From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

BUSINESS & POLITICS

From Post-Apocalyptic Scenery to Post-Covid Era: How Will We Travel Tomorrow?

Rachel Husson

21 May 2020

Welcome to STAND’s series: “A closer look at tourism”! In the first article we looked into the way tourism is consumed around the world and introduced you to some disastrous consequences of mass tourism. In the second piece, we tried to answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the latter can be dealt with. In this last contribution, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

 

What’s happening now?

While mainly responsible for spreading the pandemic, the aviation sector had it backwards. Almost all leisure planes are rooted to the spot. Many other ways to get around are no longer operational. In addition, most countries have imposed more or less restrictive lockdowns. So, this is definitely not the time to travel, either internationally, or nationally.

 

We see videos and pictures of famous and usually crowded places now deserted. It’s the new curiosity. What does the world outside my condo look like on lockdown? I don’t know about you, but I feel like I never wanted more to enjoy the beauties of the world now that I would get to enjoy those alone. Is this a symptom of the way we travel? We generated mass tourism, yet we despise it. Can we have it both ways? This is something for us to meditate while in quarantine.

 

How to adapt tourism and prevent site deteriorations in the future?

Here are different solutions to mass tourism we witness so far:

 

The most radical one is to close the sites endangered by tourism. Thailand’s Maya Beach is a concrete example. In 2000, the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo Di Caprio unfolded on Maya Beach, in the Thai island of Ko Phi Phi Le. The scenery is truly majestic and makes everyone dream. A victim of its own success, the 200-meter-long beach saw about 5k tourists every day, coming by speedboats.

 

In 2018, the decision to close the site was unavoidable to preserve the seabed. It sent a strong statement and raised awareness about the consequences of mass tourism. The tourists themselves often agreed with the decision, reckoning that it’s probably the only way for their (potential) grandchildren to enjoy the site in later years. The locals on the other hand were torn about the decision. Up to 16% of the Thai population earn their livings from tourism. But they don’t want that kind of tourism anymore. They aspire to sustainable tourism: finding the right balance between maximizing profits and minimizing impact on the environment.

 

Yet, the closing solution is only partly satisfying. First, tourists kept coming even though they were stopped 300 meters away from the beach and couldn’t take a swim anymore. Then, it led loads of tourists to neighbouring beaches. Eventually, it didn’t solve the issue, just moved the problem. Indeed, it seems impossible to close all the endangered sites (except during the pandemic, you got me!).

 

Implementing quotas is another solution, often favoured by the public. Access to France’s Mont-Blanc is limited to 214 mountaineers per day; The Waves in Arizona can be witnessed by 20 lucky tourists a day, picked by a lottery; Dubrovnik’s Mayor authorises only 4k cruise-tourists to visit the medieval Croatian city each day (trying to avoid ending up like Venice in Italy); etc.

 

In Thailand, they concurrently hold quotas and sustainable training in the Similan islands – the first in the country. Before leaving the mainland, tourists are encouraged to be mindful about the precious ecosystem on the islands and told which rules to follow, including not taking back any rock or coral as a souvenir. While on the idyllic islands, visitors are constantly monitored by the guides and by rangers, who can fine any reluctant tourist. It’s been two years that the limit of 3850 tourists a day has been in place. The guides say they’ve seen a difference and are convinced it’s a great decision. But, from outsiders’ eyes, the quota seems still very high, as the beaches are still packed.

 

“In Costa Rica, responsible trips with the discovery of local traditions, close to the inhabitants and their true way of life, are widely organised and promoted.”

Some countries bet on lux tourism to limit mass tourism. In Bhutan, you can only reach some areas if you concede to pay a 250$ tax per person per day. This allows the locals to benefit greatly from tourism economics while limiting the number of visitors to set foot in their region. But let’s be honest, it deepens the already huge social disparities in travelling. 

 

Some Governments decided to tackle the consequences of tourism head on. Palau’s authorities were the first to change the national laws in regards to environmental protection. You won’t enter the Palau island, unless you’ve signed on your passport a pledge to respect the island environment drafted with the help of children from all over the island. “I take this pledge as your guest to preserve and protect your beautiful and unique island home. […] The only footprints I shall leave are those that will wash away.”

 

Finally, eco-tourism can be an alternative. In Costa Rica, responsible trips with the discovery of local traditions, close to the inhabitants and their true way of life, are widely organised and promoted. UNESCO emphasizes that the control of large numbers of visitors can be dealt with by organising circuits to spread the flood of tourists on the sites. But the organisation reckons that it’s an art that has to be learnt, it’s a peculiar way to cope with mass tourism. On the other hand, tourists must agree to get off the beaten track and enjoy the variety of things to see beside the mainstream attractions.

 

Beyond this non-exhaustive list of answers to mass tourism, of course what really needs to change is the way travelling is conceived. Being on holiday doesn’t give you the right to forget any good manners. It doesn’t make you a lord or a lady, above the laws, with people working for you. And foremost, travelling is not about showing off! Enjoy being away from home to learn a new way of life, a new culture and respect it. Always keep a critical mind when you’re suggested activities on the ground. What seems ethical at first sight, may not always be. Also, never underestimate the power of social media. Raise awareness of mass tourism consequences, share your experiences in making your trips ethical, and unfollow Instagramers that are not willing to change their way of travelling. In the end, never forget the power YOU have to set the right example and make things change. 

 

 

Featured photo by Ibrahim Rifath

 

 

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

OPINION

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Olivia Moore

21 May 2020

On the 4th May, the British government announced its plans to develop a contact-tracing app which would enable digital contract-tracing on a larger scale, in order to ease restrictions while at the same time maintaining public safety. The app is currently first being tested on the Isle of Wight, which has a population of 141,000 and will subsequently be launched to the rest of the UK in June. 

 

The app works specifically to let people know if they have been in close contact with an individual who subsequently reports positive for Covid-19. Whenever two users come in close contact, Bluetooth signals from each device perform a digital “handshake”, while keeping the data anonymous. This is then used to track down people to alert them of the need to quarantine, far more rapidly than the traditional methods. This is reliant on users to voluntarily “opt-in” to record details of any symptoms when they start to feel unwell. So if that person actually tests positive for Covid-19, a message will be pinged to people found to have been in close contact with them in the last 28 days (based on their anonymous IDs) and recommend them to self-isolate. If they take a test proving negative, then they may be released from this self-isolation on the app. Any data will not be stored for longer than 28 days and will be wiped when the pandemic is over, and the use of the app is finished. 

 

The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has suggested that “test and trace” strategies could slash rates of transmission by 50-65%. However, it is widely opinionated that such an app in the UK will likely raise more problems than it will solve. 

 

For one, although China adopted a location-health status tracking app earlier in their suffering of the pandemic, there is a lack of reliable data pertaining to its usage and it is difficult to determine any app’s effectiveness in limiting the transmission of Covid-19. 

 

Furthermore, it is not easy to capture sufficient participation on an app to make a significant impact on contact tracing outside of an authoritarian state like China. The UK is aiming for 50% usage for the population to at least use such an app. Still, in countries like Singapore, where a contact-tracing app is already available, and voluntary, only 12% of the population use it. Under such circumstances, this means that the statistical likelihood of two people who have the app massing by each other is only 1.44%.

 

“Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population”

Of course, Google and Apple have claimed that the government could just automatically install the software on everyone’s phones. However, a dispute has arisen that pitted the UK government against these companies, which are pedalling a competing outline and design for contact-tracing. In fact, the UK is one of the few countries that have decided to create an app that is actually incompatible with the contact-tracing API that is currently in development by Google and Apple. Instead of decentralising any data and information across devices like Apple and Google intend to do, the UK will pool its information in a single database operated by the NHS. The UK government argues that this will provide a greater insight into the transmission of Covid-19 and warn of the most at-risk users. 

 

Many academics, security researchers and privacy groups working to restrict government data collection argue that this will cause new issues in the area of state surveillance – the UK government has previously suggested that other organisations will be allowed to use the data and information that has been collected for future public health research. This is something that Apple and Google forbid; and another reason the UK has had to build its own app without the help and guidance of such companies. Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. 

 

Some experts have raised concerns that patient confidentiality is being compromised through the handling of extremely sensitive data, like location data, on a very large scale. Researchers have already identified problems with the app, particularly with storing unencrypted data on handsets and weaknesses in the registration process that could allow attackers to steal encryption keys . Matt Hancock, British Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has claimed that the data would only be held for as long as required, according to the highest security and ethical standards, and any user-to-user information will be anonymous. However, an early draft-memo from the UK government has indicated that such an app will potentially be able to de-anonymise the data to enable the government departments to identify individuals and their smartphones. Does this mean that the data was never anonymous in the first place? Surely this creates a significant risk of compromising a vast amount of private data. The dangers of storing both the location and health status, of what could potentially be every person in the country are huge. 

 

In fact, critics also claim that the British app will not work effectively unless it uses code provided by Apple and Google. An Australian app with a similar design was criticised for its technical problems; Germany recently switched to support the Apple-Google requirements, as also used by Switzerland, Austria and Italy. Many experts agree that there is no way to build a contact-tracing app without the help of Apple and Google who are moving extremely fast and are capable of providing a unified system that works across borders, that is already in use by a lot of countries. 

 

A further branch of the problem is the viability of the app’s usage. Both Google and Apple input restrictions on how apps can use Bluetooth in both iOS and Android by blocking devices from pinging on another, even in close quarters, if the phone is locked or the app is closed. This drastically reduces the effectiveness of any contact-tracing app. Although Google and Apple can rewrite such rules for their own contact-tracing app, because they control the operating systems, it means that it is far harder for individual countries like the UK to overcome such problems themselves. The UK government has implied that it has resolved such issues, claiming that it is possible for such an app to work in urban environments that have a mix of old and new iOS devices in constant use, but this still remains a long way from the reliable mechanism that is so necessary to trace the spread of a deadly disease.

 

“A prerequisite of a successful app must be free, or at least affordable, Covid-19 testing that is widely available to the entire population on a large-scale”

In addition, Bluetooth contact-tracing is not consistent with the possible infectivity range, which is not limited to two metres and cannot pass through physical barriers like walls and ceilings, unlike Bluetooth connection. Thus it will likely miss most of the potential infection vectors as well as provide considerable false positives.

 

South Korea has taught us that, to be most effective, contact-tracing relies on widely available testing, so a prerequisite of a successful app must be free, or at least affordable, Covid-19 testing that is widely available to the entire population on a large-scale. It is crucial that such testing be available prior to the use of a contact-tracing app – otherwise, it is merely unchecked surveillance that cannot provide sufficient or valid information to users or public health services. Even the initial target for tests-per-day in the UK – 100,000 – falls far below the required testing capacity for an effective contact-tracing app. 

 

And what happens if people refuse to self-isolate upon receiving an alert? Of course, Britain is not likely to force people to quarantine against their will. But perhaps a live nurse who has manually contact-traced a transmission is more persuasive than a text message?

 

In such a vein, it can be agreed that public health services are already very good at contact-tracing using the traditional, conventional, manual methods due to the great deal of experience in tracing the spread of other infectious diseases. Surely the support and resources should be directed towards these already existing and effective practices?

 

A tracking app will, in the best-case scenario, have limited efficiency and in the worst-case scenario, give people a false sense of security leading to another wave of infections. If it is not properly managed it will create the danger of more abuses and greater vulnerability than before: I am unsure whether experimenting with such untested technology and wide power afforded to the government is a good idea during a crisis. As Carly Kind, director of the Ada Lovelace Institute, stated, “A bad app is definitely worse than no app”.

 

 

Featured photo by Daria Nepriakhina

 

 

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s series: “A closer look at tourism”! If you’ve missed the first article looking into the way tourism is consumed around the world and introducing you to some disastrous consequences of mass tourism, you’ll find it here. In this piece, we’ll try to answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the latter can be dealt with. In the next contribution, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

 

Does social media have an educational role to play? 

Contributing to the problem, social media should take some responsibilities. I don’t know about an educational role per se, but it should definitely promote and raise awareness on what “a good Instagram” picture truly costs. 

Beyond the platforms themselves, we, as followers, have to take responsibility, social-media wise as well, and be more demanding. Social media only have the power we let them have. A good start would be to only follow Instagramers that claim to travel ethically, and actually do so. Then, we might also want to look a little deeper than a few pretty pictures – posted by people whose job is to make you dream – before choosing a travel destination. Read articles, look up the history of the place you lust after, steeped into the culture, and try to understand the rudiments of it. Remember that monuments are more than just a pretty background. 

 

Being listed as UNESCO World Heritage, blessing or curse?

The goal of the World Heritage label is to protect incredible natural and cultural sites around the world, even though it neither directly leads to funding for the protection, nor provides actual physical protection. 

Once listed, monuments are put in the spotlight and receive a lot of new attention. Being listed brings more tourists, which therefore brings more money. The local population that directly benefits from tourism, lives better than before. Indeed, the UNESCO label creates employment, but in an unequal way. The label means that “Westerners”, mainly represented in the preservation domain, bring with them the “business mentality” which might be in real contrast with lifestyles in some parts of the world, and therefore create a change in the local cultures. 

Also, the economic rise deepens social class disparities. The neighbourhoods close to the preserved sites are often the target of huge investments to transform the area, making it more “tourist friendly”. This leads to brutal evictions, often among the poorer classes, and allows the rich (foreigners) to inhabit the brand-new districts. Once again, power disparities are strengthened by economic growth.

Moreover, the label means new constraints. When a site is listed, an agreement is closed. Guidelines imposed by the Heritage Organisation have to be closely followed. They are strict, especially regarding the obligation to conserve the monument the way it used to be; “identically as before”. However, often the locals do not wish to live in the past, to live in outdated times. Worse, in some scenarios, traditions and customs have been exploited by the tourism industry in listed areas. In some parts of the world, there is a deep duality between heritage preservation experts and local actors’ practices.

 

The label is meant to protect, yet it leads to mass tourism. And UNESCO is well aware of the problem. For the last five years, it has revitalized the conversation within the Organisation. So much so that now, a tourist management plan is an important and strict requirement to be listed as World Heritage. If the plan is not good enough, not developed enough, there is no chance you’ll get listed.

 

Why are Chinese tourists portrayed as the evil incarnation of mass tourism?

When you think of mass tourism, you see Chinese tourist groups walking down the street as a pack. That’s one widely spread stereotype. Chinese tourists are often represented as being disrespectful, unmanageable, with a bad attitude, and much too numerous. All these critiques are baseless to them, and they have a hard time understanding them. They find the generality especially hard to swallow. 

Often, they respond that it’s the result of a cultural shock. The Chinese culture values the bond between people highly. Community is a real feeling for them. They have indeed a “collective culture”. They were taught to live together, in what we would call “a pack”. Most of them aspire to connect with locals when visiting, but they’re often very shy. They will let anyone in, but will have a hard time taking the first step to talk to you. As is often the case, stereotypes and prejudices are based on a lack of different cultural knowledge and interest. 

 

How to travel differently? 

As I’ll address various responses to mass tourism in the next article of this series, I want to answer this question here by proving that you don’t necessarily need to get away to travel. Especially as we’re all stuck at home right now, and we wish we could travel. But travelling is not always an option anyway, even when we’re free to move. So here are a few tips to fool your head and heart into thinking that you’re away! 

  • Look up (new) ethical vlog travelers, travel podcasts, Instagram accounts, and follow their previous adventures! Some might even tell you how they reinvented their concept of traveling. 
  • Enjoy expats’ testimonies from all around the world. They can contrast your culture to the one they’ve learnt to live in. Comparing cultures, without judging, is always a great way to learn more about our own!
  • Explore new ways of travelling. Get inspired and set new rules for your next trip to respect ethical and eco-tourism. Thinking of those guidelines ahead of time will increase your chance to stick to them while on vacation.
  • Take the time to list what you would love to visit in your own country! We always tend to go far far away on holiday, when wonders wait for us so close. In addition, look at the bright side: your journey will be cheaper, and definitely more eco-friendly.
  • Immerge yourself in global fiction novels or movies narrating a journey. Here are a few book suggestions: “And the Mountains Echoed” written by Khaled Hosseini and set in Afghanistan; “The Nine Lives of Charlotte Taylor” by Sally Armstrong and taken place in New Brunswick; “The Lizard Cage” by Karen Connelly and set in Myanmar; “Il Bel Centro” written by Michelle Damiani and taken place in Umbria, Italy. 

 

Here are some movies ideas: Michael McGowan’s “One Week” about a road trip in Canada; the “Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight” trilogy filmed over two decades; the two “Mamma Mia” musicals starring a collection of incredible actors; Sidney Pollack’s “Out of Africa” starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redfort; “The Bucket List” with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.

  • Dupe your taste buds and try cooking recipes from around the world! Food is such a huge part of the fun of travelling. Get inspired here!

 

 

 

 Keep calm. Stay home. And wait for the last piece of the series coming soon!

 

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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The Emerald Isle? Taking a Closer Look at Dublin’s Biodiversity

With people realizing the importance of nature and green spaces during their confinement in lockdown, and it being the International Day for Biological Diversity, let’s see how Dublin city stacks up.

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

Five Stages to Freedom and the New Zealand Confusion

On Friday May 1st Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five stage plan for reopening Ireland after the coronavirus lockdown. This plan will go into effect on May 18th and will continuingly unlock restrictions at three week intervals if Covid-19 numbers continue to be stagnant or lessen. If Covid-19 numbers increase then Ireland may go back into lockdown as a result. The biggest take away from this is that most people are not going to have a bit of craic until stage 4 or 5.

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

In March of 2019, Trócaire launched their campaign for a binding treaty that aims to hold corporations accountable for breaches of human rights. I spoke with Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor – Human Rights and Democratic Space to find out what it’s all about and why it’s important.

Five Stages to Freedom and the New Zealand Confusion

Five Stages to Freedom and the New Zealand Confusion

On Friday May 1st Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five stage plan for reopening Ireland after the coronavirus lockdown. This plan will go into effect on May 18th and will continuingly unlock restrictions at three week intervals if Covid-19 numbers continue to be stagnant or lessen. If Covid-19 numbers increase then Ireland may go back into lockdown as a result. The biggest take away from this is that most people are not going to have a bit of craic until stage 4 or 5.

 

Phase 1 will begin on May 18, it will include:

  • Allowing outdoor meetings between small groups of people from different households within a 5km limit
  • Opening up childcare services for healthcare workers
  • A phased return of outdoor workers
  • Opening retailers which are primarily outdoor or those which were open during the first level of restriction (eg opticians, motor, bicycle & repair)
  • Opening certain outdoor public amenities (tourism sites, beaches, mountain walks, golf, tennis, etc)

 

Phase 2 will begin on June 8​, it will include: 

  • Allowing visits to households and travel extended to 20km limit
  • Allowing for a slightly higher number of people in attendance at funerals, but still restricted
  • Developing plans and supports to open up businesses with consideration for safety of staff and customers
  • Opening small retail outlets and marts where social distancing can be observed
  • Opening public libraries and small sport team training groups

 

Phase 3 will begin on June 29, it will include: 

    • Allowing small social gatherings
    • Opening creches, childminders and pre-schools for children of essential workers in a phased manner
    • Phased healthcare visits
    • Returning to work for those with low levels of interaction and non essential retail
  • Opening non-essential retail outlets with street level entrance and exit
  • Opening playgrounds
  • Opening cafés and restaurants
  • Closed door sporting events may resume

 

Phase 4 will begin on July 20,​ it will include: 

    • Opening creches, childminders and pre-schools for children of all other workers on a gradually increasing basis
    • Outside 20km travel allowed
    • Returning to work for those who cannot work from home
  • The gradual easing of restrictions for higher risk services (eg hairdressers and barbers)
  • Opening museums, galleries, places of worship, team sport GAA/football, swimming pools
  • Opening of hotels, caravan parks, holiday parks for social and tourist activities

 

Phase 5 will begin on August 10​,​ it will include:

    • Allowing larger social gatherings (eg weddings)
    • Returning to work across all sectors
    • On a phased basis, commencing at the beginning of the academic year 2020/2021, opening of primary and secondary schools and 3rd level institutions
    • Further easing of restrictions on high risk retail services
    • Return to normal visiting in hospitals
    • Large shopping centres open again
    • Gyms, boxing, rugby, and sports spectators where guidelines allow
    • Open pubs, bars, nightclubs, and casinos
    • Where social distancing and strict cleaning can be complied  with, festivals and events
    • Resume tourist travel to offshore islands by non-residents

 

As other countries look to Ireland for inspiration, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticizes Ireland’s five stage plan for exiting the  Covid-19 lockdown. Prime Minister Ardern claims that the strategy is too slow and compares it to New Zealand, in which citizens will be fully back to work by July, whereas that is not the case for Ireland. However, New Zealand saw one of the strictest lockdowns just eight days after the first confirmed case of Covid-19.

 

New Zealanders were forced to stay home, except for essential workers, and you could only be in contact with those you work with. Only one family member at a time could do the food shopping for the whole house. Consequently, all takeaways were closed, all public spaces were closed, and a very strict one in one out rule was enforced for all essential shops. Now many New Zealanders have a voluntary Covid-19 tracing app on their phone to help speed up the process of contact tracing as well.

 

For Ireland this speedy response to Covid-19 did not take place. Ireland’s first confirmed case was February 29th and yet Ireland did not go into a full lockdown until March 27th, almost a full month after the first confirmed case. This delay of response may have been due in part with Ireland’s relationship with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom had a delayed response on how to deal with the rapidly spreading virus, which resulted in Northern Ireland having different restrictions compared to the Republic of Ireland. This caused some confusion and slight aggression because one part of the island could not be governed the same way as the rest of the island. While people in Northern Ireland could still travel freely, schools in the Republic were closing and people started locking their doors.

 

I believe New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s comments about Ireland’s five stage plan being a slow process is correct. However, it reflects a delayed response by Ireland because of factors outside of the Republic’s control. Unlike Prime Minister Arden, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar could not issue a whole island response against the Covid-19 pandemic. Only time will tell how quickly Ireland will be able to overcome the trials this pandemic has thrown its way. Nevertheless, I believe Taoiseach Varadkar has done the best he could with the tools at hand.

 

 

 

Photo from Cityswift

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

 

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

In March of 2019, Trócaire launched their campaign for a binding treaty that aims to hold corporations accountable for breaches of human rights. I spoke with Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor – Human Rights and Democratic Space to find out what it’s all about and why it’s important.

 
 

Archives

 

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

Five Stages to Freedom and the New Zealand Confusion

On Friday May 1st Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five stage plan for reopening Ireland after the coronavirus lockdown. This plan will go into effect on May 18th and will continuingly unlock restrictions at three week intervals if Covid-19 numbers continue to be stagnant or lessen. If Covid-19 numbers increase then Ireland may go back into lockdown as a result. The biggest take away from this is that most people are not going to have a bit of craic until stage 4 or 5.

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

In March of 2019, Trócaire launched their campaign for a binding treaty that aims to hold corporations accountable for breaches of human rights. I spoke with Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor – Human Rights and Democratic Space to find out what it’s all about and why it’s important.

‘I Want My Life Back’ – The Growing Anti-Lockdown Movements

At the beginning of April, German lawyer Beate Bahner was apprehended in her home in Heidelberg by police and brought directly to the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic. A strange story, perhaps made stranger (and indeed fodder for conspiratorial types) given her recent opposition to the stringent lockdown measures introduced by the German federal government. Is this a tale of political silencing? And why is there a growing movement to end lockdown restrictions?

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

In March of 2019, Trócaire launched their campaign for a binding treaty that aims to hold corporations accountable for breaches of human rights. I spoke with Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor – Human Rights and Democratic Space to find out what it’s all about and why it’s important. 

 

Curran stated that the call for this campaign comes against the backdrop of the changing nature of business in a modern globalised economy. 

 

“Human Rights abuses committed by corporations against ordinary persons is not necessarily new” she began when we spoke last November, “however, given the era in which we live and the growth of transnational corporations, the need for this treaty is more pertinent than ever”. 

 

So it’s needed, and urgently, but why? And what exactly is it? The campaign’s purpose is to create legally binding regulations to regulate and create accountability for human rights abuses committed by large corporations. Some of the common abuses include; pollution of land, environmental degradation, intimidation and criminalisation of those who stand up against these violations , and in some cases, even murder. 

 

“The trends are shocking and growing’ Curran continued. ‘there was 247 recorded killings last year (2018) with indigenous peoples being those commonly affected”. 

 

The story of these abuses often follows a similar pattern. A powerful multi-national corporation moves into an area rich in natural resources and guts it  of them , leaving behind a trail of destroyed and polluted land. All while funnelling the proceeds back into its base, usually in the first world. 

 

This pattern is encapsulated in the case of Shell in Ogoniland in Nigeria. Between 1960 and 1990 it’s estimated that Shell Oil extracted $30 billion in oil from the region. The Ogoni people are among the poorest in Africa, with no running water or electricity. The process of extraction also caused major environmental damage, including water contamination. Upon protesting, Ken Saro Wiwa and eight colleagues were sentenced to death and hanged. 

 

The power discrepancy couldn’t be much larger between the two main players in this strange transaction. Curran noted the worrying statistic that “69 of the top 100 global economic entities are companies”. This makes it difficult for indigenous communities to challenge them on a legal front in order to get justice. The current framework also doesn’t provide them with any help. 

“One of the main problems is also the lack of access to legal remedies or legal recourse”. 

 

On top of this, in the small number of cases where the corporation is found to have breached human rights, they fall back on the legal principle of separate legal personality, evading penalty. This principle allows large multinational parent companies to evade legal penalty for the breaches committed by their subsidiary, in these cases often in a third world country, because their subsidiary is seen as a ‘separate entity’. In April 2018, a British court ruled that the Nigerian communities in the Niger Delta could not sue Shell for the pollution caused by  its subsidiary. In such cases often times the subsidiary is simply wound up, and the parent company doesn’t owe anything to the community they damaged. No justice is served. 

 

From a business perspective, you may be disposed to ask the question – where’s the trade-off? Even if you accept the need for regulations on behalf of human rights, you may be inclined to see the issue as a balancing act between human rights on the one hand and business development on the other. Indeed, the Trócaire report on the topic ‘Making a Killing’: holding corporations to account for land and human rights violations noted that those on the front line trying to oppose projects such as the one in Nigeria are being labelled ‘anti-development’. For instance, Juana Esquivel, Director of Fundación san Alonso Rodriguez in Honduras, was targeted in a smear campaign when she supported activists fighting against the development of a mine in Guapinol, in Costa Rica. She was labelled ‘Anti – progress’. 

 

Things get even more complicated in relation to social infrastructure projects, for example, the construction of a hydroelectric project in Río Blanco, Honduras, that would seem to provide development and jobs to the local communities. 

 

Siobhán noted that these points were made at the foreign affairs committee meeting, however: 

“In the cases that Trócaire are highlighting, the communities around these projects are not being benefited, instead the corporations themselves are. Rather than any benefit being accrued, this in fact creates the division of communities and the break-up of the social fabric of the community, which is something you can’t just get back”. 

 

In addition, Siobhán explained  that rather than seeing this as something that would curtail business, businesses that abide by human rights best practice should see this as a positive for business as a whole: 

“Businesses that are sure they’re not breaching human rights are in favour of this and are in fact calling for regulations. They’re being undercut by those who are using human rights abuses to drive down costs”. 

 

In short, the question isn’t really one of a trade-off at all. The benefits of this transaction are going one way, as large multi-national corporations use these areas to profit, while the comparatively powerless communities they invade have their hands tied. Reduced to fruitless protests. 

“There is no societal set up in which we should allow these abuses to continue” 

 

Another question is how a binding treaty would be any different from the UN guiding principles. The UN guiding principles provide a set of guidelines of how businesses should act in relation to human rights, but these are voluntary in nature. The Trócaire report noted implementation problems with the guiding principles, so how would a legally binding treaty be any more effective ? 

“The treaty should complement the guiding principles, but we have to be realistic, voluntary commitments are not enough to hold these corporations to account, we need legally binding ones” 

 

The crux of the issue is; if these corporations are willing to abuse human rights for commercial gain, they won’t abide by voluntary commitments – calls to morality are futile and only legal enforcements will have any effect. 

 

So how can people get involved in this campaign, if they wish? 

“We need young people to join the campaign. The treaty will need ratification from a large number of member states so we need states like Ireland to get on board and support. We need people to use their voice and talk to their politicians if possible, using any public space that you can really.” 

Visit www.trocaire.org or check out their report ‘Making a Killing’: holding corporations to account for land and human rights violations for more information.

 

 

Photo from Trocaire Ireland

 

 

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From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

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‘I Want My Life Back’ – The Growing Anti-Lockdown Movements

At the beginning of April, German lawyer Beate Bahner was apprehended in her home in Heidelberg by police and brought directly to the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic. A strange story, perhaps made stranger (and indeed fodder for conspiratorial types) given her recent opposition to the stringent lockdown measures introduced by the German federal government. Is this a tale of political silencing? And why is there a growing movement to end lockdown restrictions?

‘I Want My Life Back’ – The Growing Anti-Lockdown Movements

‘I Want My Life Back’ – The Growing Anti-Lockdown Movements

At the beginning of April, German lawyer Beate Bahner was apprehended in her home in Heidelberg by police and brought directly to the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic.  A strange story, perhaps made stranger (and indeed fodder for conspiratorial types) given her recent opposition to the stringent lockdown measures introduced by the German federal government. Is this a tale of political silencing? And why is there a growing movement to end lockdown restrictions? 

 

Germany 

Most European countries are currently in some form of ‘lockdown’. Measures introduced to mitigate the negative effects of Covid-19. Germany is no exception, with slightly more lenient measures introduced by their federal government, but allowing certain states to introduce more restrictions. There has, however, been some criticism for the measures introduced in Germany, most notably from prominent lawyer, Beate Bahner

 

Bahner, has a history of challenging the constitutionality of government measures. She previously won three cases in the federal constitutional court in the area of unlawful infringements of the right to practise one’s profession. She took to her website to condemn the confinement laws, calling them the ‘greatest legal scandal in the post 1940s history of Germany’ and urged the 83 million people of Germany to demonstrate in the streets in protest. 

 

The reason she dubbed the laws ‘flagrantly unconstitutional’ was based on their curtailment of the fundamental rights of German citizens. In her view, to protect the small minority of the public at risk of serious harm from contracting Covid-19. 

 

This call for a public demonstration, of course illegal during the pandemic, drew the attention of the police in her native Heidelberg. They announced their intention to prosecute Ms Bahner the following day, and her website was shut down. This police attention would seem to strike a fear in the lawyer bordering on paranoia. Later referring to herself as ‘number one enemy of the state’, she believed the authorities were surveilling her. On Sunday 12th April she noticed a car in her underground car park that she believed to be following her and ran into the street beckoning for someone to call the police. The police arrived at her home and reported finding Ms Bahner in a ‘confused state’. She allegedly greeted them with hostility, kicking one of the officers. Violently resisting, she was handcuffed and brought directly to the psychiatric hospital in Heidelberg. 

 

This part is a little strange. The fact that she wasn’t brought to the police station and instead brought straight to the psychiatric hospital could certainly raise a few eyebrows. Those dubbing themselves Coronavirus ‘truthers’ may feel this is their ‘aha’ moment. However, it’s worth noting that the police were called to the house by Bahner herself. It’s not as though they busted down the door unannounced, in fact, they would have been nowhere near her house if it wasn’t for the fact that she called them there. On top of that, the doctor that greeted her at the hospital made the decision that she did need to be admitted. The hospital requested a longer stay for Ms Bahner when she was released two days later, but were refused by a district court judge. 

 

The strange set of circumstances around Ms Bahner’s arrest and admission has provided the perfect platform for those already in opposition to the stringent social distancing / lockdown measures introduced in Germany. Hanz UP Tolzin, prominent German vaccination critic, claimed that ‘from now on, any German citizen who is somehow critical of the lockdown measures can expect to be arbitrarily arrested and locked away in psychiatry at any time’. 200 supporters came out to greet Ms Bahner as she came out of the police headquarters in Heidelberg, where she was being questioned for calling for illegal protesting. The support she received was linked to Germany’s far right party Alternative for Germany (AfD). One of their members Stefan Räpple was present and their slogan ‘we are the people’ was heard to be chanted. 

 

This revolt against current measures in Germany isn’t localised to Heidelberg, though. Protests have been happening all over Germany, including hundreds taking to the streets of Berlin. A quick search on YouTube will bring up many videos of German protests. One entitled ‘wir sind das Volk’ (we are the people) sees hundreds on the street in Berlin. The video, with half a million views and a 20 to 1 like to dislike ratio, might make for worrying viewing for those who trust in the government’s measures to maintain social distance. 

 

US 

It’s not just Germany voicing  dissatisfaction about how governments are handling the current pandemic. Protestors in the US made the headlines this week. There have been protests in North Carolina, Ohio and Minnesota, yet seems to have gained most support in Michigan. 15,000 cars descended on the capital of Michigan to protest the lockdown measures introduced by their Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who’s been simultaneously been labelled a Nazi and a communist by her detractors for the measures she’s introduced. 

 

The protests themselves are organised via the use of private Facebook groups, and the size of these isn’t negligible either. Facebook group ‘Michiganders Against Excessive Quarantine’ currently has over 350,0000 members and has grown over 100,000 members in a week. Simply opening up Facebook and typing in ReOpen in the search bar, will bring you up a private group for almost every state in the US, demanding the end to what they see as tyrannical intrusions into their civil rights. Again, these protests weren’t without political undertones as protestors donned many of the emblems of America’s far or ‘alt’ right. Donald trump paraphernalia, confederate flags and banners condemning communism were all present. America’s president didn’t denounce the protesters either, when asked about them this week Trump remarked that they were ‘very responsible’. He has also seemed to encourage the demonstrations, tweeting support for protesting against restrictions, writing in separate tweets: “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”; “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!”; and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”

 

Ireland 

Ireland is not exempt from this wave of dissidence either. This week journalists Gemma O’Doherty and John Waters, took a similar tact as Bahner, challenging lockdown laws. O’Doherty, oft given the title of conspiracy theorist, and Waters are famous for their contrarian stances. Anti-Abortion, anti-immigration and pro-religion, the pair’s views fit quite well with those protesting on the streets of Michigan and Berlin. 

 

Last week, Tuesday 19th of April, 100 supporters of O’Doherty and Waters donned in tri-colours gathered outside the four courts for approximately three hours in protest while the pair were in court. This week, officers received a tirade of threats in a since viral video from O’Doherty while conducting a checkpoint in the city centre. The trending discontent has definitely reached Ireland, too. 

 

So why is the right peddling an anti-lockdown sentiment?

Is it simply an act of political posturing? A rally against the establishment from those inclined towards conspiracy theories against big government? Or do they raise legitimate questions? 

 

Intrusion into people’s inalienable rights was central to Beate Bahner’s argument. These overarching measures would indeed be antithetical to traditional right wing theory, with their predilection for small government. Comparisons were drawn with communism at many rally’s in the US and Meshawn Maddock, organiser of the protest in Michigan called it ‘tyranny’. These messages were echoed by Waters and O’Doherty in Ireland who expressed concern about the increased powers of the Gardaí. Is there truth to the noise though? On the face of it, yes, many of the rights traditionally protected by the constitution have been taken away. Our governments have taken away our ability to work, socialise and even going outside is a luxury afforded to us only for a minimum number of specified, essential purposes. It is undeniable that our society currently bears resemblance to the harsh regimes the protestors are comparing it to. 

 

Is this ‘tyranny’ though? Considering the measures have been introduced for a designated period of time and with a clear goal? The goal, protection of life, an inalienable constitutional right in and of itself. The ‘inalienable’ rights of freedom that Bahner and others are championing would have to be juxtaposed with the right to life when governments are undertaking decisions on any emergency measures, from a purely constitutional perspective. With many indeed happy and willing to give up their freedoms for a number of weeks in order to save many lives. 

 

Another cause of discontent is the potential effect lockdown could have on the economy. Bahner and the protesters in the US have called for the reopening of small businesses because of the negative effect this is having economically. Again, these are legitimate concerns. Conventional economic wisdom says there will be a significant downturn in the aftermath of the virus. Perhaps the most eloquent of the lockdown critics, Alex Berenson, a former New York times reporter who has been very vocal in his criticism on Twitter, has claimed that the measures have placed the economy into freefall. In an interview with VICE, Berenson posited the idea that the government’s projections about Coronavirus were false. 

 

However no one, not even Berenson has proposed an alternative model. It also would seem that those concerned about the economy have not considered the state of the economy post-virus, without lockdown. It’s difficult to imagine a situation where people’s spending habits would be the same before we get a vaccination. We can expect restaurants, bars and airports to be fairly uninhabited for some time whether the public are mandated to stay at home or not. This too, is all before we factor in the economic effect of a collapsing healthcare system due to an unmanageable number of cases, were we to row back on social distancing measures. 

 

A common claim is that governments over-reacted. ‘Yeah, the virus is an issue, but it’s danger is over-stated, not justifying such restrictive measures’- Berenson believes this. He baulks at claims that the healthcare system is overrun stating on his twitter that hospitals are currently at 43% capacity. What he fails to factor into his claim is that the social distancing / lockdown measures have a large part to play in healthcare systems not currently being overwhelmed, as they became in Italy and Spain. Paul Bloom, Canadian psychologist, stated on the Sam Harris ‘Waking Up’ podcast that those claiming ‘see, we told you you were overreacting’ after social distancing measures have flattened the curve, is like buying someone a fire extinguisher in case of a fire. If in the event of a fire, the extinguisher is used to put it out and mitigate the damage, the person says ‘I told you we didn’t need the fire extinguisher, there’s hardly any damage’. 

 

Whatever the motivations for this mini revolution, it could provide worrying viewing for those concerned about another outbreak of the virus. Angela Merkel explained that the reverse out of lockdown needs to be ‘slow and controlled’ to avoid this, as the reproduction rate of the virus hasn’t changed. But there is a growing sector that believes we need to throw the measures out, go back to normal life and see what happens. 

 

 

Photo from Michael Swan

 

 

Browse more stories below or sign up to our newsletter to receive our top news straight to your inbox!

From post-apocalyptic scenery to post-Covid era: How will we travel tomorrow?

In this last contribution of the series “A closer look at tourism”, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

Why the UK’s Contact-Tracing App is not the Solution

Many are concerned that, upon emerging from the current crisis, a tool will have been created that enables widespread data collection on the population, or on targeted sections of the population, for surveillance. Concerns are further fed by security threats recently discovered with the UK’s beta app.

A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! We answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the this can be dealt with.

Five Stages to Freedom and the New Zealand Confusion

On Friday May 1st Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced a five stage plan for reopening Ireland after the coronavirus lockdown. This plan will go into effect on May 18th and will continuingly unlock restrictions at three week intervals if Covid-19 numbers continue to be stagnant or lessen. If Covid-19 numbers increase then Ireland may go back into lockdown as a result. The biggest take away from this is that most people are not going to have a bit of craic until stage 4 or 5.

Corporations, Human Rights and Accountability

In March of 2019, Trócaire launched their campaign for a binding treaty that aims to hold corporations accountable for breaches of human rights. I spoke with Siobhan Curran, Trócaire’s Policy and Advocacy Advisor – Human Rights and Democratic Space to find out what it’s all about and why it’s important.

‘I Want My Life Back’ – The Growing Anti-Lockdown Movements

At the beginning of April, German lawyer Beate Bahner was apprehended in her home in Heidelberg by police and brought directly to the Heidelberg psychiatric clinic. A strange story, perhaps made stranger (and indeed fodder for conspiratorial types) given her recent opposition to the stringent lockdown measures introduced by the German federal government. Is this a tale of political silencing? And why is there a growing movement to end lockdown restrictions?