Top 10 Tips to Save Islands
June 08, 2007 By Seacology
BERKELEY, Calif. — With vacation time rapidly approaching, many people's thoughts turn to islands. Seacology (www.seacology.org
), the world's premier non-profit organization with the sole purpose of preserving island environments and cultures, is pleased to provide our top 10 tips to enable travelers to enjoy islands while helping to preserve them. Although islands conjure up images of pristine tropical paradises, they are actually among the world's most threatened ecosystems. In the last 400 years, over 50 per cent of all plant and animal species extinctions including an astonishing 90 per cent of all bird species extinctions have occurred on islands. Seventy- two percent of all the plant and animal extinctions ever recorded in the U.S. have occurred in Hawaii, a state that makes up less than two-tenths of one per cent of the nation's land area. In the last 400 years Lord Howe Island, a small island located in the Coral Sea between Australia and New Zealand, has had more bird species and subspecies extinctions than Africa, Asia and Europe combined.
Much has been written about global warming and climate change. Nowhere in the world will its consequences be felt more strongly than on islands, some of which will cease to exist if the seas continue to rise due to melting polar ice caps. The very isolation that until relatively recently protected island environments from encroachment now makes their ecosystems extremely vulnerable to damage from such outside threats as introduced species. The coral reefs and mangrove forests that surround most tropical islands are rapidly disappearing due to human interventions such as cyanide and dynamite fishing, sewage discharge, pesticide runoff, and dumping of waste from ocean liners.
Since 1999, Seacology has launched over 130 island-based projects, saving 1,741,062 acres of marine ecosystems and 98,507 acres of precious terrestrial habitat. Seacology projects provide a tangible benefit, such as an elementary school or a fresh water delivery system for island villagers, in exchange for the establishment of a marine or forest reserve. You too can help save the world's islands! Seacology has compiled a list of the top 10 things you can do to protect islands and enjoy your island experience.
1. Spend your vacation at a true eco-resort. Many establishments claim to be environmentally friendly, yet confine their efforts to encouraging you to re-use your towel. If a resort is calling itself eco-friendly, ask why before making a reservation. Resorts such as the Jean Michel Cousteau Fiji Island Resort (www.fijiresort.com
) and the accommodations at the Chumbe Island Coral Park (www.chumbeisland.com
) provide a true, one-of-a-kind ecologically responsible vacation experience.
2. Take nothing but pictures. Do not collect shells or other wildlife as souvenirs of your trip. That shell you want to take might be the future home of a hermit crab.
3. Offset your carbon. Flying to an island releases large amounts of CO2 into the air. Compensate for the negative environmental impacts of your travel by contributing to Seacology's Carbon Neutral Fund. Your dollars will assist Seacology's efforts to support tree planting and clean energy projects on islands throughout the world.
4. Cool off responsibly. Many tropical islands are cooled by trade winds. Shutting off the air conditioning will not only save energy, it will also allow you to hear the breeze passing through the palm trees and the chirping of the birds. If conditions are sweltering and you must use the air conditioning, turn it off when you leave your room!
5. Respect and appreciate the diversity of island cultures and languages. The devastation of island cultures is happening at an alarming rate. One island alone - Papua New Guinea - is home to over 800 languages, many of which are spoken by only a small number of tribal elders. Before you go, learn a little about the culture and language of the island you plan to visit. The smiles that greet you when you use the local language will be a nice added bonus.
6. Don't destroy underwater life. When scuba diving or snorkelling, do not touch anything. Coral reefs are very fragile and take a long time to grow. You will also save yourself from nasty stings and bites by adopting a no-touch policy.
7. Avoid disposable products. Waste disposal is a critical problem on many of the world's islands. Do not bring disposable products on your vacation.
8. See an island's hidden treasures and get closer to nature. Reduce your impact on an island's environment and atmosphere by engaging in eco-friendly activities instead of motorized ones such as jeep or helicopter tours. Kayaking, biking, hiking and sailing are great ways to see the beauty of island ecosystems. You will also meet a lot more people when you are out of your car.
9. Support local economies save fossil fuel and discover new flavours by eating locally caught and produced foods. Not only that, but the local coconut dessert is a lot fresher than the packaged cupcake made months ago in a country thousands of miles away.
10. Help launch new projects to protect island environments and cultures by supporting Seacology. Seacology works directly with island villagers to create initiatives that both protect precious habitats, and improve quality of life. In the words of Dr. John McCosker of the California Academy of Sciences, "Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, Seacology gets more output than any conservation group that I've seen." Learn more about Seacology by visiting our website www.seacology.org.