Monday, November 15, 2010

The Future of Tourism

David Hunter Tow, Director of the Future Planet Research Centre, forecasts the Tourism Industry of today will be unrecognizable by 2040/50. The industry currently lacks the foresight and planning required to prepare for a radically different human lifestyle. The majority of operators and investors are still in denial, rushing into short term investments, oblivious to the monumental changes ahead, driven by global climate change – both environmental and social.
Like lemmings they follow the next faddish trend and five-year business plan, destined for annihilation over the cliff of the future.

By 2020- the nature of traditional Tourism and Travel will have radically altered in a variety of ways.
There has already been a reduction in overseas business travel through the alternate use of videoconferencing and this trend will accelerate within the general population as more travelers become aware that air transport contributes 3%-4% of global carbon emissions as well as unnecessary costs. It will also have the effect of increasing the popularity of local destinations in many countries, including exploring local wildernesses and heritage sites, as well as the option of numerous exotic city theme parks. Communities in both urban and country areas with common interests will in the future take advantage of local resources to a much greater degree, creating their own discovery and travel themes independently of the larger operators.

Eco-tourism will continue to boom along with high-risk adventure themes such as foot safaris and survival treks. But tourism will also need to become more eco-friendly and socially responsible, with operators offering a choice of carbon offsets such as tree planting and feral species reduction. As part of a standard package, tourists will be required to contribute to reducing the risk of damage to pristine wildernesses and fragile archaeological sites; encouraged to volunteer their time to remediate the environments they visit and becoming more personally involved with the welfare of local indigenous communities.

The larger resort operators will also need to change their mindset and reject their limited view of the role of tourism in the 21st century. At the moment it is a free-rider mentality; exploiting local natural resources instead of adding real value to their preservation and sustainability. Solar panels, water-saving shower heads and drip-fed golf courses do not improve biodiversity or reduce toxic waste runoff.

By 2030- many ecosystems will have degraded or be seriously at risk due to climate change- coral reefs, coastal wetlands, forests, temperate grasslands, mountain glaciers and river systems. At the same time fifteen percent of animal and plant species will have disappeared or be endangered. Tourists will therefore be banned from most national parks and wildernesses, except under strictly controlled conditions and will rush to visit the last great cultural sites and natural remote environments on earth before they disappear or are permanently closed.

The great Tanzanian Serengeti ecosystem reserve- a vast network of swamps, grasslands and woodlands and one of the ten natural travel wonders of the world, will be already at risk from development of a major bisecting highway with an inevitable increase in traffic infrastructure. Following this disastrous trend, most wild animal species will in the future be viewed solely in zoos and theme parks.

By 2040- the massive investment in resort and tourism infrastructure in the traditional coastal and tropical areas of South East Asia, Indonesia, Northern Australia, Africa, the Gulf States and countries surrounding the Mediterranean and Black Seas will be at risk of obsolescence and irrelevance. Many traditional holiday playgrounds will become no-go areas except in air-conditioned skyscrapers, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees centigrade- lethal to humans and exacerbated by extreme weather events and rising sea levels. The remaining tourism infrastructure and assets will be converted to assist local communities manage the inevitability of encroaching degraded environments.

With over 50 percent of the world’s population living in city areas including many mega-cities, major urban and surrounding environments will become the main tourist hubs of the future as many are today; but also offering not only traditional entertainment and cultural experiences, but previously exclusively outdoor physical activities such as surfing, skiing, fishing and golfing- now in managed controlled environments. Most major sporting venues will also be fully enclosed against chaotic weather, with synthetic surfaces. All but a handful of golf courses will be phased out as an unacceptable use of land and water resources, which could otherwise be used for essential urban horticulture and public recreation space.

With accelerating global warming radically altering the planet’s climate patterns, a massive population shift from the tropics to the more temperate areas of the northern hemisphere will be an inevitable outcome. Areas of Scandinavia, the Baltic States, Greenland, Canada, and Russia as well as portions of Antarctica, New Zealand and Tasmania in the south, will host the new outdoor tourist playgrounds.
However there will remain major limitations on exploitation of the planet’s few remaining vast wilderness areas, such as the Russian Taiga.

By 2050 tourism will have fragmented into myriad primarily urban exotic experiences, often transacted in virtual and augmented realities; simulating extraordinarily realistic and personal immersive experiences, involving all the senses. Gradually such lifestyle scenarios will be indistinguishable from the previous natural realities, allowing unlimited generated options, as well as surreal trips into space and under the oceans, back in time to historic events and forward into future cosmic civilisations.

In thirty years time the global Tourism Industry will bear little relationship to that of today’s dominant eco-exploitative model. To survive and adapt to the harsh climatic and social conditions ahead, the current business mantra, with its reliance on a relatively benign planet offering unlimited and free natural assets of utopian forests, fecund reefs, snow-capped mountains and sublime oceans, will need to be discredited and discarded.
Tomorrow’s tourist landscape will be vastly different. Natural assets will be replaced by a reality for future generations, which is largely artificial, manufactured and virtual, but one which could still be immensely exciting if creatively seized.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Future of Food

By 2015- global warming will have a major impact on food production. Dislocation in climate patterns, increasing frequency of droughts and floods plus rising population results in less arable land and rising costs of food production. This leads to increased prices of staple foods such as rice, wheat and maize as well as meat, forcing another 100 million people in developing countries into malnutrition including 10 million children in India alone. This is in addition to the already 1 billion already affected by malnutrition. This has severe flow on effects for the future of developing countries as malnutrition severely impacts the cognitive capacity of the next generation.

Food aid is also under pressure from richer countries, as governments are forced to provide priority for food security to their own populations, particularly following a decade of financial turmoil. Friction is also created as major population countries such as China begin buying up arable land in poorer countries as a hedge against future food shortages.

By 2025- the world population will have grown to more than 7 billion. Global demand for grain and animal production now significantly outstrips supply. To satisfy demand, cereal production needs to increase by 50% and animal production by 90%.

Additional arable land equal to 150 million hectares or a minimum 10% of the 1.5 billion hectares already under cultivation is required to keep pace despite improvements in agricultural management and technology. This is likely to come in the short term from areas such as the Congo and Amazonia, further accelerating the onset of global warming and drought as forests are further fragmented.

This creates global unrest with waves of mass migrations in developing countries to the cities. This accelerates the need to make cities and urban environments more food self sufficient, through use of treated sewage, local community food gardens, based on urban harvested water runoff and solar energy collection.

By 2030- major programs are underway to recover genes from ancestor plant species that originally evolved to cope with drought and salinity, together with a return to original middle eastern and African dry land farming techniques.

Rejection of monoculture agriculture- mixed farming seen as the best solution.

There is recognition that conventional breeding techniques for plant traits such as tolerance to dry conditions, may be too complex and time consuming to achieve within the available urgent timeframes. Genetic modification combined with organic farming provides the only answer, with accelerated cooperative science initiatives to increase crop yield, drought tolerance, nutritional value and disease resistance.

A bright spot is the major shift from grains to tuber crops such as potatoes, which need less land and water than grain and are extremely nutritious, with four times as much complex carbohydrate and better quality proteins than grains.

Animal production as a primary source of protein is now seen as unsustainable, as is large-scale use of arable land for cattle grazing, while poultry remains viable on edges of farmland and cities.

Monoculture and irrigation farming is also phased out as unsustainable in terms of inefficient water and land useage.   

World fisheries will also be at risk, with fish traditionally providing 20% of animal protein. All fish, crustacean and sea mammal stocks are severely depleted despite greater conservation controls. The oceans are rapidly becoming too acidic to support sea life including plankton and shellfish. Ocean dead zones, depleted of oxygen, are spreading fast.

The UN Food and Agricultural Organization- FAO draws up contingency plans for global food management, planning for relocation of populations from the drying middle to the more habitable northern latitudes.

By 2040- glacial and mountain snow fed sources of water will be in full retreat across the globe. As a result the major river systems in Europe, South America and Asia, providing water to the traditional farming areas of southern Europe, Pakistan, China, India, Afghanistan and Vietnam, begin to dry up.

China’s vast rice fields, providing food for 400 million people and India’s wheat, fruit and vegetable farming locus in the Punjab are severely affected. Most of Africa, the Middle East and Australia are in permanent drought, combined with major depletion of the groundwater aquifers.

Human habitation in the mid-latitudinal belts- 30 degrees north and south of the equator, becomes unsustainable. The only regions with adequate rainfall, guaranteed to support stable food production and human society, are in the high latitudes such as- Canada, Greenland, Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia, part of Northern Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica.

Small communities continue to survive in drought areas by building shelters and growing food underground, using still active aquifers and solar energy.

By 2050- global warming is out of control with limits to suitable land for agriculture - contention between retaining forest as a carbon sink and clearing it for agriculture.

Friction reaches flashpoint between the major powers over land, food and water security.
Massive human migrations are occurring globally – from poorer to richer countries and from drier to wetter habitats.
Giant solar energy generating belts become operational across North Africa, Middle east, Southern US and Australia providing power for high density population centers and high intensity farming hubs to feed them.

With the world population reaching 9 billion, an extra 1 billion hectares more land are needed for food production- equal to the landmass of US. At the same time commercial fish and seafood species have collapsed.

It is recognized that only global cooperation beyond national borders can avoid conflict, anarchy and starvation for billions. Global food production, distribution and allocation plans are activated under the auspices of the UN.

Global cooperation in achieving the equitable allocation of land, water, energy and food resources through the advanced communication and knowledge mechanism of intelligent web, becomes the only realistic means of avoiding global anarchy and the disintegration of human civilization.

National boundaries and political hubris become irrelevant when the survival of human life- perhaps the most advanced life-form in the universe - is threatened
All the players have taken their seats around the table- and have placed their bets