Britt and Berit, Arctic Encounters’ Norwegian researchers, have spent the past two days at an international environmental conference in Geiranger, a UNESCO-listed fjord town, where various visions and possibilities for eco-tourism have been explored.
Eco-tourism has not been high on the agenda within Norway’s tourist industry. Case in point: the “North in the South” conference held in Oslo, where the Nordic tourist industry gathers every January; the event did not highlight environmental issues at all. The “Green Fjord 2020” initiative organized the Geiranger conference, a destination whose UNESCO status might be under by extensive cruise traffic.
Thus, the growing cruise tourism industry in Norway has become a major issue in Norway over the past year or two. For Arctic Encounters this is a pressing issue. Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, Svalbard and Northern Norway are experiencing an exponential increase in cruise tourism. Environmental requirements, jurisdictions and regulations for both shipping and cruise activities must be seriously addressed by a number of actors in the very near future. Also, cruise ships generate the most greenhouse gas intensive tourists compared to all other tourist practices in Norway, which Carlo Aall, the head of research at Vestlandsforskning, addressed in his presentation on research exploring this expanding industry in Norway (see his figure below). We are looking forward to possible collaborations with Carlo and his colleagues at Vestlandsforskning.
Sustainability as community
The event’s keynote speaker was Søren Hermansen, an inhabitant of Samsø island (Denmark), which had the lofty ambition of becoming carbon-free in 1997. Eco-friendly Samsø remains the best Nordic case for self-sustainability and eco-tourism. Sustainability is about people and community, and concerns emphasising these actors as the starting point for life and responsibility. “We, Samsø, are the centre of the world,” Søren told us; we as humans need to approach ourselves as the centre in order to take on new politics – or to engage in responsible acts whence eco-capacity becomes an end result of the everyday. We need a “burning platform” in order to create awareness: somewhere we can heavily consider each other’s concerns. In Sami communities, this burning platform for us to gather has been around for many years, known as Arran – a local practice for meeting and deciding. Could it be that the solutions are closer to us than we ever realised?