Media Blog

Eco-Tourists Are Slobs

Saturday’s NY Times has an op-ed by Dominique Browning, former editor of House and Garden, on eco-tourism in Argentina.  She starts off the piece with:

THE most striking thing about the drive out of El Calafate on the way to the Patagonian glaciers is the trash. Sheer, flimsy, white plastic bags, tens of thousands of them, are strewn across acres of land. The harsh wind has blown them in curtains up against the chain-link fences around construction sites; thousands have been tilled into the mud of wide tire tracks; thousands more, tattered by sharp nettles, festoon the low, clumping bushes that cover the landscape.

And later on while picnicking on the glacier:

At the signal to get back on board we are reminded to leave nothing behind. I linger a bit, trying to steal a quiet moment in front of the glacier. I cannot seem to feel, in a deep way, the awe I know this spectacle deserves, a response more profound than the simple excitement that makes us reach for our cameras — closer perhaps, to a state of grace and wonder, the feeling of being in the presence of something holy. I cannot push aside the clamor of our journey or the mess of my companions. How can we expect anyone to care about melting glaciers in the abstract, in news articles and scientific papers, when even in the face of their stupendous presence we remain careless? Along the path grow exquisite, miniature Alpine flowers in every imaginable color, so tiny you could easily miss them. Among the delicate blossoms are bits of foil, trash, cigarette butts, broken glass and plastic water bottle caps. We can’t seem to help ourselves.

Eco-tourists seem to be polluting the world.

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