Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Tourism is destroying the environment

Outdoor tourism produces a great amount of waste and accelerates the effects of climate change
Mehroz Kapadia

Spending time outdoors has many benefits, such as improved physical and mental health and promoting community building. But with being outdoors comes great responsibility. It is important to acknowledge the impact humans have on the environment and the cultural importance of many outdoor spaces.

National parks in the United States have often been built on stolen land and the genocide of Indigenous peoples. Tourists also produce an unmanageable amount of waste and communities surrounding these parks have been greatly disrupted.

Parks have seen an influx in visitors with the pandemic and more people valuing travel, but with that comes necessary precautions. Many national parks don’t have the infrastructure to support modern populations. Funding is not available to maintain, let alone upgrade, the current roads, trails and buildings to support tourism in the parks.

With overcrowding and underfunding, the parks are in jeopardy. Disrespect towards wildlife and the environment is destroying these spaces. People feel a certain entitlement towards visiting these areas without thinking about the native species. Wild animals have become a photo-op, with many disregarding the boundaries and safety. In 2018, a 55-year-old tourist went viral for a video in which he was seen taunting a bison in Yosemite National Park.

Even outside of national parks, disregard for wildlife is common. For the last several years, I have spent my summers working at the beaches in Dennis, MA. Unfortunately, it isn’t shocking to hear of incidents occurring throughout town, whether it’s trashing the beaches or disturbing wildlife. I spend most of my summer listening to complaints from tourists and locals about beach access being shut down due to nesting piping plovers – an endangered bird native to the New England coasts. People fail to realize that this land belonged to them before it belonged to us.

Outdoor tourism isn’t only a threat in the U.S. as sites such as Mount Everest, the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica have been overtaken by the destruction of visitors. Since the first people reached the summit of Everest in 1953, thousands have flocked to complete this death-defying challenge. Now the mountain has been nicknamed the “world’s highest garbage dump.”

Deforestation is plaguing Sagarmatha National Park as firewood is being harvested and lodges are being built to accommodate the influx of tourists. Over 600 people attempt to summit Everest every year. Each person is estimated to produce around 18 pounds of trash, most of which is left on the mountain. The slopes are littered with human waste, food containers and abandoned tents.

Sagarmatha National Park is also home to a vital water source that provides water to thousands of people in the area. With the influx of waste, the water source is being contaminated. Locals are forced to protect their land from visitors and clean up the waste produced.

Antarctica has also become a target of outdoor tourism as it boasts an exclusive and unique opportunity for travelers. Over 100,000 people have ventured into Antarctica this season – a 40 percent increase from the previous year. The destination has been marketed as an exclusive adventure destination open to only the wealthiest.

The International Association of Antarctic Tourism Operators (IAATO) was created to promote safe and “environmentally responsible” practices when visiting the continent. On their FAQ page, they label Antarctica as “the last great wilderness on our planet, still pristine with wildlife and landscapes that show little evidence of direct human activity.”

While keeping safe and environmentally friendly practices in place concerning tourism, venturing into Antarctica should not be a priority. Like hiking Mount Everest, it is an inherently selfish and destructive practice.

Last chance tourism has grown in popularity, as many sites are experiencing rapid destruction due to the climate crisis. The idea of last chance tourism is only excelling the destruction in these places though. As many destinations are seeing an increase in tourism, the environmental impacts are severe.

Travel is important, and so is spending time outdoors, but both can be done with certain precautions in place to benefit not only the environment but also tourists. Encouraging funding for national parks is vital to creating the infrastructure to support tourism. Education on the wildlife and surrounding communities is imperative to visiting destinations mindfully and respectfully. Leave no trace – even things that may be deemed biodegradable such as human waste or an apple core can disrupt environments.

With the impact of climate change and the destruction we are witnessing in outdoor spaces, mindfulness and respect must be the highest priority when venturing into the wilderness.


Katherine Varrell can be reached at [email protected].

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All Massachusetts Daily Collegian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *