Sunday, December 16, 2007

Doom Tourism

More on tourism from the New York Times... a follow up of sorts to their previous piece on Antarctic tourism. Author Allen Salkin discusses the emergence of a branch of "ecotourism" some are calling "doom tourism" - visiting places predicted to disappear or dramatically change in the very near future. Currently, that includes sites like the Arctic, Antarctica, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and the Amazon - places viewed as under threat from global warming and industrial activity. While there are some interesting connections and points of analysis between these kinds of tours, the development of "ecotourism" since the early 1990s and the histories of "adventure" tourism, Salkin makes some odd choices to drive some of the points. One is pointing to the increase in travel to cities like Buenos Aires as a parallel to the fact that there is a Baskin Robbins in Katmandu and five star hotels in Goa, India. Tourism covers a broad range of desires and practices, so to move from a focused discussion of eco-adventure-doom tourism to more general travels to distant (in terms of the privileged Euro-US sense of geography) locales and cities doesn't do service to the complexity and significance of what's going on. The article could have easily, and more compellingly in our estimation, moved from the Euro-US desire to witness disappearing ecosystems to the surely disappearing ability for many to to travel anywhere, much less far-flung locations, that will accompany a fuel and energy crisis. The link between the privileges that are the cause of ecological destruction and those privileges that facilitate the leisure travel to witness that destruction go beyond a simple analysis of carbon footprints.
Another kind of doom tourism that could be discussed is that practiced by some Evangelical Christians in relation to Israel and the Book of Revelations. A couple of years ago, there was talk of some plans to build a Christian theme park on the Sea of Galilee. Of course, Bill Moyers has made the connection between the thinking present there and the environmental policies of the current Bush Administration and the religious right-wing of the US in general. And if the "Left Behind" series isn't sci-fi tourism for the religious right, we don't know what is.

No comments: