainable then actually, what do we need to do in concrete terms? Leslie what would be the key things from your perspective?

[00:13:27] Leslie Mabon: Just to follow up on Sandro’s comments before. And also you don’t experience recently the big issue in Scotland I think that we face is how you can ensure that some of the positives, some of the benefits, actually accrued to local communities themselves and don’t become counterproductive.

And again, anecdotally all across the north of Scotland and then the west of Scotland and the areas where I live we see on an awful lot of properties that would become affordable housing for young families becoming not just second homes, but also short-term lets I mean, it’s even happening in Edinburgh and Glasgow you know, we saw during COP26 people charging up to 12,000 pounds a week to let flats out for the week. So there’s a real concern, I think, particularly around where people stay. And so Sandro says a lot more now, Airbnb, even booking.com, have completely transformed the way in which we go about doing tourism. You know, we can now curate our own travel, our own experiences, that’s fabulous because it allows people to maybe do a lot more than they could before but the whole, other side of that it does lead to that whole situation where people will buy up properties to profiteer you know, and then they can make economies dependent on tourism and can make it hard for young people who might have skills and talents and capabilities to stay there.

So, I mean, one thing I would like to see is the Scottish government and maybe also local authorities, you know, being emboldened to be a little bit braver or maybe really enforcing some of the issues around how we think about council taxation and the property ownership and things like that, just so that, you know, you don’t want to stop people traveling.

You don’t want to, you also don’t want to stop people, making a living off supporting tourism. You have, people want to runhotels and do bed and breakfasts. We can do short term lets. We shouldn’t stop that. But we maybe need some of our regulators to be a little bit braver to ensure that that doesn’t become extractive that doesn’t result in a few people profiteering in a way that’s quite detrimental to locality.

[00:15:50] Sandro Carnicelli: I think that’s it. I think the issue of leakage as well as not in terms of economics is very difficult to think about that without exploring the economic aspect. And whenever you have communities where the leakage of the economic impact goes overseas for multinational organisations or online websites and things like that that obviously reduce the economic impact on the community.

So one of the things that we see while I always believe is tourism to be really responsible, sustainable needs to be led by the local communities. It should be led because they are the ones who will stay behind. And then you do a process of education of them that well that’s, that’s your location. That’s your place. If you destroy it, you’re going to be left without that. Right? So that’s one of the issues that I think lies the mentored is the diversification of the economy. So governments needs to encourage and diversify the economy, not relying only on tourism because that’s not, you know, is not good for the future, but you also need to give ownership to the organizations to maximize obviously economic benefit in terms of reducing the leakage, instead of not only increasing the number of tourists, because obviously if you have, if you lose a lot of the money that drains out of the city, then you keep trying to increase the number of tourists and be able to, to maintain some kind of benefit to the community. Now, when you reduce the drainage of that economic benefit, and then the local community will need less tourists and will be able to manage and sustain that in a more coherent way, but also environmentally friendly.

So as soon as you educate the community and give them the power shift to, to make the decisions informed by us, let’s say interdisciplinary approach with ecologists, biologists and impact assessments, then you start to change the narrative. So. We still can have tourism even if I wrote about the growing of tourism, it’s not that I want the end of tourism you know, what I want is a tourism that doesn’t destroy the world, because if this is true, the world there is no more tourists, no more human beings. There is nothing left. So what we need to think is, okay, work with the community. We work with policymakers to make sure the community is maximised as much as they can. But also remember that they need to diversify the economy, the economies that with COVID struggled more are the economies of didn’t diversify before. Right. And that’s because, you know, places, or islands that relied extremely tourism in the past with the restriction of covid you know, really struggled in terms of social aspects.

So I think we need to really start to think about the complexity of tourism in terms of economic impacts, environmental impacts, and what will be for the future with the pressures on the mother earth.

[00:18:45] Rebekah Widdowfield: It’s like what you’re almost talking about is some form of just transition. I mean, which we’ve sort of very much. Sort of talked about in terms of oil and gas increasingly in the agricultural sector, but what does a just transition look like for the tourism sector? How do we get that balance of tourism supporting rural areas, but doing so in such a way that ensures a sustainable future and supports fair and decent work? Leslie?

[00:19:09] Leslie Mabon: You must have read my mind, because I was just about to come in there before you started speaking and say, oh, you know, we, we talk a little bit COVID and then what we learned from it in in some ways though, covid is almost the exact opposite of what we want and what we need for climate change, because it was very rapid and sudden which resulted in a big change some of which is temporary. Some of which is permanent, but in many ways it was completely unjust because it was completely unplanned for, you know, our whole industries and sectors were shut down overnight. Okay. If you have furlough and video subsidies and things like that, but there’s no planning, nothing in place.

So when we talk about what we can learn from COVID, we’ve got to be extremely cautious. In that, you know, we need to think, well, this wasn’t necessarily planned. It wasn’t just, you know, a lot of people had it not been for some of these furlough schemes would have been out of work overnight.

Nonetheless, you know, climate change. We don’t have long to act and we need to start planning now for what comes next it may well be like I said, start in a net zero world, we have more domestic and local travel, leisure recreation. How do we ensure that our communities are able to deal with that?

And how do we ensure that you have people with the skills and capabilities to be able to maximize that and create value locally? If you’ve also maybe got places within Scotland, and again, just talking anecdotally that maybe do rely quite heavily on international visitors. And they’re not going to have those anymore.

So, you know, again, you maybe see people saying, okay, Edinburgh and Glasgow the streets are dead now you don’t have the international visitors that you did before. What does that mean five-ten years in lower carbon world with less international travel. What does that mean for the people in the places that have thus far relied on international visitors?

Can you use some of those skills to do other things. Good example of that just a very quick one. So, when the pandemic hit and a lot of international travel stopped airways in Japan discovered they have a lot of cabin crew who weren’t able to work anymore because there were no planes flying, but we discovered that because of the skills that their cabin crew had in things like customer service they were very good at dealing with the public and resolving conflicts. Once they found that they would be able to work a, not just a retail, but in a lot of businesses in banks, in kind of working between departments, unable to do, to work with people. So another one as well, the railways in Australia taking cabin crew out of airlines, and getting them working in Austrian railways two great examples of how the skill sets that you have in tourism can be redeployed in other areas. I mean, I didn’t know, solid growth, you know, anymore with more of a kind of research background than me, what a just transition might look like for tourism.

[00:22:22] Sandro Carnicelli: And I agree with you that COVID, wasn’t really any example of, of just, um, moment considering, you know, like people, you know, like different social classes, struggled in different ways. And we need to acknowledge that. I think in tourism is the same. I think one of the things that concerns me in terms of tourism and the change is that tourism will become a product for the leads.

So they need to be able to afford. And be able to pay for whatever. I know if it’s a thing about we can compensate the carbon footprint if we pay. Right. And I think that’s one of the concerns that will become going back to, become a leisure activity of deletes. So we need to be careful in how we move forward with tourism, making sure that actually it’s just that there are options that are now a lot of policymakers and people thinking about how we deal with that. Right. That may be for example the Isle of Skye if there’s over tourism there, should we actually create a system that is an entry system that is not based on price? But in all other alternatives of allowing X number of people, which is the carrying capacity of the place to allow to enter without being based on the economic aspect of it.

So I think that is one of the challenges that we have in terms of the tourism industry ahead, and trying to not go back to, the over-tourism mass impact that they had before it should think about how we can actually move forward to a more sustainable approach. But without excluding people based on economic aspects and that’s a challenge that is not easy to solve. But I think there is a lot of opportunities there to think about creatively, about how we actually allow everyone to enjoy the beauties of traveling and tourism.

[00:24:25] Leslie Mabon: And just one thing. I would just add very briefly to that. And you talked there about the economics and it almost goes to this, this bigger question.

You know, we see a lot of new economic models being talked about, know about doughnut economics or wellbeing economies, where you have this idea that the kind of ideal space for society to live in doesn’t exceed the ecological and environmental boundaries. Oh, so, you know, respects the fact that we have lived.

So it’s maybe going from thinking about pounds, shillings and pence and instead thinking about what is the social value? You know, what are the much broader ranges of social value that we can out of tourism and again, that’s a hard question. I lost one way that we need to kind of get beyond that purely kind of pounds shillings and pence valuation of a tourism,

[00:25:19] Rebekah Widdowfield: Clearly these discussions and research and thinking going on in academia, I guess it’s how much has that conversation going on with local governments, with communities. I mean, you’ve talked about the importance of regulation. You talked about the importance of needs being led by local communities. You know, certainly in the climate change debate, tourism doesn’t seem to be upfront and central apart from long haul flights and airplanes and emissions from that, how much of these conversations starting to happen on the ground. If you like, Sandro?

[00:25:51] Sandro Carnicelli: Yes, it is. I think there is lots of new initiatives in New Zealand. New Zealand is always ahead of the time. It’s unbelievable. How well they’re doing in that aspect. But I think New Zealand has lots of examples. One is the voice of the Maori community, and indigenous community in owning the land and having the voice.

And that the only thing that they are doing is the calculation of carbon footprint of the tourists. So one of the plans they have is okay, you know, you came here, well, no, you go, where do you go? How did you go to the place? And then you want to have a tax after that. Right. Which can be complicated based on the things that we said before.

But one of the debates they had, not long ago in New Zealand was, the minister of tourism. If I’m not wrong, has said that they didn’t want backpackers. Because backpackers was a problem. They didn’t contribute enough. They, you know, they created rubbish everywhere and actually all the evidence from all the tourism professors that is actually the backpackers are the ones who have less impact.

Right. Because one, they contribute to the economy because a lot of them were working. Right. And their actual impact on the environment is minimal compared to cruise ships arriving in hundreds of thousands of people and polluting the oceans and leakage of money and drainage of money and, you know, lower consumption and chaos.

So actually there is that perception that depending on the type of tourism or, you know, if you, if you are wealthy and you can pay for a cruise ship, then you’re, you know, you find you’re welcome, but it is a very misperception of the types of tourism we have and actually backpackers contribute significantly to small shops, local shops, local economy, you know, instead of large brands, big brands, multinational brands that do not.

Give enough to the local communities. So, I think there’s a lot of those changes happening in New Zealand in terms of policy. So there is a direct engagement with not only research and academics, but also policy makers in terms of how they are going into a just transition there for people. Okay. If you want to come to New Zealand, these are the rules, you know, and this is how much you wanna contribute for us to keep and set, set a level of control.

Obviously the New Zealand has its benefits because it’s quite isolated in terms of distance. And it’s an island and all these characteristics is, is it’s very, it’s much harder. For example, if you think about Europe and the flow of people in Europe and the mobility of people, but I think there is a movement towards what’s a smarter way of traveling and a fair way of traveling as well that we’ll see initially implemented sooner rather than later in large centers like Europe.

[00:28:47] Rebekah: Are you seeing some of that in Scotland, Leslie?

[00:28:50] Leslie Mabon: Yeah I think that’s all really super point. And again, I was just going to pick up on that, that say New Zealand is going to be a good example and you have maybe a longer history of backpackers as Sandro was just saying you have a longer history of people, maybe traveling, going there, spending a few months and as a former colleague of mine, always used to say, one of the things you find with the kind of backpackers in inverted commas is that there’s almost a badge of owner in doing things as cheaply as you can. And there’s almost like it becomes a badge of honor.

So in that sense, sometimes that kind of ecological footprint can be quite light on these kind of people will be more willing and able to engage with communities. The only caution I’d put on that is when you get into the global south and the less well-off countries, you know, that can sometimes lead to problems around haggling and trying to get things as cheaply as possible in a way that, that becomes detrimental to people who are trying to make a living. In Scotland we maybe don’t have such a big tradition of that kind of travel. I mean, they’ve always thought people who’ve come to walk can do things like the west Highland way. What might be some things like that, but we maybe don’t have such a same tradition of people coming in and then moving about in that way.

And again, just to think a little bit about COVID to think about the environment. What we saw, I think last year is that we really need maybe some of that kind of almost education and awareness raising. of the kind they have in places like New Zealand, indeed of what you saw of the place you stayed in near Fort William.

Yeah, just a bit of awareness raising of what it means to go into community and what it means to travel there. So, you know, we, we all heard the horror stories last summer of people pulling down fence posts around crofts to make a bonfire that they could then put on Instagram and, you know, people disposing of their rubbish and in ditches and things like that.

And so I think that’s really important, you know, you don’t want to vilify people. You absolutely don’t want to make value judgments about what a good tourist or a desirable visitor is versus what they are not. But at the same time, I think there is a need for a bit of that kind of awareness raising about what visiting a place sustainably means and whether that all starts with, you know, the advice you get when you make your booking, whether it starts with trying to get some of that into the media, whether it even starts with trying to get some of that education back into schools in a way, you know, we, people of my generation and older maybe remainder some of the countryside codes and things that we learned in school.

Duke of Edinburgh’s award, things like that, you know, that we learn a lot of that stuff, getting some, a lot, maybe back into curriculum and getting the people who are going to be the travelers and consumers of tomorrow to think about, you know, the impacts of what they do might go a long way to, to learning from places like New Zealand that have a longer history of working with these backpacker type visitors.

[00:32:11] Sandro Carnicelli: I think it is a different thought in terms of timing. So there’s a whole theory about tourism, right? And I see that one when we were young, growing back in Brazil, my dad would take four weeks of holiday and then we will travel for four weeks. And so on. Nowadays, a lot of the holidays we see is very short term.

So like the average time that domestic tourists will come to the Highlands is three days. So they will travel two or three days back. So it’s very short, lots of short holidays right. And we see that as well. When I came here to Scotland, I start to realize the number of flights and talking about flights, et cetera. But there is always more than that. But the number of flights, my students or colleagues will take to go to Europe a year. And that was like 3, 4, 5 holidays. Short holidays and that’s problematic. It’s also the way we do tourism, the way we think tourism is also different. So instead of having, and I think a lot of there’s a lot of social changes that are organizations that don’t support that.

Right. There was a point universities was saying, oh, you cannot take more than three weeks holiday at one time. Right. And it’s like, okay, but, but you know, if I want to have a meaningful time with my family why can’t I take four weeks of, you know, which actually my carbon footprint may be lower because actually it’s lower tourism is, you know, one place and enjoy and so on.

Why now? You know, I think so there is, it’s a whole chain of, of issues that we have now that doesn’t, contribute for people taking it slow. And take it low in terms of carbon, so slow and low in terms of emission. And I think we need to, to that, I think there’s significant changes that we need to do in society to, to allow things to be different if we want it to be a little bit more sustainable.

[00:33:59] Leslie Mabon: That’s a really super point. I’m just going to pick up on that very quickly with a personal example. So my wife is Japanese. And that means that family visits entail a long-haul flight and that poses a real ethical conundrum. When we think about personal carbon footprint, carbon shadows, and then responsibility.

And so what, one of the things that we’d like to try and think about is how you to kind of ensure that we’re doing as much as we can. In relation to the emissions that we make on exactly as Sandro said. What we like to try and do then is okay if my wife’s going to visit her family can I do some field work can I do some research at the same time. Can I visit some colleagues as well? So that, that we’re not just going for a week, but again, that requires a lot of support and flexibility. And from employers, in terms of how we think about our work and how we think about traveling. So again, I appreciate that I’m in a very privileged position to be able to do that. But it maybe does illustrate how we get away from this idea of going lots of places very quickly and think more differently about, you know, the value that we get from traveling.

[00:35:19] Rebekah Widdowfield: I think it illustrates the complexity, again, doesn’t it? Cause I was thinking, you know, when you were talking I might have thought before I went near Fort William. Well we went out for meals a couple of times there, we bought all our shopping at the local shops where hill walkers. So we didn’t, you know, we were always very careful about how we walk and things like that. So I might’ve thought that was a good thing to do, but I also go other places go hill walking and maybe my footprint then becomes higher than actually, if I’d taken an international flight. And I know you don’t want to get into sort of good and bad tourism, but it complex even for individuals who are wanting to make sustainable choices.

[00:35:53] Sandro Carnicelli: I think so. And I think, but I think there is a lot of these, I think there is also the whole society of Instagram when it’s cool to take more photos in more places and travel this bucket, the idea of bucket list.

So I had friends, for example, who had the dream to travel to a hundred countries before they are 30. So all these things that sounds… at some point, it sounded very appealing and maybe still sounds very appealing. But then when you conflict that with the current climate emergency, it’s like, I would love to do that, but, but my desire cannot be bigger than the crisis, the environmental crisis that will leave, you know, and sometimes we need to compromise our own wishes and our own desires towards, bigger and better goods. So I think that is, you know, there’s a point about, in terms of education processes that is important that we reflect and teach, you know, the children and the new generation of consumers.

I think that is also something that needs to be done in terms of public policy. Because if not, it becomes a very, very conflicting narrative. So I met someone yesterday or two days ago here and she said like, oh, you know, this COP26 is interesting because people are wanting to make me feel guilty for taking my holiday while they all flying their own personal private jet up and down and enjoying their freedom.

And there’s a point in that, right?In terms of okay if we want the contribution of the society, you know, it needs to be tackled also to some of the privilege. Off of the top of the, of the ranking row. I think we all need to kind of really reflect how we are consuming things instead of just pointing out to the guilty of the person who is taking one holiday a year.

[00:37:43] Leslie Mabon: Absolutely. I mean, I’m really interested, Sandro, you mentioned Instagram there and it makes me think about social media and there’s one very strange genre of YouTuber that I’ve come across recently and kind of been sucked in because it’s horrific and yet also bizarre. And that is they’re called EV geeks. You know, the people that fly around the world not to go to places, but they fly around the world for the purpose of experiencing different planes and airlines and the food and the airports. I’m like, you know, aeroplanes. Okay. I can understand people might be interested in the engineering you know, the technology, but without wanting to, again, kind of create hierarchies and dichotomies. There are maybe some types of travel and tourism that are perhaps less sustainable than others. You know, if rather than maybe picking on people who are taking one holiday a year to, you know, to get a break, you might think, okay, well, is that compatible with a net zero world to be flying around the place, purely to show everybody what plane food looks like and for you then get to the airport and then turn round and come back home again.

So there’s a very bizarre form of travel. We have, sorry, on you go.

[00:39:08] Sandro Carnicelli: No that’s it when you chose to have the discussion about the responsibility of those airlines, they have responsibility of the large chains of hotels in terms of their contribution, the impact. So all these things, you know, one thing people will say, well, if that is a consumer for that product, we should have, but that are something off in terms of sharing responsibility in terms of, you know, yeah, the companies know and their roots and their incentive, you know, like people say, and people celebrate. More and more, airline routes. You know, people look to people, look to the flight rather with all those flights around the world and they get amazed in a positive sense instead of being horrified by the number of planes we have around this skies just now. So I think there is a need, there is a huge need for change of narrative, change of policy ownership of local communities. If we want to contribute a little bit more and make those a little bit more sustainable.

[00:40:26] Rebekah Widdowfield: And it’s funny actually, because it sounds like that’s a lot of what you’re talking about. We’re both having more of the narrative and the conversations across society and across communities at different levels, but also changing what we, what we talk about when we talk about tourism and what we, what we think about.

I mean, we are recording this during the, during COP26. There’s obviously various commitments that have already been made, but for, for the two of you, if you had one wish, and I can be fairly generous you can have one wish each, but if you had one wish, in terms of, you know, a positive outcome in terms of tourism and climate change, what would you wish to see different in the future and maybe Leslie I’ll come to you first.

[00:41:07] Leslie Mabon: I think simply what I would like to see is a much more explicit and formal recognition of the environmental and social damage that us in the wealthier countries can cause to the global sites. So clearly that’s being really talked about in COP26 in terms of trying to get the wealthier nations to legally and formally agree, to recognize and support loss damage.

But I think we can extend that as well to tourism as well, and some sort of formal recognition that when people travel visit can be good, but it can also be extractive. And whether that’s then setting up mechanisms or ensuring that whatever comes in from taxing from aviation emissions, they maybe goes to countries in the global site, the support with their adaptation and with also they’re building resilience. Or whether it then comes through helping some of these links between countries that ensure that when people go to places that they’re, you know, they’re educated and they’re informed before they go there, they’re working in a way that actually leaves a positive legacy behind them. So I would like to see my wish is proper formal, legally binding recognition of the responsibilities that we have to the less wealthy parts of the world.

[00:42:32] Sandro Carnicelli: I agree with Leslie I think also there is a need to recognize, the excessive, unnecessary and wasteful consumption of rich societies and rich classes. And the damage that that causes, for me, a lot of the environmental impacts we have nowadays is due to excessive, unnecessary levels of consumption.

When you go to countries of global south may, as mentioned by Leslie, the levels of consumption is not even close to the level of consumption that we saw in the global north. And I talk about that to my students you know, mum had the same washing machine that she had when she got married.

So that was like 40 years ago with the same washing machine. You go to other countries and we seek constant renew of TVs, washing machines and everything else. So I think, unless we really target wasteful unnecessary consumption. I think we’ll struggle to solve, the environmental puzzle so it’s always, what we say is like when you look to tourists and I’ve been doing some tourists, some work with tourism in extreme environments, which is whenever you end up using all the natural resources, there is nothing left.

So if we keep using the natural resources, Then there is a point that those are gone and that is valid for all you is valid for any natural resources that we are wasting because we over-consumed. So I think that is something that I would like to see is a high focus on how we tackle excessive consumption.

[00:44:23] Rebekah Widdowfield: And we’re still going to a week of COP26 to go so let’s see what comes out of that. And more importantly, I think what actually gets implemented on the back of any commitments that are made. Dr. Leslie Mabon and Dr. Sandro Carnicelli, thank you so much for sparing your time to talk with us today and for sharing your expertise about tourism and climate change and the wider environmental impact.

Thanks for listening. You can find previous Tea & Talk episodes on our website rse.org.uk. Or you can subscribe on Spotify, Apple, and Google podcasts. For our latest news details, events and activities search for the Royal Society of Edinburgh on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Tea & Talk
Publication Date
18/11/2021
Featuring
Dr Sandro Carnicelli
Dr Leslie Mabon
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