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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

Greenwashing Austerity: What Do Young Greens Feel About the New Government?

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Honk Kong’s New Security Law

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The West Bank Annexation

On May 5 2020, Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in for his fifth term as Prime Minister of Israel. Among his campaign pledges was the proposed annexation of the West Bank. This annexation poses a serious threat to the long-sought two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The West Bank, and more specifically the Jordan Valley, is considered pivotal to the survival of a future Palestinian state among Palestinians.

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A Closer Look at Tourism: What Does Mass tourism Truly Cost?

A Closer Look at Tourism: What Does Mass tourism Truly Cost?

Welcome to STAND’s new series: “A closer look at tourism”! This first article will give you some contextual numbers on the way tourism is consumed around the world and will introduce you to some disastrous consequences of mass tourism. Next time, we’ll try to answer frequently asked questions related to unethical tourism and how the latter can be dealt with. In the third piece, we’ll observe the world as we pressed pause during the lockdown, and will try to offer alternatives for a better future of tourism.

 

A few numbers to start

More and more people are travelling each year. In 2019, 1.5 billion tourists were counted. Before the pandemic, prevision stated that in 2030, they would be around 1.8 billion.

 

The development of aviation and low-cost fares has made travelling more affordable for a great number of  people. Still, let’s keep in mind that, in 2017, only 1 human out of 5 had taken a flight in their life. 80% of the world’s population was still with a record free of flying. Of course, these statistics are constantly evolving, with  more newbies travelling  by plane each year – when there is no pandemic. But still, take the time to think of how many times you had the privilege to sit on a plane by 2017. Closer to home, another striking statistic is that, in Britain, 1% of the population took 20% of the overseas flights.

 

According to statistics, the vast majority of people want to go to the same places. 95% of travelers explore only 5% of the planet. This phenomenon is highly encouraged by social media. We all want that perfect picture to post on Instagram, that the whole world will then copy. It is known that, in France, 59% of the population aged between 25 and 35 pick their travel destination in relation to its “Instagram potential”.

 

Europeans remain the biggest travelers, with 622 million of us taking vacations abroad every year. The Chinese population tends to travel more and more as well, due to their growing economy, with 150 million travelers in 2018. The projection for 2020, pre-Covid, was about 200 million, whereas they were about 10 million in 2000.

 

Two examples of mass tourism consequences

Elephants in Thailand

The fascination surrounding wildlife has become a large business. In Thailand, Surin Elephant Round-Up is a big attraction for tourists. This cultural festival, held every year in November, offers the possibility to “ride” an elephant for 8 minutes for 3€. However, studies have shown that climbing on top of an elephant breaks its back. Several NGOs campaigned on social media to raise awareness and prevent tourists from riding elephants. Yet, 40% of tourists that visit Thailand want to “take a ride”. When asked about the situation, tourists getting off elephants’ backs often hide behind the fact that they are on vacation to have fun and relax and that the elephants don’t seem unhappy. 

 

During the evening, tourists are entertained with great varieties of shows where the animals are “asked” – understand, forced – to walk on two legs, to play football, to dance, etc. None of these activities are instinctive or natural for an elephant. They had to be taught to do so. The Thai technique to discipline an elephant is called “Phajaan”. Considered to be a tradition, this technique implies training by obliteration. Some trainers explain that it’s been done this way for generations, and anyone who tried another way has failed. To learn, the elephants have to be in pain, they have to bleed. When performing, trainers tend to be as discreet as possible to stab the elephant with hooks or other tools, due to the blame-shaming situation. And some tourists are completely oblivious. During their time-off, elephants have to stay still, restrained by chains or ropes, without the option of sitting down. At no point are they treated with respect.  

 

I could write many more lines to illustrate what I found out about the way elephants and other wild animals are treated to “please” the tourists. But instead, I’d rather let you know that alternatives exist. If you go to Thailand, your voice matters as much as any other to set a good example. Some sanctuaries for elephants are opened to the public, where the public are in a cage to look at the animals, not the other way around. You won’t climb on elephants, they won’t do tricks for you, they’ll be healing from that previous life. If you want to see an elephant, there are ethical ways to do so. As explained by the biggest activist on the matter, Sangdeaun Lek Chailert, “tourists have their responsibilities too. Only they can truly make things change.”

 

On a note of hope, some countries, such as Cambodia, already prohibited elephant slavery. Moreover, travel agencies, including Tripadvisor, refuse to take part in those exploitations and won’t promote or sell tickets for such activities. On Instagram, if you post a picture or a selfie with a wildlife-threat hashtag (e.g. #TigerSelfie), you’ll automatically receive a prevention message like this one 

 

Protect Wildlife on Instagram

Animal abuse and the sale of endangered animals or their parts is not allowed on Instagram. You are searching for a hashtag that may be associated with posts that encourage harmful behavior to animals or the environment.”

 

Angkor Temples in Cambodia 

If you follow numerous travel accounts on Instagram too – especially when going to the grocery store is your most adventurous  moment of the week – then you must have seen some pictures of Angkor Temples. While those photos make you dream and inspire you to contemplate a peaceful and majestic scenery, the behind the scenes are far from peaceful. Loads of tourists flock to get the perfect picture of the sun rising behind the main Temple, using all kinds of tricks to pretend they were alone.

 

This wonder from Cambodia was closed for many years, under the Khmer regime, before being brought back to the collective memory by UNESCO, listing the monument as a “World Heritage in danger” site. Over the last  25 years, Angkor has seen the numbers of tourists explode: from 40,000 visits a year in 1994, to 4.5 million in 2019. And of course, the site has suffered from such an increase. But the number of visitors is not the only reason for the deterioration of the monument. In fact, the main reason is the behaviour of those visitors on the site. “The temple was a very serene place and became profaned by tourists’ selfish desires. We have to educate them”, explains a guide in Angkor, showing tags on temples walls where some people engraved their names. Therefore, the Government decided to act to educate visitors; shooting countless videos about how to enjoy the monument in a sustainable way, and humorous videos imagining the meeting between uncivilized tourists and the builders of the Temple.

 

But the problem isn’t contained in the cultural site. Tourism impacts a whole region. Next to Angkor lies Siem Reap, a “dormitory city” where the majority of  tourists stay the night. This city keeps growing with the demand. But its hidden face is the ocean of waste left behind tourists. Siem Reap is home to one of the biggest landfill sites in Cambodia. On average, 250 tons of waste per day is stocked there, and it is estimated that 70% originates  from the tourism industry. The rubbish tip is now almost at the extent of its capacity. Everyone was surprised by the speed of Siem Reap’s development. Neither the authorities, nor the locals, had anticipated this, and they had no time to figure out the organisation that should come along with it. Poor families from the area come and collect trash that is recyclable (bottles of plastic, cans, etc.), and therefore sellable, to afford school costs. After their passage, the waste is buried into the ground. If you’re an ecologist activist, don’t forget to breathe while processing this. You read correctly. All the waste left behind, including shreds of plastic, are “hidden” in the soil. 

 

This is just a glimpse of tourism’s dark side that we don’t always (want to) see. In the next piece, I’ll address a few questions raised by mass tourism. Stay tuned!

 

 

Photo from Jezz Timms

 

 

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

Greenwashing Austerity: What Do Young Greens Feel About the New Government?

The General Election of February 2020 feels like a world away now. Not only do the pre-social distancing days seem like a weird alternative universe, but also the hopes for radical change which many, particularly young, people dared to hold as they headed to the ballot box are starting to seem like a crazy dream. As the coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party settle into the Dáil, the political landscape of the next five years is beginning to come into focus.

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Honk Kong’s New Security Law

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The West Bank Annexation

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New Year, Same Brexit Headache

New Year, Same Brexit Headache

Brexit day is fast approaching, with the UK on track to officially leave the European Union in less than two weeks. If you’re new to Rachel Husson’s Brexit series, no worries, here are the basics, the EU’s perspective, a view of the craziest week of 2019, what Brexit means for Ireland, and what it means for students. Also, don’t forget to test your Brexit knowledge by taking our quiz!

 

What has happened over the last couple of months? 

Since the last time you read the series, some events worth mentioning took place in the Brexit saga. After the European Council agreed in late October on an extension of Brexit’s due date, an early general election was granted by the British parliament (438 votes in favour, 20 against). This election occurred on the 12th of December and the results set several strong statements. First, the Conservative Party, led by Boris Johnson, won a comfortable majority of 364 seats of a total 650 (against 203 seats for the Labour Party, and 13 for Lib-Dem Party). Therefore, it seems that the 2016 referendum’s results were not a “mistake” after all. The second statement was made by Scottish electors. Out of the 59 seats in Parliament granted to Scottish constituencies, 48 were swiped by the Scottish National Party (SNP) – who campaign for Scottish independence within the European Union.

Five days before Christmas day, Johnson’s EU Withdrawl Agreement Bill was presented (again) to the House of Commons, which passed after two readings. From there, the Agreement had to be transposed in British law. A “transposition” bill was drafted and passed the Commons on the 9th of January by 330 votes against 231 and the UK is now expected to finally meet the latest Brexit deadline.

 

What’s next?

The text of the Withdrawal Agreement is now in the hands of the House of Lords, where the Government has no majority. So, this should be interesting. If the bill gets the Lord’s approval, then the Queen will have to give her royal consent. Normally, this should just be a formality. But we have to keep in mind that the European Parliament also has to vote the deal before Brexit can officially happen. If everything goes on track, Brexit will happen on the 31st January.  For 11 months, the UK will still follow all the EU’s rules and regulations, it will remain in the single market and the customs union and the free movement of people will continue. The challenge for the UK will be to get all its new rules and policies in place by the end of this year.

The UK and the EU will enter a new phase of negotiations about their new relationship. The stake is huge because they’ll have to agree on a “partnership” for future decades. Let’s be honest, 11 months (until the 31st of December precisely) to deal with that kind of negotiations is really short. Look how long it took them to reach the leaving deal. Of course, Johnson doesn’t want any delay. But you know it, loyal reader, the British PM has said that before, and look where we are – the initial exit date back in Halloween seems like ages ago. However, this time Johnson is so committed that his promise was enshrined in the bill passed on the 9th. No extension should there be. He has said that he’d rather have part of a deal than ask for a delay. So, you get it correctly, a no-deal Brexit is still a possibility. 

Knowing that, Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, said that the period of time they have is “very very tight”, not long enough to cover every topic, so they will have to prioritise. The Prime Minister of Croatia, which currently has the presidency of the Council of the European Union for 6 months, agreed and wish to work first on trade and fishing. 

Nevertheless, prioritizing doesn’t mean compromising. On one hand, the EU recalled on several occasions that it will not consent to anything that would damage its own integrity, common market or customs union. On the other hand, Johnson expressed that he wouldn’t allow any kind of alignment on the EU’s regulation nor would he accept staying in some way under the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction. The British PM wants to “maintain control of UK fishing waters and [its] immigration system”.

 

 

Review on Scotland and Northern Ireland

The call for a second referendum on Scottish independence made by Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish PM and leader of the SNP, was formally rejected by Johnson who sees a second vote as a “political stagnation” that would impact Scotland “because of a campaign to separate the UK”. “It is time that we all worked to bring the whole of the United Kingdom together and unleash the potential of this great country”, he added. The PM claims that by refusing he respects Scots’ democratic decision: the 2014 referendum was promised to be a “once in a lifetime” occasion and set Scotland to remain in the UK. But one could argue that the situation has changed since 2014. It seems understandable that Brexit made a difference… According to the SNP, the Conservatives are afraid of the results if the vote took place in the pro-Europe nation. The full answer of the Scottish Government is expected to arrive by the end of January. Stay tuned… 

With the New Year came great news for Northern Ireland: a new executive is in place after three years of talks. Called “New Decade, New Approach”, the 62-page deal was published by both British and Irish Governments and set out guidelines and commitments for the new executive. This agreement comes after Northern Ireland was really divided on the December UK general election: 8 seats in Westminster for Unionists (DUP) and 9 for Nationalists (7 for Sinn Fein which practice abstentionism, meaning they refuse to sit in London, and 2 for the SDLP). Would Northern Ireland be inspired by Scotland? It’s not that easy, mainly because it’s not the same situation. Scotland wants its independence, when in the North the idea would be about changing the Parliament they answer to, talking about “Irish unity”. Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, for such a vote to be called, the initiative must come for the British Secretary of State when they think the majority of the Northern Irish population would support Irish unity. One may argue that some elements point to that. If Northern Ireland’s choice was to leave the UK, then the Irish Republic would have to vote on that Irish unity too. Surveys have shown than 51% of the Irish population is in favour of this unity. Short advance, especially when you think of the margin of error. It appears clear that the whole island is deeply split on the matter… The post-Brexit daily life and the future deal may help some islanders to fold one way or another. 

 

It seems to me that the UK’s History might be made in the next few years…

 

 

Photo by Jannes Van den wouwer

 

 

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

 

 

Greenwashing Austerity: What Do Young Greens Feel About the New Government?

The General Election of February 2020 feels like a world away now. Not only do the pre-social distancing days seem like a weird alternative universe, but also the hopes for radical change which many, particularly young, people dared to hold as they headed to the ballot box are starting to seem like a crazy dream. As the coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party settle into the Dáil, the political landscape of the next five years is beginning to come into focus.

Survival of the richest: As Brazil’s COVID death toll mounts, its president celebrates his own recovery.

Brazil has been devastated by over 2 million Coronavirus cases and more than 90,000 deaths, second only to the United States. In spite of these alarming figures the country’s far right president Jair Bolsonaro has regularly dismissed the severity of the disease, calling it a “little flu”, and boasting that his athletic background would save him from becoming seriously ill should he contract the virus. Bolsonaro was later held to this claim on 7 July when the president tested positive for COVID-19.

Honk Kong’s New Security Law

When Britain returned the former colony to China in 1997, it marked the beginning of Beijing’s attempts to re-integrate Hong Kong. The introduction of a new national security law signifies a more forceful and legally binding step in the removal of Hong Kong’s independence and autonomy.

The Forgotten Generation: The Children of Yemen

The largest humanitarian crisis in the world is occurring in Yemen right now, and the world is still glossing over it. Five years of war, pitting the internationally-recognised government backed by a Saudi-led coalition against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels – and civilians are the ones who continue to bear the brunt of the conflict.

The West Bank Annexation

On May 5 2020, Benjamin Netanyahu was sworn in for his fifth term as Prime Minister of Israel. Among his campaign pledges was the proposed annexation of the West Bank. This annexation poses a serious threat to the long-sought two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The West Bank, and more specifically the Jordan Valley, is considered pivotal to the survival of a future Palestinian state among Palestinians.

New Government, Old Tricks: Women In Irish Politics

The 33rd Dáil saw Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin elected as Taoiseach in the midst of a coalition of Fianna Fáil, Fianna Gael and the Greens. However, despite the historic nature of the abandonment of Civil War politics, that age-old discrepancy in the representation of women in politics continues: out of a Cabinet of sixteen, only four female Ministers have been appointed.

Unsustainable Biking?

Unsustainable Biking?

A lot of us are aware that our carbon footprint is terrible and that we have to change our habits. For some of us, this means leaving the car behind and starting to bike. It is, itself, a wonderful commitment – feel free to be inspired by this and turn it into a new year’s resolution – but unfortunately, the way we “consume” biking is can also be an ecological issue. Before actually converting to biking, some of us have a “trial phase” where we rent a bike. As this phenomenon became an economic boom in some countries, it ended up being an ecological and economic debacle. To resume, as said Benjamin Haas, “There are too many bikes, and not enough demand.”

  

 

Bike cemeteries

As bike-sharing went viral and trendy, several companies tried to take the lead in the Chinese market. In a short period of time, multiple bicycle start-ups were born and soon would be worth a seven-figure number. As a result, more start-ups were created, seeing a good investment. Also, bicycles appeared like a great alternative to politicians and citizens who want to make a difference when it comes to tackling climate change, especially the polluted air in China. Today, 23 million shared bikes are said to be for use in the streets across big Chinese cities. 

Eventually, most of the start-ups went bankrupt, after ordering lots and lots of bikes while still charging the user little for their rides (around 0,20€/30 min). A couple of years later, the consequences have been disastrous; you can find football pitch sized bike graveyards all over China. Thousands of what once was meant to be shared bikes are aligned or grossly thrown illegally in sport fields, along roads, next to rivers, etc. It has become part of the scenery for many families in China. Playing in the street, going to work, taking a walk on the river’s banks, you can’t miss them – they’re everywhere. Dumping them this way, companies created “bicycle towns”, where “residents are dealing with the mess they left behind”. Municipal authorities try to solve this problem mainly with new laws, while searching for a way to deal with the bikes already disposed of. Whatever they decide to do, it will take years before bike cemeteries vanish due to the extent of the situation.

 

 

Reuse of old bikes

Closer to us, in France, Laurent Durrieu had an idea to easily upgrade your grandma’s old bike and turn it into a brand-new electric bike! Interesting, isn’t it? But how you will ask. Well, Durrieu created “Teebike” an electric wheel that can adapt to any bike. With it, you can have an electric bike and can quickly stop feeling like you are dying when biking on a big slope!

Teebike is at the crossroads between recycling and electric expansion. According to Durrieu, your bike can last forever, as long as you change tyres, brakes and derailleur once in a while. His idea is to make electric bikes accessible for everyone while being sustainable and reusing already manufactured bikes. 

But, even if the concept meets the sustainable requirements, including by collaborating with battery recycling organisations, access to everyone can be debated because of the wheel’s price: 750€. Even though a complete electric bike will cost you more, still, I don’t think that Teebike is affordable for everyone. 

Let’s hope that the price falls over the next number of  years because I believe it’s a really well conceived alternative. In addition to being connected to your phone, the wheel has an anti-theft device that starts screaming and sets the wheel in reverse whenever it detects suspect movement.

 

Photo by Queena Deng

 

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Sustainable Fashion and YOU

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

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

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A Closer Look at Tourism: Frequently Asked Questions

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An interview with Friends of the Earth “We need to showcase the behaviours we want to see”

STAND’s Cedric spoke to Meaghan Carmody, Head of Movement Building at Friends of the Earth Ireland, about the actions we can take for the environment during lockdown.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCPRyRsBuNw