Guilt-Free Sojourns

The developing world’s best ethical destinations

| July-August 2010

  • Guilt Free Sojourns Image

    REUTERS / Mike Hutchings

  • Guilt Free Sojourns Image

Are some destinations more ethical than others? Can travelers make a difference in the environmental and human rights policies of the countries they visit?

Yes, according to Ethical Traveler, an independently staffed project of the public-interest nonprofit Earth Island Institute. In December Ethical Traveler released the 2010 version of its annual “The Developing World’s Best Ethical Destinations” report. The report identifies countries that are “serious about preserving their natural assets, promoting mindful travel, and building an economy in which local communities reap the benefits of tourist revenue.”

The 10 destinations selected for Ethical Traveler’s list also set positive examples in environmental protection, social welfare, and human rights. The report draws on data from organizations such as the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, Amnesty International, the United Nations Development Programme, and UNICEF. The definition of developing (which includes low- and middle-income economies) is from the World Bank, which classifies economies according to gross national income per capita.

Four countries—Argentina, Chile, Namibia, and South Africa—are repeat “winners,” having been featured in Ethical Traveler’s 2008 report. South Africa and Namibia are increasingly involved in efforts to address climate change, while Argentina has made a commitment to achieving zero net deforestation. Chile, once associated with dictatorships, now receives the highest ratings for political rights and civil liberties.

The list also includes lesser-known destinations with a lot to offer. For example, the Republic of Seychelles has the highest percentage of protected land in the world—more than 50 percent. Suriname, a country often overshadowed by its larger, wealthier South American neighbors, has “unspoiled rainforest biodiversity and sincere efforts toward ecotourism and environmental preservation.”

Not a single Asian country made the list, due to “irresponsible development, human rights abuses, and a lack of strong environmental policy.” And here’s a shocker: Costa Rica, a country synonymous with ecotourism for many people, didn’t make the cut. Over the past few years, the country has developed sex tourism problems; child prostitution is increasingly widespread.

6/23/2010 9:28:54 AM

One of the biggest pollution forms is air travel. Why do we think we are entitled to travel anywhere just because we can? This is not unlike our misconception that alternative forms of energy will end our dependence on oil. All the combos of alternative energy in the world cannot feed the insatiable appetite for oil. Just as all the ethical destinations in the world are not going to mitigate the pollution of air travel. Conservation seems to be a dirty word in our culture, as is the idea that we might actually deprive ourselves for the sake of the environment. Just because we can does not mean we should. When are we going to get over the attitude of entitlement? When are we going to realize that the least we should do is cut back drastically all of our activities - stay home for vacations, give up our second homes and cottages, walk or bike for our errands, work where we live, grow some of our own food, repair what is broken and not replace things until they are broken beyond repair - are we going to halt the accelerating deterioration of this earth we call home. We treat the planet like a garbage dump, and then want to travel to pristine natural environments for what amounts to entertainment. We are such adolescents.

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