Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Solving Antarctica's Tourist Problem

In 1985, a few thousand people visited Antarctica. Last season, that number shot up to more than 40,000. And scientists now fret about the damage being done by all the penguin-seeking tourists to the South Pole's fragile ecosystem. Another problem is the continent's status: It's not a sovereign state, so legislating human activity is difficult. And without any agreement or necessary funding, sufficiently monitoring the increased activity of tour groups is problematic. Researchers at Maastricht University have proposed a market-based solution similar to carbon trading schemes meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions. In their plan, a cap on the maximum travel days would be set, with additional days beyond the cap priced at higher rates for visitors. The income generated would be used to fund tour monitoring and environmental enforcement. If the proposal is adopted by the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, the penguins might actually start smiling for all those cameras.

  • Read "Tourism on Antarctica Threatening South Pole Environment; Solution Offered" (ScienceDaily, September 26, 2008)
  • Watch a video of the dramatic Wilkins Ice Shelf breakup in Antarctica
  • Watch a trailer for the film "Ice Bound in Antarctica," a documentary about one man's year on the continent (2008 Official Selection - Research Film Festival)
  • Visit the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators Web site
  • Sign a petition to establish Antarctica as a wildlife sanctuary by 2018
  • Sign a petition supporting the renewal of the Antarctic treaty
photo courtesy Martha de Jong-Lantink, Creative Commons

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