How Travel Can Save the World and 5 Ways We Do on Unsettled Amazon

By: Naomi Matlow and Michael Youngblood

As a species, humans have gotten ourselves into this environmental mess — mass extinction, massive rainforest loss, and plastics and micro-plastics in the ocean and much more. And you know what? We’re going to get ourselves out of this mess!

This applies to all industries, including travel. Travel can contribute to pulling us out of this crisis. Don’t believe us? Read on…

On Unsettled: Amazon you will see this first hand; how travel is positively changing the world for the better. How?

Let’s start with how we get there → into one of the most remote places on earth. First, we fly. You probably know that international flights have a massive negative carbon impact. But you might not know that most major international flights now offset those carbon emissions, and by 2021, all international flights will be required to offset their emissions under a United Nations agreement (the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation agreed to by the aviation community in 2018).

Second, we boat. We ensure that the boats we use in the Amazon have the most up-to-date engines. These are four-stroke engines that get substantially better fuel standards than their older counterparts, two-stroke engines. For the mechanical minds among us, the two-stroke engines that we avoid send hydrocarbons, one of the most harmful kinds, into the air, while the modern four-stroke engine reduces carbon population by 90 percent over its counterpart! Two-strokes and you’re out!

Now, once we are in the Amazon, let’s consider the impact of travel. In the Amazon, especially in the Peruvian Amazon, the rivers are metaphorical “highways” that transport travelers, farmers, food, loggers (legally and illegally), gold from mining (legally and illegally), up and down these water highways. As a result, the areas around navigable riverways are at the greatest threat for illegal (the most harmful type) mining, logging, and deforestation.

Source: Planet.com, January 20, 2017. Satellite image of the “La Pampa” illegal gold mine, causing destructive sediments and mercury to spill into the Malinowski River. The Peruvian government has since intervened, targeting illegal miners. Illegal mining spots like these are less likely to populate when sustainable tourism moves in.

Source: MAAP. Satellite image from March 2016 showing original and new flow directions of the Malinowski River from bank degradation from mining. How might sustainable tourism discourage mining?

How can travel help? Increased travel into the Amazon has invited travelers to explore this region and in turn, it’s an incentive for the local tourism industry (the guides, lodges, government, etc.) to purchase land surrounding these riverways to ensure that travelers, who come to spend their hard earned money, see the environment they’re paying for.

More and more lodges are popping up along the riverways and are buying acreage to ensure that they can offer their guests what they come for: undisturbed, primary rainforest full of the world’s most diverse flora and fauna. Interestingly, it is then the travelers who watch after this ecosystem. We become the metaphorical park rangers. The guardians of the rainforest. We are the eyes who watch over these previously untouched quarters. Illegal miners and loggers are fearful about getting caught by the players in the travel sector who are protecting the land for conservation-based travel, thus reducing these activities. Many guides in the region have been trained in how to report illegal activities.

What’s more is that this increased travel capability also creates more jobs for Amazonian locals and improves wages, thus decreasing the lure to illegal mining and logging at the outset, protecting the rainforests once again. Some of Unsettled’s own guides have previously worked in mining or logging and as wages have gone up from tourism, they’re able to change careers. On our retreats into the Amazon, we pay our guides a valuable wage above what they can make as miners or loggers and we encourage participants to pitch in with healthy tipping.

Five Ways Unsettled: Amazon is Making a Positive Impact on the Amazon

  1. Our Lodging

We stay at lodges that also protect hundreds of acres of surrounding land, ensuring the land is conserved and protected for the future of humanity. By working with these particular lodges who are investing in conservation efforts, we are supporting the barriers to illegal acts that destroy the rainforest.

  1. Empowering Scientific Discovery

In the region we explore, the Madre de Dios, or “Mother of God” region, contemporary scientists are currently studying some major questions about the rainforest, including the quality of the water, which is essential to the living ecosystems. The lodges we stay at also house these scientists on major expeditions from world-renowned universities. We are supporting places that support scientific discovery.

  1. Our Diet

The majority of the food we eat on our journey is locally sourced from permaculture or organic farms. We avoid beef in most meals because of the negative impact it has on deforestation. We also learn from a local chef who specializes in Amazonian cuisine and its rich history and the local ecology in the process.

  1. Hands-On Contributions to Conservation

On Unsettled Amazon, there are opportunities to learn and participate alongside scientists and local NGOs that are supporting water-quality analysis, primate conservation, and butterfly conservation (yes it’s a thing – Peru has the most butterflies than any other country in the world!). We <3 butterflies.

  1. We Become the Changemakers

By eating the food, meeting the chefs, getting close with our local guides who are proud of their work, by learning how we affect water quality, by witnessing how the Amazonian ecosystem plays an integral role in the basic functions of our own lives, our goal on this retreat is to impact how you interact with the natural world, becoming an advocate for it throughout your life.

Are you ready to join Unsettled’s greatest adventure? Learn more here.

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