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Those of our clients who choose to fly when travelling with Nature Travels are given the opportunity to offset the carbon dioxide produced by their flight and therefore help to mitigate the environmental impact of their holiday. An offset for a London-Stockholm flight costs just £3.50, and while offsetting is not a panacea to the problems associated with flying, it is an invaluable tool in the fight against climate change.
Offsets are provided through our partnership with Climate Care, which was recently ranked best performing provider in four out of seven categories in a report produced Clean Air – Cool Planet, a leading US climate change NGO.
The report, entitled “A Consumer’s Guide to Retail Carbon Offset Providers” and the first of its kind, is designed to provide guidance to consumers who wish to choose a responsible and effective carbon offset scheme. The UK government has recently announced plans to introduce an industry standard for offset providers, to avoid the danger of “greenwash” and to ensure that consumers can be confident that their money is being well spent, a move which emphasizes the increasing public awareness of climate change and increasing public willingness to tackle the problem.
Climate Care was listed first in the following categories:
• Prioritisation of offset quality
• Buyer’s ability to transparently evaluate offset quality
• Transparency in provider operation and offset selection
• Provider’s understanding of the technical aspects of offset quality
It was also listed second for:
• Ancillary environmental and sustainable development benefits of offset portfolios
• Use of third-party protocols and certification
So, congratulations to Climate Care on being formally recognised for its work in combating climate change!
The Nature Travels Team
Read more about Nature Travels’ ecotourism policy including information on our partnership with Climate Care.
Read more about Climate Care at www.climatecare.org
Climate change is reducing the snowfall in many previously snow-safe resorts, and scientists have found that rising temperatures are already leading to changes in snowfall patterns. “Alpine areas below 1,600m are now receiving 20 per cent less snow,” says Birgit Ottmer from the Davos-based Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.
But interview a cross-section of downhill skiers on the slopes this year and ask them what they like about skiing, and many are likely to mention something about their love of the outdoors and the beauty of the scenery. Therein lies the rub. The truth is, downhill skiing can have an enormously destructive effect on the fragile mountain environment:
• Increasing numbers of resorts all over the world are relying on artificially generated snow. For example, in Austria and Italy more than 40% of ski areas now need to make their own snow, and even Swtizerland, where prior to 1990 snow-making was almost unheard of, now uses snow cannons in more that 10% of its ski areas. “Practically no ski area can now survive without artificial snow; you’d face great difficulties if you didn’t have it,” says Marika Zanoletti of the Davos Klosters Ski Company.
• Reliance on snow-making machines carries with it a number of problems. Not only is it a hugely expensive and extremely energy-hungry process, but artificial snow causes long-term damage to the vegetation beneath because of the chemical additives it contains.
• Snow cannons also make it possible to prolong the ski season, further increasing the pressure on the local environment.
• All resorts now use machines to grade the snow. This compacts the snow cover and destroys the vegetation beneath, which may take decades to recover.
• The ever-increasing popularity of downhill skiing creates traffic congestion and pollution in ski areas, new hotel and chalet developments sprawl across previously peaceful mountain villages, and the infrastructure of ski lifts destroys both the visual appearance of the mountainside and its habitat.
As lower altitudes experience problems with snow cover, there is a tendency to move resorts further and further up into the mountains, into areas which are often the last stronghold for threatened species of plants and animals. In Austria, pressure from the ski industry has resulted in the local authorities lifting a ban on ski resorts in the previously protected area of the Gepatsch glacier. Not that this is a guarantee, as since 1850 Europe has lost almost 50% of its glacier cover. The Swiss resort of Andermatt even wrapped its glacier in a protective PVC blanket last spring to combat the summer melt!
So, can I ski and still be green?
There is an increasing movement in the downhill ski industry towards more responsible practices, and this does hold some hope for the future. Reducing the carbon footprint of your trip and choosing your resort carefully will certainly go some way to greening your ski holiday. Alternatively, DON’T GO DOWNHILL SKIING!!!
Cross-country skiing, ski touring and snowshoeing all have a significantly lower impact on the environment than downhill skiing. They require far less infrastructure, reducing pollution, habitat degradation and energy use. What’s more, being out on your own in the forest with nothing but the crunch of your snowshoes or the “swoosh-glide” of your skis to break the silence is a magical feeling – a TRUE outdoor winter experience!
Photo: Anders Dahlin Naturfoto
At Nature Travels we specialize in low-impact, responsible outdoor activities in Sweden. Take a look at a sample of our winter portfolio, and discover a new world of winter experience!
The Nature Travels Team
After centuries of persecution, the wolf was finally driven to extinction in Sweden in the 1970s. But, for this most resilient and wild-spirited of animals its Swedish story was not over, and in 1977 wolves again began to appear in Sweden. DNA analysis has shown that these wolves originally crossed over from Finland and Russia. Since then they have gradually increased in population, especially in central Sweden.
The Scandinavian wolf population grew by around 25% in the 1990s, and in 2005 Sweden’s wolf population was put at around 150 – more wolves than there have been in Scandinavia for almost 100 years. The wolf is an animal that inspires strong feelings on both sides, a symbol of the wilderness and untamed natural forces, but through careful conservation measures and ongoing education, the future looks much brighter than it did.
Photo: Marcus Jonson
Wolves are social animals which live in a nuclear family – perhaps one reason why humans throughout the ages have had such a special relationship with them: they remind us of our own social groupings: two parents, often known as the alpha pair, together with their offspring from one or more years. The majority of cubs leave the pack before they reach sexual maturity, but some remain, and may act as babysitters for new arrivals.
The well marked-out territory is defended passionately against invaders – fights between rival groups are not uncommon and sometimes result in death. The size of a territory is generally between 800 and 1000 sq km – access to food seems to be the most decisive factor in determining territory size. Dung, urine and scratch marks are used to mark boundaries, but it is only the alpha pair who take part in territory marking.
Howling at the moon?
Wolves have been the subject of many myths and legends throughout history – one of which is at they love to howl at a full moon. In fact, there is no evidence that wolves prefer a full moon, but perhaps one explanation could be that sound carries further in cold, clear weather. Or perhaps that humans also prefer to be out and about on moonlit nights!
A wolf howl is a song full of meaning and function – and each wolf has its own distinctive voice. When wolves howl together it is often very difficult to estimate numbers, in the same way that a human choir often sounds more than the sum of its parts. Howling clearly helps to bond together the members of a pack, but also serves as a signal to other wolves, an announcement that ”We live here and this place is ours”.
Photo: Andrea Barghi
The howl of a wolf is both an extraordinarily emotive and at the same time emotional sound – should one of the alpha pair die, the remaining alpha wolf may come to the place of its death to take up what sounds, to human ears, a particularly mournful howl. The pack also howls together to ready itself for a hunt, like a sports team ”psyching itself up” – and this sounds very different. The wolf vocalises for many reasons – a short barking may signal a warning, for example. But, perhaps ironically, wolves are for the most part very quiet animals.
Howling with wolves – a unique experience deep in the Swedish forest
Many words have been used to describe that unique sound, the howl of the wolf: spine-tingling, spiritual, awe-inspiring, thrilling. Whatever adjective you may choose, one thing is for certain: the experience of hearing the howling of a wild wolf pack echoing through the forest around you is unforgettable, a memory to be cherished and the stuff of dreams for many years to come.
Our Howling with Wolves experience takes you into the depths of the Bergslagen forests for an educational and uplifting adventure and a magical encounter with these beautiful and misunderstood animals!
The Nature Travels Team
Listen to the sounds of the wolf recorded during one of the wolf tours in 2006.
“Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone?”
The words of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” seemed particularly poignant last month when an international research expedition concluded a six-week search for the 20-million-year-old Yangtze river dolphin, the Baiji, with these words:
“We have to accept the fact that the Baiji is functionally extinct. It is a tragedy, a loss not only for China, but for the entire world.”
The dolphin, one of the world’s oldest species and one of only five freshwater dolphins species in the world (all of which are on the IUCN’s Red List of endangered species), was driven to extinction by a combination of habitat destruction, illegal fishing and boat collisions.
But while many would have been saddened by news of the Baiji’s passing, how many had ever heard of the dolphin’s existence before the announcement?
Can my choice of holiday make a positive contribution and help to prevent such tragedies occurring in the future?
There has been much debate in the press recently about the value of ecotourism both to the environment and to local economies, and particularly about the dangers of “greenwashing” – the labelling of a particular product or experience as “eco-friendly”, when the reality may be very different. How, then, does ecotourism work in Sweden and is it having a positive effect?
At its best, ecotourism should provide some or all of the following benefits:
- Give threatened natural and cultural heritage an economic value. In short, protecting and conserving should become the right thing to do financially, not just ethically.
- Create access to unique and unforgettable nature experiences which would be difficult, if not impossible, for a traveller to organise independently.
- Increase awareness of the need for environmental and cultural conservation by turning visitors and guests into informal ambassadors who leave the country inspired and motivated to continue the principals of ecotourism and to encourage others to do so.
- Generate funds which can be used for ongoing conservation work of habitats, species and cultural heritage.
- Ecotourism can be part of the mix and a strategic partner to other forms of sustainable development and a viable alternative to unsustainable commercial exploitation of natural and cultural resources.
- With its focus on local products and services, ecotourism can generate far more employment possibilities than traditional nature tourism.
What has ecotourism already achieved in Sweden?
- Financial assistance for the preservation of species such as the critically endangered arctic fox, the European otter and a number of hunting falcons. In the archipelago, funds have been vital for the conservation of river mussels and the reintroduction of the sea eagle.
- The Ecopark in the centre of the Swedish capital Stockholm is an excellent example of how ecotourism can be used to defend nature under threat.
- The success of ecotourism in the northern regions of Sweden has helped the Sami people save their traditional way of life from extinction and to preserve their cultural heritage.
In a 2003 report entitled “Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Maine Initiatives and Swedish Lessons”, David Vail wrote:
“Ecotourism Swedish-style entails minimizing environmental damage, restoring ecosystem health, educating tourists about nature conservation and cultural heritage, and involving local residents in tourism management and benefits. Importantly, nature and cultural heritage are intertwined in the Swedish understanding of ecotourism.”
Your choice of holiday can and does have a significant effect on the culture and environment of the country you visit – choose well, and perhaps tragedies like the loss of the Baiji may one day become a thing of the past.
The Nature Travels Team
All the local providers Nature Travels uses for its experiences in Sweden are committed to the principles of ecotourism and sustainable development and passionate about the preservation and enhancement of Sweden’s unique natural world. The majority of our providers have received an award from the Swedish ecotourism body for their high standards of environmental sensitivity and customer service.