Archive for January, 2009
Well, it’s down to the wire and wasn’t sure it would come together on such short notice but finally have some times nailed down for interviews and chats with media and industry titans at the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Winter Market.
Tweetup for Modern Day Monkeywrencher set at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market
Salt Lake City, UT â€“ The nationâ€™s newest poster child for civil disobedience will come face to face with the industry that may be best positioned to appreciate his environmental activism when Tim DeChristopher makes the rounds at this weekâ€™s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market at the Salt Palace Convention Center.
DeChristopherâ€™s goal in attending the show is to raise awareness and maybe a few dollars to support a campaign he singlehandedly spearheaded to save the backdrop to two of Utahâ€™s most famous national parks from oil and gas drilling operations. His efforts already have been applauded by the likes of movie star and environmentalist Robert Redford, the Yes Men, and Ken Sleight, aka Seldom Seen Smith, in Edward Abbeyâ€™s most famous work of environmental fiction, â€œThe Monkey Wrench Gang.â€ DeChristopher has appeared on Democracy Now, CBS Evening News and been written about in major newspapers throughout the US and across the oceans from Great Britain to New Zealand.
DeChristopher will meet with top management from some of the leading manufacturers of human -powered outdoor gear whoâ€™ve expressed interest in and affinity with his cause. Heâ€™ll also conduct media interviews with the likes of Backpacker magazine as well as a radio interview for Wisconsin Public Radioâ€™s syndicated â€œTo the Best of Our Knowledgeâ€ and other regional and national outdoor enthusiast publications. A â€œTweetup for Timâ€ is schedule at 3 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24, at the Backcountry Village (Booth #35106) in the Salt Palace. The Tweetup, an offline meeting publicized largely via social media microblogging site Twitter, will be a chance for outdoor industry enthusiasts to meet Tim, donate to his cause and listen in on the Backpacker interview.
DeChristopher became the Monkey Wrench Gangâ€™s newest de facto inductee when he bid against oil and gas industry veterans during a US Bureau of Land Mangement lease auction in Moab, Utah last month. Though DeChristopher had neither the means, nor any intention of paying for them, he won leases totaling $1.7 million for 22,500 acres of Utah red rock desert near Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Many of the parcels were being contested by environmental groups since they in an area that contain the nation’s greatest density of ancient rock art and other cultural resources. Over this past weekend, a federal judge approved a temporary restraining order on the auction, signaling some chance the environmental groupsâ€™ claims may prevail.
A web site raising money for DeChristopherâ€™s leases has brought in $45,000, but the BLM has not yet decided whether to accept the downpayment. Funds raised will also be used to defray legal costs, as DeChristopher is also facing possible fraud charges in federal court which, if the case goes to trial and heâ€™s convicted, could include prison time.
This yearâ€™s Outdoor Retailer Winter Market has attracted more than 800 exhibitors representing manufacturers of tents, backpacks, clothing, hardware, Nordic gear and all the accessories folks need to maximize their enjoyment and safety in the outdoors. The trade show, which is not open to the public, runs Jan. 22 â€“ 25.
View this 2 minute overview of the DeChristopher story on CBS Evening News.
Details are still in the works but I’m letting all my fellow passionate outdoor enthusiasts who will be attending the upcoming Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City know that during the show, they’ll be able to meet and support Tim DeChristopher and his daring effort to stand up to the government to protect scenic landscapes around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks from oil and gas development.
I was struck by the story of Tim DeChristopher from the moment I first learned about his creative act of civil disobedience during a controversial BLM oil and gas lease auction on Dec. 19 in Utah. I started blogging and twittering to draw attention to Tim’s valor and then drive other sympathizers to his main news, info and donation collection website http://www.Bidder70.org which went live around the New Year. Along the way, I learned Tim is the son of a friend of mine here in Salida, CO.
So it was killing me to be in the air today of all days since today was the deadline for Tim and his supporters to present the BLM with a check for $45,000, basically the mandated downpayment on the $1.7 million Tim won by bid for oil and gas rights to 22,500 acres primarily around Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. Bids won before oil and gas industry auction veterans became suspicious of the new kid on the block whose bidding was driving the price of the parcels up. The auction was stopped. Tim was ejected and is still uncertain whether and on what grounds the feds may press charges against him. See, Tim’s an economics student at the University of Utah and, like most college kids, didn’t have the personal economic viability to actually pay for any of the bids he won.
Anyway, Â I was psyched to open up my inbox tonight to learn that the first hurdle has been cleared. According to Tim, thousands of people donated $10, $20 or whatever they could in otherwise gloomy economic times and collectively raised the necessary $45,000. But Tim’s story is far from over. Despite the specter of public relations suicide if they reject it, the feds are still mulling over whether they will accept Tim’s downpayment. And if they do, it will be no mean feat to raise the remaining $1.25 million needed to complete the lease purchase. It alsoÂ still remains to be seen if the feds will find the will and the legal means to press charges against Tim, which, if he’s convicted, carry the threat of prison time.
I’m not alone in my support of Tim.Â The list of media who have interviewed him or covered updates on the story grows daily along with appearance requests. Tim also enjoys the support of folks like these:
Actor Robert Redford, who is also owner of Sundance Resort in Utah, founder of the Sundance Film Festival held each January in Utah and a friend of the environment and Native American rights.
Ken Sleight, friend of the late, outspoken environmental author and essayist Edward AbbeyÂ and the man upon whom Seldom Seen Smith in Abbey’s “The Monkey Wrench Gang” is loosely based.
Patrick Shea, the former head of the BLM during the Clinton Administration. Shea, a prominent Utah lawyer, educator and businessman is a Rhodes Scholar with degrees from Oxford and Harvard. He’s leading Tim’s legal defense team.
Former Salt Lake City Mayor Ross “Rocky” AndersonÂ who, while in office championed – among other progressive ideas – green initiatives, a more vibrant city center and hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games as well as being an outspoken critic of the current Bush administration. Anderson is a full-time environmental activist.
Hopefully some of these folks will be able to join Tim when he comes to the Salt Palace to share his story with the outdoor industry. We’ll keep our fingers crossed and the details flowing on this blog and via Twitter and other social media outlets so stay tuned for more info and I hope you’ll join me in welcoming and supporting Tim and his cause.
For a comprehensive roundup of news and information about Tim and his courageous act, visit http://www.Bidder70.org (A reference to the number on the bidding paddle Tim was issued at the BLM auction.)
I found out today that Tim DeChristopher is the son of a friend of mine here in Chaffee County. I wrote a story about it for our local online paper the Salida Citizen and was struck by the heartfelt response from a fellow activist who was at the scene of the now famous BLM lease auction last month. Read the post and comment here: http://bit.ly/suww
Every industry has its canary in the coalmine and for travel, some would argue that cruise lines are the proverbial canary.
Travel industry pros skeptical about emerging industry trends are more willing to begin to gently embrace that trend if it can be shown that the major cruise lines are onto it.
So I thought Iâ€™d Google around and see what I could find out about the debates and tactics under discussion in the cruise industry.
March 2006. Conservation Internationalâ€™s Center for Environmental Leadership in Business publishes â€œFrom Ship to Shore: Sustainable Stewardship in Cruise Destinations.â€
The report was produced by CI as part of its work through the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance (OCTA), an initiative between CI and the International Council of Cruise Lines working to protect biodiversity in main cruise destinations while promoting industry practices that minimize environmental impacts.
â€œAlthough cruise tourism has the potential to overwhelm fragile destinations if not managed effectively, the industry is also a great potential ally for conservation, because many cruise passengers are attracted by the opportunity to experience new places and cultures,â€ stated Russell Mittermeier, president of CI, in the From Ship to Shore Foreword.
The report features stakeholder examples of tangible steps taken to ensure a sustainable future for cruise tourism while maintaining a destinationâ€™s natural and cultural integrity. It also offers recommendations on best practices for the cruise lines, governments, civil society and shore excursion operators.
For example, this latter group is encouraged to â€œform partnerships with local communities and indigenous people in order to include cultural elements in their shore excursions and implement operating procedures to minimize negative impact on the local environment and cultures.â€
Feb. 2008. Geotourism was recognized as a new travel trend at the American Association of Port Authorities Annual Conference.
May 2008. Allies within the Belize cruise tourism industry signed a declaration of commitment to create sustainable cruise tourism practices. Conservation International hailed the accord between the government of Belize, the private sector, NGOs and cruise lines as the â€œfirst such document to address considerations by an established nature tourism destination,â€ and predicted the accord would become a role model for cruise line destinations worldwide.
June 2008. Conservation International and Cruise Lines International Association signed an agreement to renew the Ocean Conservation and Tourism Alliance to minimize the cruise industryâ€™s environmental footprint and protect biodiversity.
A press release about the agreement stated CI will continue to work with CLIA to develop and implement good practice standards and training tools for shore excursions, support conservation projects in key cruise destinations and raise awareness and support for conservation issues among cruise industry customers, employees and vendors.
More than a century ago the great American author noted Mark Twain opined, â€œTravel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.â€
Therefore, it is disturbing to note State Department stats showing just 30 percent of Americans possess a valid passport.
Travel and interacting with people in other cultures enriches our lives and I contend that traveling with respect and humility for other cultures helps make it harder to contemplate war. Pay attention when you travel and beyond foreign language, dress, customs and religions, at the heart of it, we are share some core aspirations. People want to live in peace and want to make their world and the world around them more comfortable and safe for their friends and loved ones, especially their children.
A travel industry-wide mindset focused on pleasing everyone and making folks â€œfeel at homeâ€ is eroding the distinctive characteristics that drew visitors to a destination or attraction in the first place. As underscored by a Travel Industry Association report, people are beginning to realize that destinations are morphing into homogenous places that offer similar experiences. Characteristics such as unique local customs and cuisines, architecture and culture are the primary draws for those consumers who take the most trips, spend the most money and produces the greatest volume of visits overall.
A pet peeve of mine on this topic is the rise of the all-inclusive resort. Perfect for time-strapped travelers and others who like a more predictable experience, all-inclusives insulate visitors from the authentic natural attractions, small local businesses, villages and towns of the â€œreal people.â€
There are other forces at work too, that if left unchecked, will lead to further erosion of the diverse and vibrant cultural fabric of this planet. Many immigrants who came to this country at the turn of the last century hid their languages, cuisine and customs in an attempt to blend in and be an American. In the same way, indigenous people, frequently shed their traditional food production and preparations, traditional attire and cultural customs in order to better assimilate into enviable Western culture.
Therefore I believe itâ€™s important to propel the principles of geotourism, which at its core â€œrepresents restorative and reconstructive forms of tourism that enhances a destinationâ€™s natural and cultural distinctiveness, as well as provides a high-quality visitor experience.â€
I am relieved the TIA study finds that the travel habits of the 55.1 million Americans who could be classified as geotourists are guided in their travel decisions by a high awareness of the world around them and have a seemingly insatiable appetite for unique and culturally authentic travel experiences that protect and preserve the ecological and cultural environment.
A web site has been set up to collect donations for a legal defense fund as well as to raise money to buy the parcels Tim Christopher bid on at the controversial BLM oil/gas lease sale in Utah shortly before Christmas (and Bush’s exit from office.)
There’s a great info packed website that makes it easy to hop aboard and help this worthy cause. If you’re a mountain biker, hiker, climber, backpacker, off road enthusiast, nature lover, desert lover, flora and fauna lover, national park lover, environmentalist, painter, poet, photographer, river lover, geology lover, naturist or naturalist, sucker for a stunning sunset, lover – or love the thought of – quiet and wild places, support an American’s right to peaceful (and in this case creative) civil disobedienceÂ . . . I urge you to get involved and donate whatever you can. At this writing Tim was just shy of $15,000 on his way to raising the $45,000 needed as downpayment on the lease parcels he bid and won, all of which are near Arches or Canyonlands National Parks outside Moab, UT. To keep the BLM at bay, Tim has to raise the full $45K before the Jan. 9 BLM mandated deadline. At about $2.50 per acre a mere $10 contribution “buys” 4 acres of prime real estate in Utah’s red rock canyon country, keeping it safe from being sullied by unsightly oil and gas equipment and the roads and vehicles needed to mine it.
Whether you contribute or not, if you haven’t been there yet, be sure to move southwest Utah up on your list of must-see destinations. It’llÂ help you understand better what all the hubbub is about.
For me, culture and heritage are important components of the package that is geotourism. While it’s critical to preserve the planet and our fellow creatures, it sometimes feels to me as if not much emphasis is placed on preserving cultures. All over the world cultures are becoming extinct. Tibet is the most obvious example, but joining Tibetans are hundreds of indigenous cultures that are in danger of extinction. My favorite part of traveling is interacting with indigenous cultures. I contend they are the keepers of the world’s magic. Not magic like slight of hand, but that magic comes alive when people are still deeply connected to the natural world and all its wonders through their cultural mythology and spiritual beliefs.
The following story illustrates what I mean about magic as well as helps answer the question about “basics” of gaining acceptance in a new culture. Passing through the indigenous highland village San Andreas Xecul in Guatemala in 2001, I met TS Harvey (still a grad student then) who was studying language use and attempting to catalogue and cross-tab the different ways the Quiche Maya communicated their medical problems which varied dramatically depending on whether they were taking to a local curandero (traditional healer), sacerdote (mayan priest), or a traditional western trained doctor. To do so, Tenny had to earn the trust of the priests in particular who still carry heavy sway in villages in this area. In fact, Tenny was unable to visit the local San Simon effigy (a entirely different story but a fascinating and important Mayan deity, aka Maximon) until he was moved to a new host home or Tenny could risk eroding the trust heâ€™d built up with the priest and associated cofradia with whom he was working closely.
Tenny said his approach to gaining the trust he needed to do his research was to let the Maya be Maya and he be true to who he was. Because of the nature of his work and trust gained, Tenny had been offered to become a priest. Doing so would have opened more doors for him and his research but he didnâ€™t feel such a course was an honest approach. â€œItâ€™s a slower road but one with more respect and one where you can sleep at night,â€ he told me.
Tenny told me the village was experiencing â€œsoul lossâ€ and that about 15 people had died mysteriously in the past two months including some young children and teens who had gone rapidly from playful, healthy kids to dead. The villagers believed shades (spirits) were wandering through the town and they couldnâ€™t get rid of them. If you saw a shade and didnâ€™t get treatment right away you would die. Tenny said there were no obvious clues to what had been killing the people. He said the local Mayan priests (very few Catholic priests there) were really busy either trying to eradicate the shades or tending to funerals.
Elsewhere, while “visiting” San Simon in Xecul, I noticed a villager assembling the items for his â€œburn.â€ They included the usual assortment of copal and candles as well as two cans of green chile. I hadnâ€™t seen green chili used as an offering before and was told that chili smoke is supposed to repel evil spirits (and Conquistadors a long, long time ago). Fireworks thrown into the fire ended this prayer offering. It was explained to me that the ashes are saved and resold for those who would sprinkle them on someone whose love they hoped to attract.
In my journal I wrote that my experience during that month in Guatemala reminded me of a poster Iâ€™d seen in the States that sagely proclaimed â€œSome things have to be believed to be seen.â€
If Tenny didnâ€™t believe in the possibility of spirits causing illness, could he have â€œseenâ€ what he was studying? Could the Mayans fall sick, cure broken hearts, be healed by their Mayan priests and gods if they didnâ€™t believe in them?
Especially when traveling among indigenous cultures I have found itâ€™s important to suspend my Western beliefs about nature and especially God at least long enough to really see people and their daily lives and belief systems in refreshing, sometimes startling, but always interesting and enlightening ways.
Geotourism: Tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a placeâ€”its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well being of its residents. – National Geographic’s Center of Sustainable Destinations
I like geotourism because I see it beyond the mere marketing niche into which some folks try to pigeonhole the concept. It’s what communities, states and countries turn to when they want to ensure that mass tourism doesn’t obscure the local landscape, water supplies, land affordability and cultural heritage and diversity.
According to a market research study on geotourism, jointly funded by the Travel Industry Association and National Geographic Traveler, “today’s traveler craves and expects authentic experiences. They want to return from a trip renewed or changed in some way.”
In it’s simplist terms, geotourism is about the rise of the “traveler” over the “tourist.”Â Travelers seek out authentic experiences, local flavor, and meaningful engagement with the destinations and cultures they visit. I’ve always been a traveler so geotourism resonated with me immediately. Having spent the last few years deeply engaged in tourism marketing it seems absolutely essential to adopt and prople the principles of geotourism especially in such a naturally breathtaking state as Colorado, poster child of what many folks think of when they think of the great American West.
So i floated some test balloons. On the ground, the reaction to my idea for a geotourism initiative has been more positive than any idea I’ve ever put forth. When I explained the concept to private citizens, business owners, allied non-profit leaders, civic leaders, public land managers, history buffs and fellow tourism industry marketers and leaders nearly everyone had the same reaction. Without exception folks responded with a sigh of relief. Finally, through geotourism travelers could be encouraged to actually help improve and resolve the social conditions, environmental challengs and unique character of the places they visit. Geotourism could help make it acceptable to measure success not by sheer numbers of visitors but by the quality of their experiences. It seems clear that geotourism is the answer to the question of how to ensure a thriving tourism economy that also preserves the promise of The West and all its colorful landscapes, skyscapes and people.
Tourism is the lifeblood of Colorado’s many mountain resorts. Indeed in 2007, overnight trips totaled 28 million and overall tourism spending amounted tonearly $10 billion. The challenge for tourism promoters is to to balance inevitable progress while retaining the elements that attract so many visitors who contribute to local and state economies through direct expenditures and tax revenues that support community vitality.
Yet there are skeptics who must be convinced the geotourism pays before they’ll hop aboard one of the tourism industry’s newest niche “-isms,” (joined by agritourism and heritage tourism). Through the initiative I’ve spearheaded, I hope to prove there is marketplace interest and demand geotourism as a framework for response to these TIA stats:
71 percent of the traveling public indicates that it is important to them that their visits to a destination not damage its environment.
61 percent â€“ nearly two-thirds – agree that their travel experience is
better when the destination preserves its natural, historic, and cultural sites and attractions.
58 percent support controlling access to National Parks and public lands so they can be preserved and protected.
53 percent of travelers agree that their travel experience is better when they have
learned as much as possible about their destinationâ€™s customs, geography, and culture.