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Daily Archives: 6. March 2012 − News & Stories

Tourism and the arctic environment: a problem – really?

Norwegian politicians and often also the public seem to be convinced that tourists and the arctic environment are two things that don’t go together well. Almost as a knee-jerk, the arctic environment is described as “fragile”. Based on such assumptions that are lacking documentation, the administration is about to introduce drastic steps such as closing major areas. Such steps, that don’t even aim at an environmental benefit but are rather to establish large private playgrounds (“reference areas”) for the adminstration and science that the administration considers relevant, are largely based on the “føre var” prinsippet, the precautionary principle. Generally a good thing, but less so if strained beyond any limit to hide the lack of documented knowledge that should rather be the base for good administration.

Such an overstrain of the “precautionary principle” due to a lack of documented knowledge as a base for drastic administrative steps have in recent years led to ongoing controversal discussions and to a decreasing acceptance of the administration and thus to a problem of legitimacy.

The Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) has identified this as a problem and has now published a report based on data collected during 3 field seasons in Spitsbergen (2008-2010) on 30 locations. NINA has observed tourist groups, conducted interviews with tourists and guides and assessed the vulnerability of sites in terms of vegetation, animals, terrain and historical sites. According to the report, the guides have a key position to influence the behaviour of tourists and their moving patterns. The report does not provide a concluding answer to the question if tourism is harmful to the arctic environment, but makes clear that there is no simple yes or no to this question, and points out the lack of available knowledge upon which an assessment can be made, also as a base for administrative steps.

Tourists ashore on an island in Liefdefjord: how much damage do they actually do?

Tourism and the arctic environment - Liefdefjord

Source: NINA


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