Here are 3 key regenerative solutions we took from The Regenerative Travel Summit to protect the landscapes we travel to and ensure these environments can thrive.
1. Local Inclusion is Non-Negotiable
There is a resounding need for the participation of the local community to be present and involved in order to protect critical landscapes to combat climate change through land-use planning. Whether in the form of successfully purchasing and gaining the trust of governments and communities to create national parks as Kris Tompkins (Founder of Tompkins Conservation) explained of her experience in South America or providing the resources to groom the next generation of local conservationists as Elizabeth Ojo, Director of Operations undertakes through the ALU School of Wildlife Conservation, and even opening the physical space up as a means for education as Duke Philips’ Ranchlands does, these methodologies reinforce the importance of including all stakeholders.
Paul Herbertson, CEO of Wild Philanthropy explained, “how you bring communities into the decision making, the process, ownership, and leadership of these opportunities, particularly on [the] tourism front, is the key”. By incorporating a multitude of participants, all with diverse experiences and intimate knowledge of the space, landscape value increases exponentially, and by extension, the need to protect it. Operating under this methodology rewards the traveler with authentic experiences and the hotelier a relationship with the community whose dividends cannot be measured. Derek Joubert, founder of Great Plains Conservation also reminded the audience “conservation [comes] from a place of deep compassion” and it is ultimately by utilizing this means that obstacles will be overcome and landscapes will flourish.
2. Economic Diversification
If COVID-19 dismantled anything, it was the travel industry starting in March of 2020. As country after country closed borders, flights ceased, and people remained in the confines of their homes, the hospitality industry quickly found itself in an unprecedented situation. No place on the planet was exempt from these precautions and their ramifications. Landscapes and communities which have an opportunity to thrive when tourism is part of the picture cannot solely exist off of this economic driver and source of protectionism. In his work in East Africa, Herbertson explained, “There’s been a really, really big impact on communities who have seen a sort of immediate drop in income jobs lost and no clear idea of when those sorts of things are going to come back online.”
As a result, the dangerous lack of diversification forces local communities into survival mode. Conservation no longer serves as the means to thrive, but as a resource to exploit for utmost necessity. The good news is that it isn’t all bad, when programs like the ALU, under are encouraging students to push themselves “to think outside of the box and about what other sectors can generate revenue for conservation.” Ojo’s work includes bringing ideas to the forefront and ultimately to fruition, reiterating “diversification is the key for building resilience, whether you’re an individual, an organization, a business, a country. Empires are built when organizations decide to diversify either vertically or horizontally.”
3. Long-term & Longview
Longevity in conservation is a key component the audience was reminded of during this panel. These efforts are not for a single generation in the immediate future. According to Tompkins, “landscape and wildlife are best seen in their absence… imagine a world without them. When you look at the absence of something, you really begin to see that this work is every bit as important and more important to our way of thinking for [the] future.” By framing the conversation with the plausible truth that these spaces may be nonexistent in 50, 100, 200 years from now, reminded all of the importance of these efforts. Joubert even went as far as to state he believes “when there are 10 billion people on the planet, I think governments will no longer be concerned about conservation. They are going to have massive problems in education, food security, water security, that anything about the environment, will be relegated to a lower priority,” thus highlighting the importance of the work needed today for an unknown future.
Implementing these themes of local inclusion, economic stratification, and thinking broadly for the long-term are means to protect the landscapes that dot where these conservationists operate and beyond to reverse combat climate change through land-use planning.
Missed the summit? Rewatch the Land & Conservation Management panel during The Regenerative Travel Summit here.