What can tourism learn from David Attenborough and the People’s Seat Initiative today?

What can tourism learn from David Attenborough and the People’s Seat Initiative today?

Today at the UN Climate Conference in Katowice Poland, David Attenborough’s People’s Seat initiative will see the 92yr old naturalist use his position to share the voices of the many thousands who have taken to Twitter in the past few weeks to have their say on what needs to be done to avoid climate breakdown using the hashtag #TakeYourSeat. The idea is that the People’s Seat enables people to “virtually sit” and share their views alongside leaders, governments and representative organizations at the UN Climate Change Conference COP24, December 2-14.

“The challenge to humanity that climate change represents is of such epic proportions that only through collective global action will we have a chance to combat it successfully,” explained Michael Moller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) and the creator of the initiative. “The People’s Seat initiative provides the impulse for seriously ramping up global solidarity, especially among the young who, at the end of the day, are the ones who will have to deal with the mess we have left them with.”

I’ve been following the hashtag since it was launched, documenting the many tweets that relate to the travel industry, trying to learn from what people are calling on tourism to do. For the rest of this week’s blog therefore, here is what the world is saying via the #TakeYourSeat campaign on how the tourism industry can take action onclimate change.

“We have seen the devastation caused to the world’s coasts, particularly coral, by unfettered tourism. Is it time for international restrictions on all these vulnerable habitats – not just marine conservation areas?”

“We need to make sure that the natural world is protected and enhanced through tree planting and green infrastructure, agricultural and fishing regulations, and nature reserves on land and at sea.”

“We need dramatic initiatives from governments and corporations but we must also look hard at our materialist lifestyle and make big changes in how we live, eat and travel.”

“Simplify your existence. Buy less. Work from home & make fewer trips (day to day & vacation)”

“Not everyone will be willing to join us, but our earth is worth bigger sacrifices than our consumer society and our precious summer holidays. We have to take big steps now.”

“Place a restriction on the number of long haul flights per person per year”

“Place more subsidies on eco-friendly transport, trains over planes.”

“We want environmentally friendly public transport to be a human right, true price of fuel and food to be shown in monetary and environmental impact, no subsidies, truth about pesticides & herbicides, discuss population & sustainability.”

“We need; investment and a swift transition to renewable energy sources; cheaper rail travel; support for local, small-scale food production and agroecology; restrictions on air travel; restrictions on meat production. Our dire situation requires drastic measures!”

“Globally no one can have their cake and eat it – unsavoury actions needed  including subsidised public transport, prevention of fossil fuel manufacture and use and reduction of cheap and frivolous air travel”

Why are we debating anything anymore except climate change and the future of ourselves on this planet? #takeyourseat – one of the biggest contributors to emissions is aeroplanes, I want to know why plane journeys are so cheap yet public transport is so expensive in comparison?

PS: There were many more tweets calling for measures to address aviation’s climate impact than I have included here.

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Jeremy Smith is a writer, speaker and sustainable tourism consultant. He is co-founder of Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, an initiative that supports tourism organisations in declaring a climate emergency and working together to reduce their carbon emissions in line with the Science Based Targets. He is the author of Transforming Travel - realising the potential of sustainable tourism (2018), and co-founder of Travindy.com, the travel industry sustainable tourism website news site. He consults widely on sustainable tourism strategy and communication, with recent clients including Bruges Ommeland, GSTC, English National Parks, Tripadvisor, the Travel Foundation, and the European Travel Commission. He is a member of Travalyst’s Independent Advisory Board and was a member of Rotterdam’s International Advisory Board in 2019, helping develop a new vision for the city’s tourism.

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