Taking a holiday can, in fact, add significantly to global warming. TheVaticanrecently stated that about 900 million people are tourists at this moment. By 2020 this figure is expected to reach 1.6 billion. These tourists are travelling by land, sea and air. They are driving polluting cars, using air conditioned rooms and in various other ways are causing the emission of harmful gases.
The church is concerned about this and has issued a teaching on this topic. The world is a garden, the church says, one whose beauty must be preserved as a gift; a Garden of Eden where everything must be in harmony to contribute to the joy of living. The earth is a place created by God, full of fruit, trees and life. A certain equilibrium is required; but now unfortunately, there is much disorder caused by greed, violence to nature, poor planning and other kinds of sin against creation. Where there used to be luxuriant vegetation, now there are deserts, wastelands, droughts, floods and imbalance in the natural order.
Tourists want to see the beauty and harmony of nature, but actually they are also causing the further destruction of nature itself. The church does not say that tourism should stop. On the contrary, rest and relaxation are a very important part of any person’s life. People should become tourists from time to time. However, they should think about responsible tourism and even perhaps an ethics of responsibility towards nature. Tourists can, in fact, slow down the process of climate change and help preserve our planet.
What are some of the things we can do? To start with we do not have to travel everywhere by car. Walking might be a better option in some circumstances. We can choose hotels which are closer to nature, thus eliminating some travel. We can carry less luggage. We should dispose of our rubbish properly and recycle our waste. We can also use recycled materials. We can plant trees. We can eat better eco friendly meals. Choosing locally made handcrafts is another way. The less we import the better for the planet. Tourists should follow local regulations because they are usually in place to protect nature.
The obsession we have to “own” and to “consume” is very anti-ecological. We should, above all, set a sense of “limits” for ourselves.
To be really responsible ecologically requires, to a certain degree, the love of, and faith in, God. Respecting nature can only come after we respect God, the author of nature. There is another element here, namely the love of our fellow man. God created earth but He also gave it to the people to be the stewards of this world. To forget to be faithful to God, mankind and nature itself, is a form of rebellion which causes the pollution that we now have come to fear.
Tourists, in their travels, meet many new people all over the world. This message of respect for the earth and its creation can be spread to all we meet, even those who may not yet be very ecologically informed.
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