We are acting like adolescents and we need to grow up…

Harsh words from Anna Pollock, who delivered a direct and inspiring speech at the recent ‘Inspiring Sustainable Tourism’ conference in Croke Park.

The conference, organised by Eco Tourism Ireland, was a full house and the crowd was eager to hear what speakers and colleagues had to say about embracing the challenges of making our tourism industry more sustainable.

Anna Pollock had plenty of pretty sobering facts and stats about the subject of Climate Change and humanity in general. Her ‘big picture view’ on the subject talked about the fact that we are on the cusp of ‘Breakdown or Breakthrough’.

She urged the crowd to see that we need to have a fundamental change in the way we think and that the tourism industry could play a major part in contributing to people’s happiness.

 

From where I was sitting, this struck a chord with me. Because in a world where happiness is often confused with material wealth, the experiences we have in terms of travelling and visiting new places, is an alternative and real way that we can experience true happiness and create real memories.

As long as we can preserve the natural beauty of the places that people come to visit in the first place. And that is the challenge that the tourism industry faces very day.

We heard from Kenny Jacobs from Ryanair, who did a pretty good job convincing us that Ryanair are ahead of it’s competitors in terms of lowering emissions. He did raise some interesting points. The aviation industry is not necessarily the demon we have all been led to believe when it comes to CO2 emissions. Ryanair operate at 97% capacity on almost all flights and the fuller the plane, the more efficient the journey. Jacobs also told us that Ryanair planes are an average of 6 years old, making them a younger, newer fleet and therefore, also, more efficient.

Whatever your feelings are on the airline, they are the biggest in Europe and I was certainly impressed to see them at the event to address a issue like Climate Change. Just being there sends a message that they are at least, acknowledging the challenge.

The other ‘heavy hitter’ (my own words) of the day was Dr Cara Augustenborg. The Irish American Environmental scientist and climate change activist was there to explain some realities in terms of the speed our world is changing and how we must act quickly and immediately to try to ‘fix’ it.

She spoke about the link between Biodiversity and Climate change, about soil degradation, and the decline in the insect population. She quoted the well known fact that by 2050, there will be more plastic in our oceans than fish, but stressed that this is something people identify with, because they can picture it.

There are much bigger issues at play, with our oceans, the evaporation of our soils, the rising of our sea levels. In Ireland we see this in the behaviour of the jet stream, which has become more erratic in nature, bring more storms and more hot weather.

But there is good news she stressed. There are ample opportunities for Ireland to embrace more solar and wind energy and we are well positioned to excel at both (yes, even solar!).

She also concluded that the tourism industry has a major role to play by showcasing the wonderful, natural habitats and landscapes of the country and to educate visitors that the beauty of these places is the fact that they are unspoilt and untouched.

There were plenty of other speakers from Tourism Ireland, Failte Ireland and the Irish Hotel Federation and there was lots of enthusiastic input and questioning from the audience.

I certainly learned a great deal this week. Not just about how involved and engaged the Tourism industry is in the Climate Challenge, but about how everyone has taken on this challenge to make Ireland an example of how things can be done.

Sure, there is still a way to go, but this is an industry that is pushing the limits to make some real changes.

 

 

Hopefully other industries will follow quickly. We have alot of work to do.

Thank you to Lauren and the Eco Tourism Ireland for inviting the Wasted.ie Team to the event!

 

Header image from Pixabay