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Our Living World is Dying

Stacey Worman, 2006-2007 Michael B. Keegan Traveling Fellow

 

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Date: October 4, 2006

To: Undisclosed recipients

Re: Different Industries Down Under...

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Last week I arrived in Townsville after a six hour ride on a greyhound bus. The only other experience I've had on a greyhound was back in the states, I rode one from Nashville to St. Louis once. But the cliental was much different in Australia , as everyone seemed to be a fellow western-international traveler of approximately my age.

Every stop we pulled up to, I'd gaze outside the window and I'd see people waiting there with signs advertising their accommodation, with a complimentary shuttle just waiting to whisk away the newly arrived. And when we pulled up to my stop, the scene was not any different: there awaited a big van labeled 'Backpackers'. And while I needed a place to stay, no way José was I getting on that bus; that simply would have been far too easy and far too touristy for me. Instead, I opted to find my own accommodation and so I set out on foot.

After a moderately long walk....with my heavy bags, my horrible sense of direction, and the sun beating on my back....I caught one of the city buses and told the driver I was looking for a hostel. After a few minutes, he pulled up and said, "Here you go sweet heart." I glanced out the window and wasn't particularly thrilled. "Are there any other hostels around?" I asked. "Yeah, there's another one just around the corner, I'll drop you off there." And so at the next stop, I offloaded.

I grabbed my bags and peered up the driveway...and sure enough....there it was glistening in the sun: the same 'backpackers' bus that I was adamant about not taking over an hour ago back at the bus station! I almost walked back to the other place....But then Brenda advised me not to be ridiculous and so heeding her advice, I proceeded to the reception desk. I found the irony of the whole situation rather amusing and needless to say, it put me in a rather silly mood. So I rang the bell at the front desk and started chattering away with the man who came to check me in. After a little bit I told him I wasn't sure how long I'd be in the area and he told me that he was the owner of the place and asked if I wanted to stay for the week and work in exchange for free accommodation. I was intending to spend some time in Townsville anyway, as it is one of Australia 's main hubs for marine research and home to the Marine Park Authority's headquarters....and well, sure...sounds good...why not?


My "job" was to clean the kitchen at night...and...get this...to drive the 'backpackers' bus to the greyhound station a few times each day to try to round up some stray travelers in need of a place to stay. Oh the irony continued...


...And so it went...an interesting week being 'Stacey the bus driver'. It took some time...and a few startled customers....but I finally got use to driving a stick shift on the left side of the road and I eventually stopped turning the windshield wipers on every time I went to make a turn...

I've never stayed at a hostel long enough to watch people come and go. But it was interesting to take a momentary pause from my own moving to watch the movement that occurred around me. Everyday I'd pick people up from the bus station and on the ride back ask them their 'story'...who they were, what they were doing, where they were going....almost all Europeans...almost all on the exact same track....one night in Townsville, two days on Magnetic Island, and then they would be continuing their way up or down the coast....

And while Townsville isn't a 'tourist' town by Australian standards, the week gave me a small little taste of the industry that contributes an estimated $5.1 billion to the Australian economy each year (gross value, including marine tourism and the associated transportation, accommodation, and land based activities....making it the second largest industry in the GBR region, second to mining). Here are some quick facts I've found about global mass tourism...

  • The World Trade Organization (WTO) lists the top three exports of world trade as crude petroleum products, motor vehicle parts, and tourism. And tourism has become the global economy's most rapidly growing service sector, expanding most rapidly in Asia .  
  • Tourism impacts the environment directly through people observing nature and indirectly through the infrastructure associated with accommodating the tourists. And it is the industry most dependent on the environment's long-term integrity, as people are enticed to visit destinations because of their pristine nature.

I'd like to point you all to a thought provoking article I've come across....There's No Such Thing As Eco-Tourism , Anneli Rufus, August 14, 2006. The comments that have been posted are especially worth reading, as it has sparked a very interesting discussion. (I'm not sending you this link because I necessarily agree with it, but have come across it and am giving it to you so that you can ponder it all yourselves too)....

 

Shifting gears to a totally new train of thought....

A quick history of the Great Barrier Reef ...

Back in the 1960's, Australia was on a quest to attain self-sufficiency in oil and so the state of Queensland began searching for oil reserves. The Great Barrier Reef soon became a centrally involved in this pursuit and became a prime sight for drilling. In addition, various proposals were made to begin mining the reef for agricultural limestone to use for fertilizing sugar cane, one of Australia 's major crops. The Australian people mobilized under the slogan 'Save the Reef' and after a decade long struggle, the Marine Park was established in 1975, permanently protecting the reef from these extractive industries. Back in that day the establishment of parks on land had been a widely accepted concept, but the idea of defining a body of water for the same purpose was in its infancy.

And in the late 1990s, concerns arose that the existing levels of protection were not adequate to ensure the long term integrity of the Great Barrier Reef and so plans to increase its level of protection commenced. The Marine Park Authority released its new management plan for implementation just over two years ago on July 1 st 2004. The entire park was rezoned and stricter regulations were placed on the reef's different user groups. One of the management plan's key 'achievements' was that 'no-take' areas were increased from less than 4.5% of the park to over 33% of the park. And according to a pamphlet published by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), "The approach taken...[in the rezoning]...is now recognized as one of the most comprehensive, innovative, and exciting global advances in the systematic protection of marine biodiversity and marine conservation in recent decades."

Environmental victory because...more protection is always a good thing, right?

Well, maybe yes...maybe no.

Today, different industries operate within the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park . As mentioned in the beginnings of this email, one of them is tourism.... At the Great Barrier Reef ,

  • Impacts from tourism are thought to be low because of the large size of the Reef, the pressure is particularly localized, well-developed management systems are in place, and the industry is very cooperative.
  • The tourism industry is a major source of funding for the Marine Park . Tourists pay an environmental management charge ($4.50 per visitor per day) which is used for research, education, and management

So the tourism industry is a multiple billion dollar business in Australia , it is well-managed in the sense that it does not seem to be adversely impacting the long term integrity of reef (unless you agree with the article...), and was not particularly impacted by the rezoning... 

Another industry in the region is fishing and because of its extractive nature, it one which is seen to directly conflict with marine conservation. And comparatively, it contributes very little to the Australian economy each year, bringing in only $149 million.

Summing this all up...

The reef was first protected in 1975 and it became further protected in 2004. If the Great Barrier Reef 's rezoning is an 'exciting global advancement in the systematic protection of marine biodiversity and marine conservation' and it is a 'model' for other countries around the world to follow....it is important to take a good look at the social and economic ramifications for all of the reefs user groups.

I've heard all sorts of informal comments about fisheries and the reef...It's an interesting situation and I'll soon have more to report about it

Until then, big smiles...

Stacey :-D

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September 28, 2006, Close Together, Worlds Apart....

September 10, 2006, Final Thoughts, the Life/Work Dichotomy....

September 7, 2006, The Party Eventually Ends...

September 4, 2006, Under the Sea, with Scientific Spectacles...

September 3, 2006, Off the Ship...

August 8, 2006, Back on land, but not for long...

June 24, 2006, Our maiden voyage(s)...

June 19, 2006, Not another mass email...

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