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Leave no waste behind - Respect Nature

Environmental Education and Adventure Tourism

It is genuine the indignation we feel when we find garbage left behind by people who visit waterfalls, trails, mountains, beaches, rivers, or any other places in Nature. The first impact is usually aesthetic: ugliness, bad smell, perception of degradation ... and then we quickly see deterioration, pollution, death of animals and rivers, plant devastation, erosion etc.

The problem in perspective

What does security have to do with ecosystem maintenance?

It is not difficult to see that besides the preservation of natural beauty, which is the attractive object in Adventure Tourism, the garbage and the devastation resulting from it is dangerous in many ways.

Plastic waste, for example, is not a problem of aesthetics, it is a problem of survival on the planet.

The plastic industry emerged 70 years ago. Before that date the production and diffusion of the use of plastic in the world was incipient. The latest research indicates that since then, plastic waste produced in the last decades reaches 6.9 billion tons scattered around the planet: in the seas, in the rivers, in the mountains, on the outskirts of cities!

Estimates of degradation of the plastic in its constituent molecules goes from 450 years to never, that is, the accumulation of plastic waste, in any ecosystem, is a great threat that the planet faces today. International data point to millions of marine animals killed annually due to plastic in the oceans, either from ingesting plastic particles or getting stuck in plastic trash.

More frightening yet is what Marine Ecologist Richard Thompson - who created the concept of "microplastics" - reveals to us with his sad discovery of plastic particles "broken" by a small marine animal, similar to shrimp and abundant on the coast which, when it finds plastic coated with the sludge that is its natural food, chews quickly and spits or excretes plastic particles. A single plastic bag can be broken into 1.75 million microplastic fragments ... scattered and already found everywhere (as the research shows): from the bottom of the sea to the huge floating ice of the Arctic which when melt release these millions of particles in the water, in the sands of the beaches etc. These plastic particles, in addition to being ingested by animals and us humans, will be subject to unimaginable quantities to be accumulated on the planet in the near future.

Some rivers, in several countries, have already been declared biologically dead due to the amount of plastic accumulated in their waters (and taking this plastic to the oceans as well).

Plastic has revolutionized industrial parks and human habits over the past 7 decades, has favored many industries, but the waste of this lifestyle is now killing the planet's natural resources.

picture: Ane de Souza - Irland

What to do?

Scientists and observers from the United Nations Environment Program draw attention to the relative easy ways of solving this problem, in the sense of being much easier to deal with it than with environmental problems related to global warming for example. They propose urgent development of systems to recycle plastic waste and parallel educational program of the population. What is desirable is, above all, responsible and systematic action by governments in the development of plastic and can recycling projects, with consequent population awareness programs. This is considered easier to accomplish than changes in energy and water usage patterns, for example.

The European Commission presented (in May / 2018) a proposal with guidelines to reduce plastic pollution in cities and oceans, with a ban on the use of various disposable plastic products in Europe, with fines for governments that resist implementation of this program and suggestion of educational campaigns.

Another inspiring example in this sense comes from the small town of San Pedro La Laguna in Guatemala, which has already banned the use of plastic in the daily lives of citizens and is investing in a recycling project with excellent feedback from the population.

Nature and Tourism

With the increase in nature-oriented tourism, there is also an increasing concern about human behavior in previously untouched places. Inconvenient people and tour groups leave behind all kinds of garbage: plastic, cans, papers, clothes, shoes, electronics, camping equipment etc.

Natural spaces untouched by human presence maintain ecosystems that, in addition to being beautiful, preserve the minimum conditions of life on the planet.

Nature-oriented tourism faces the challenge of preserving its main attraction threatened by the presence of consumers themselves. The solution is not as easy as it is in a museum in the city, where tourists can be expelled or fined if they leave a PET bottle in the halls of the museum, or if they take a picture with flash of a medieval painting, for example. The conditions of Nature’s Tourism make it difficult to inspect and many people go to open Nature's places on their own, making "surveillance" impossible as the main method of solving this problem.

It is a consensus that environmental education is the most adequate and efficient solution to reach the population, whether in cities or in natural environments. Some biologists claim that disposable plastic should be advertised - in any advertisement - as "dangerous material" and not as "housewife-friendly material”. Massive campaign with this leitmotif would certainly change the vision one has of a plastic cup.

For those who go to places in Nature, the destruction of ecosystems, which also results from the accumulation of garbage, generates imbalance of animal species (greater risk of being attacked by animals such as snakes, for example), water pollution (risk of various diseases), devastation in the vegetation (causing erosions and other problems) etc.

Human behavior is not changed in the blink of an eye, large population groups are not made aware in a few days, not even months. Both in Brazil and in other countries, we observed many irresponsible behaviors regarding environmental preservation, with much garbage left on beaches, waterfalls and trails.

Parallel to educational campaigns, it will always be necessary to have inspection and punishment in Ecological Reserves and Parks. It’s also necessary that the signaling referring to personal objects and ban on the abandonment of garbage be explicit. When we talk about safety in Adventure Tourism, in Security Management of natural environments, the garbage generated by human activities in these places is certainly one of the main items to consider.

In Asia’s most famous mountains - in the Himalayas - Nepal has been catching the attention of environmentalists: huge rubbish dumps from the rise in the number of Western climbers arriving in the country every month has threatened the paradisiacal landscape. Trekking Agencies do not carry garbage accumulated by their customers. The director of the Mountain Institute of the Country said in a report: "Thirty years ago there was no trash here; there was no plastic. Now we see this in every village, on every trail to Everest Base Camp" - Alton Byers (Nepal)

Environmental awareness is safety, is life!

- Respect Nature and carry your trash, whether disposable plastic items, plastic bags, food packaging, camping gear, batteries, ropes, fabrics, cans, glass or PET bottles ... take whatever you brought with you.

- Do not leave anything on waterfalls, trails, mountains, beaches, rivers or any other Nature’s environment you visit!

- Refrain from grubbing-up plants or flowers and do not disturb the animals.

Limit what you take with you and leave it all clean behind you.

picture: by Thaise - South Africa (#waterfallsafety)

pictures: under CC0 License, except the ones by Ane de Souza and by Thaise


Several links:

- Himalayas in danger of becoming a giant rubbish dump ->

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