Florida Climate Activist Nicholas Vasquez Rallies in Gainesville During 800-Mile State-Wide Walk

Maia Botek
News Feed
Thursday, July 29, 2021

Embarking on an 800-mile walk across the state of Florida, Nicholas Vazquez is a 23-year-old climate activist using unconventional tactics to raise awareness for climate change.

Nicholas Vazquez leads and speaks to members of a symbolic ‘die-in’ at the Gainesville City Hall on July 27, 2021.

Embarking on an 800-mile walk across the state of Florida, Nicholas Vazquez is a 23-year-old climate activist using unconventional tactics to raise awareness for climate change. Vazquez arrived in Gainesville on July 27, one of nine stops on his journey to Tallahassee. He has just reached the two-month mark for the walk, which began on April 22 out of Miami, Florida. Upon his arrival to Gainesville, Vazquez organized and spoke to activists on the steps of the Hippodrome Theater before hosting a more demonstrative protest at the Gainesville City Hall.

Just after 6 p.m. on July 27, Vazquez stood at the steps of the theater in a woven pair of brown slippers reading off a black iPhone to a small, but enthusiastic, crowd of supporters. Vazquez spoke candidly about his experience with Extinction Rebellion, a UK-based climate organization that he represents, and his expectations for the walk across the state, including the need for Governor Ron DeSantis to declare a climate emergency. Among the issues Vazquez wanted to call attention to were crop failures, water shortages, sea level rise, increased carbon emissions, deforestation in the Amazon Rainforest and global temperature elevations, at one point exclaiming, “Siberia is on f—ing fire!”

Many of Vazquez’s words about the urgent need for climate action were met with affirmation and small chants from the group of around 15 supporters who had gathered around the steps of the theater. Following the conclusion of Vazquez’s statements, the group organized themselves with various signs and posters demanding action and marched for four blocks north on Southeast First Street until reaching the Gainesville City Hall. Many of these signs and materials were supplied by Anne Hemingway Feuer, a member of Extinction Rebellion who had driven to Gainesville from Miami in order to hear Vazquez speak. Feuer credits her environmental activism as one of the ways she overcame her depression about the environment and pointed toward the value of motivating others in the fight for climate awareness.

Later in the evening at the Gainesville City Hall, Vazquez and a handful of supporters partook in a symbolic ‘die-in’, collapsing on the steps and front lawn of the building after reading an imagined climate-change-related cause of death. Though only certain members of the group participated in the act of lying down and ‘dying’, others placed flowers to memorialize the symbolic deaths and outlined the bodies lying on cement in various sticks of chalk that were distributed. Although no city officials or the mayor of Gainesville appeared at the event, Vazquez remains hopeful that his tactics will create the necessary impressions across both local and state governments. In 2019, Vazquez and other Extinction Rebellion activists successfully convinced Miami Mayor Francis Suarez to declare a climate emergency, and Vazquez is expecting a large amount of publicity and coverage upon his arrival and hunger strike in Tallahassee.

To continue following Nicholas’ journey across the state please visit https://xramerica.org/walk-with-nick/, and make sure to follow Cinema Verde’s social media outlets! Nicholas will be in Gainesville until July 30 and is looking to connect with the people of Gainesville during his last few days. On August 10th, 2021, Nicholas will be in Jacksonville, Florida, beginning his March Against Treason to the state’s capital and hopes many people will join him on the trek along I-10.

Read the full story here.
Photos courtesy of
Maia Botek
Maia Botek

Maia Botek is a third-year journalism major and Spanish minor student at the University of Florida who has grown up in South Florida throughout her entire life. As the daughter of a Jamaican father and part-Norwegian mother, an understanding of cultures, diversity and the world around her has always been an important facet in Maia's life which has resulted in a love of the environment, travel and education. She loves spending time outdoors and with friends, especially at the beach, which she loves. Maia is interested in utilizing journalism to educate others on the importance of the Earth's natural resources and ensuring a sustainable and equitable future for all.

An Unequal Liberty

Liberty does not have to mean what the Supreme Court thinks it means.

The conservative justices have a selective and destructive notion of “liberty.” In overruling Roe v. Wade last term, the Supreme Court found that the “liberty” explicitly protected by the Fourteenth Amendment’s due-process clause does not include freedom against forced childbearing. In contrast, in cases that concern the Constitution’s structural provisions creating and empowering the institutions of the federal government—provisions that do not mention liberty—the Court has wrapped itself in liberty to explain why it has acted to protect the liberty of a powerful few. Yet the liberty of the vulnerable many, which grows rather than recedes with the kinds of federal protections the Court has rejected, goes unremarked.In the Supreme Court’s current term, it will hear several cases about the powers and structure of the federal government in which these competing perspectives on liberty become apparent. In one, the justices are being asked to drastically cut back on the EPA’s authority to control water pollution under the Clean Water Act. In two others, the underlying legal claims seek to end the political independence of administrative-law judges and to make the very notion of an independent federal agency, whose leading officials are protected from being fired by the president for personal or political reasons, unconstitutional.[Linda Greenhouse: What in the world happened to the Supreme Court?]These cases follow a line of recent decisions in which the conservative justices have deployed their understanding of the constitutional separation of powers in the service of a project to weaken and restructure the government. Last term, for example, the Court cited “separation of powers principles” in rejecting an EPA rule governing greenhouse-gas emissions from fossil-fuel-fired power plants. In taking a no-holds-barred view of the separation of powers, the conservative justices explained that their aim is to protect human liberty.What is the nature of the liberty the conservative justices are trying to protect? It is, quite simply, the liberty of a powerful few to keep the government out of their business while the rest of the country suffers at their hands. Agency actions in the bull’s-eye of the separation-of-powers cases making their way through the federal courts—cases spurred on by the Supreme Court’s activism in this area—aim to address serious harm inflicted by entities such as payday lenders engaging in unfair lending practices, property developers destroying wetlands, and hedge-fund managers engaging in fraud. The freedom at stake in such cases includes more than the self-interested freedom to take liberties with the public interest. It includes the opportunities and capacities—the life—that can emerge when people are protected from wrongful harms inflicted by other people. Yet the conservative justices see only the former, stingier kind of liberty.One can discern this narrow and skewed view of liberty in the Court’s recent cases embracing a requirement—which it has called the “major questions doctrine”—that Congress must speak super clearly if it wants to empower an administrative agency to address an issue of major policy importance. According to this doctrine, it is not enough for Congress to identify the kind of problem it wants an agency to address, to identify the agency charged with addressing it, and to provide general parameters for the agency’s decisions. It is not enough, the Court has said, for Congress to write a statute that provides a “plausible textual basis” for an agency’s authority to tackle a problem. Instead, Congress must speak with precision even on matters that are difficult or impossible to predict in advance but that require decisive action when they emerge. In making application of this requirement of extreme clarity turn on their subjective assessment of which rules are important enough, in the right way, the conservative justices are empowering themselves to pick and choose between the regulations they like and those they think run afoul of this arbitrary standard.West Virginia v. EPA, the climate case from last term, presents a perfect example of this dynamic. Due to the Supreme Court’s surprising willingness to pass judgment on a rule that no longer had practical effect, the Court actually had in front of it two different EPA rules, issued several years apart, taking very different approaches to the massive and dangerous carbon output of fossil-fuel-fired power plants. The contrast in the Court’s reactions to these two rules exposes the Court’s biased perspective on government regulation and the kind of liberty that the Court is willing to protect.The first rule was the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which set emission limits based in part on shifts in electricity generation from coal-fired power plants to gas-fired plants and renewable energy sources. The second, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule issued by the Trump administration, identified but did not mandate several measures to reduce emissions by increasing the efficiency of individual coal-fired power plants. When it issued the ACE rule, the EPA also repealed the Clean Power Plan. The EPA predicted only “modest” (less than 1 percent by 2030) reductions in carbon emissions from the ACE rule; it had projected much greater reductions of 32 percent from the Clean Power Plan.In the lower-court ruling reviewed in West Virginia, the D.C. Circuit invalidated both the ACE rule and the EPA’s repeal of the Clean Power Plan. The Supreme Court reversed the D.C. Circuit’s judgment on both counts. The Supreme Court also thought that the D.C. Circuit’s decision invalidating the repeal of the Clean Power Plan had the effect of reviving the Clean Power Plan, and thus justified the Court’s review of the Clean Power Plan as well as the ACE rule. By its own logic (according to which the invalidation of a rule’s invalidation brings the rule back into effect), the Supreme Court’s decision simultaneously spared the ACE rule and sank the Clean Power Plan.[Kimberly Wehle: The Supreme Court’s extreme power grab]In issuing each of these rules, the EPA considered the same legal question: Does the Clean Air Act empower the agency to require shifts in energy generation when setting emission limits for existing power plants? In the Clean Power Plan, the EPA answered yes. In the ACE rule, EPA answered no. The statutory language governing each rule was exactly the same. The economic and environmental consequences and the political fallout of the rules—central factors in identifying a “major question”—were mirror images of each other. Under a judicial test that denies agencies’ authority to make major policy decisions in the absence of clear language from Congress, shouldn’t the challenges to each of these rules have come out the same?The Supreme Court, however, apparently believes that a major policy question can become a minor policy question when the agency gives an answer that the conservative justices approve of. As shown in West Virginia v. EPA, ineffective regulation is an answer the conservative justices approve of.The same goes for no regulation at all. Two past climate cases illustrate this point. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Court rejected the EPA’s claim that it had no authority whatsoever to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Three current justices (Roberts, Alito, and Thomas) joined Justice Scalia in dissent, arguing that the statutory language was unclear and that the Court should have deferred to the EPA’s denial of authority. In a later case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Court rejected the EPA’s claim of authority to control greenhouse gases under a specific permitting program of the Clean Air Act. In a precursor to the major-questions doctrine as articulated in West Virginia v. EPA, the Court explained that it was looking for clear statutory language because the underlying policy question was so important.What was the difference between these two cases? In Massachusetts, the EPA did not want to do anything about climate change. In UARG, it did. If anything, the question the EPA answered in Massachusetts—whether it had any power at all to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act—was far more consequential than the comparatively narrow permitting question it addressed in UARG. Comparing the conservative justices’ differential treatment of these cases, it becomes plain that their unspoken premise is that an administrative agency may indeed speak authoritatively on a major policy question, and may even get judicial deference for its decision, but only if it supplies an ideologically appropriate answer—which, for the conservative dissenters in Massachusetts, meant refusing to regulate at all.The anti-regulatory bias of the major-questions doctrine means that the liberty the justices say they are protecting reflects only one side of the debate over regulation: the side that wants less or no regulation, not the side that needs more in order to avoid harm at the hands of other people. The Supreme Court’s liberty is mostly the liberty of the elite few—the few who have enough power and resources to inflict the kind of widespread harm that the most important regulations try to address. In this vision of liberty, there is no room to consider the freedom lost when others’ freedom to harm is unfettered.[Robinson Meyer: The Supreme Court’s EPA ruling is going to be very, very expensive]The Court’s blindness to the kind of freedom preserved by government rules was obvious in its decision earlier this year striking down the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s shot-or-test rule for large employers. The conservative justices shed a tear for “the lives—and health” of the “vast number of employees” who would be required to choose between vaccination against COVID-19 and testing, but declined to engage with the government’s prediction that the rule would save more than 6,500 lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations.This anti-regulatory bias aligns beautifully with the deregulatory agenda of the Republican Party. However, rather than owning up to this partisan slant, the justices tell us—and maybe themselves—that the major-questions doctrine is compelled by their understanding of the constitutional separation of powers. As then-Judge Kavanaugh put it in 2017, in United States Telecom Association v. FCC, the major-questions doctrine is “a separation of powers–based presumption against the delegation of major lawmaking authority from Congress to the Executive Branch,” and the separation of powers “is the great safeguard of liberty” in our constitutional framework. The justices who have most fervently embraced the major-questions doctrine also are justices who claim to interpret the Constitution in line with the original meaning of the text at the time of ratification. A wag might ask: If, as originalists posit, the meaning of the Constitution’s structural provisions was fixed in 1789, why did it take the Court until 2022 to fully articulate, or even name, the major-questions doctrine?The text of the structural provisions of the Constitution does not tell us that Congress may not delegate major issues to administrative agencies unless it speaks super clearly. The conservative justices have taken the spare and enigmatic structural terms of the Constitution, identifying “Legislative” and “Executive” power, and projected into them 21st-century conservative anxieties about the regulatory state. Perhaps it is not surprising that these justices have apparently convinced themselves that the white, male, elite, educated, and propertied members of the founding generation, whom they frequently channel in pondering the Constitution’s mysteries, thought like they do about the government’s role in protecting us from harm at other people’s hands. The people left out of the constitutional process—women, people of color, people without property, people who were then property in the eyes of the law—probably had quite a different view about the need for an active government and the warrant for a capacious view of liberty. The conservative justices’ radical approach to the separation of powers effectively reenacts the original exclusion of these groups from our constitutional framework.

Climate activists set to pressure Biden with Congress divided

The limited at best prospects for major climate legislation under a divided Congress has left many environmental advocacy groups hoping to amp up pressure on the Biden administration to advance regulations that are more protective of the environment. While there are some legislative climate issues to watch with a GOP House and Democratic Senate, activists say...

The limited at best prospects for major climate legislation under a divided Congress has left many environmental advocacy groups hoping to amp up pressure on the Biden administration to advance regulations that are more protective of the environment. While there are some legislative climate issues to watch with a GOP House and Democratic Senate, activists say the best chance at progress has shifted to steps that might be taken administratively.  “We do not see Congress as the avenue for major progress in the next 12 months and we think there’s a lot more ground we can cover in implementation, executive action and states,” Holly Burke, a spokesperson for the environmental group Evergreen Action, told The Hill.  “We will keep our eye on the ball with regards to Congress, but we’re not going to invest most of our time there,” she added.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals from BestReviews: The best Black Friday sales to shop from toys to tech gadgets and moreBest Black Friday 2022 deals under $100Best TV and electronics deals of Black Friday 2022 Democrats and Republicans are bitterly divided on climate change, with the GOP voting unanimously against the sweeping legislation known as the Inflation Reduction Act, which represented the biggest steps taken by a U.S. Congress on the issue. Advocates would have sought to build on that win with a Democratic Senate and House, but now see regulation and implementation of that climate and tax bill as their next frontiers. “I don’t want to take our foot off the gas on Congress in terms of making sure we continue to make the modest progress that’s possible again through appropriations [and] through the farm bill, but in terms of the main focus of what the Sierra Club is looking to advance the climate agenda, it’s absolutely [Inflation Reduction Act] implementation, which goes hand-in-hand with executive action,” said Melinda Pierce, the Sierra Club’s legislative director.  “I’m hoping we see quite a bit from the Biden administration on administrative rules that have been slowly progressing,” she added. “I think we’re going to see a whole bunch come to fruition at the end of this year and certainly next year.” Major regulations that the Biden administration is expected to advance are pollution and climate standards for power plants and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as limits for how much soot and smog can be in the air.  Pierce said that air quality regulations like these are “critically important” to her organization.  Burke said her organization would particularly pay attention to a set of regulations that pertain to the power sector since decarbonizing that area is key to bringing down emissions for the entire economy.  In terms of implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, Pierce said she’d be watching how federal agencies handle the scale and speed of its investments as well as making sure that states take full advantage of the bill. Energy industry advisers say they will maintain a focus on Congress, especially with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) seeking to advance permitting reform legislation. Manchin’s package is aimed at speeding up the approval process for energy projects, including both fossil fuels and renewable energy.  His efforts have been backed by Democratic leaders as part of a deal to get him to support the sweeping climate bill, and Manchin has been working to convince Republicans to get on board.  Several have indicated that they are interested in working with him, though it’s an issue that has a good chance of spilling into the next year from the lame-duck session.   “The slim margin, along with Republicans controlling the agenda in the House, I think, creates a better environment because they’ve had a more consistent position with Sen. Manchin already,” said Frank Maisano, who represents both fossil and renewable energy clients at Bracewell LLP. “There’s a real opportunity to form consensus on something like permitting reform that is a must if you’re going to have a rapid and just energy transition,” Maisano said.  He added that a recent court decision that limited the scope of the EPA’s authority over power plant regulations “creates more impetus to go back and have Congress pick up the ball and run with it.” Environmental organizations are also expected to track the permitting fight. Many have expressed opposition because of the potential to bolster pipelines and other fossil fuel infrastructure.  Neil Chatterjee, a senior adviser at Hogan Lovells, said that the congressional makeup can yield significant bipartisan legislation that may be “wonkier.” He suggested that community-based solar energy, energy efficiency measures, energy storage, electricity transmission and a carbon border tax are the sorts of policies he could see a bipartisan Congress getting behind.  “I actually think in the next couple of years we could see the emergence of substantive lobbying again and not so much the political message lobbying that has really dominated the landscape,” said Chatterjee, who is the former chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and also a former aide to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “I really think you might see a return of the technical experts,” he added. 

This case has made legal history’: young Australians just won a human rights case against an enormous coal mine

Here are four reasons their victory is so significant.

In a historic ruling today, a Queensland court has said the massive Clive Palmer-owned Galilee Basin coal project should not go ahead because of its contribution to climate change, its environmental impacts, and because it would erode human rights. The case was mounted in 2020 by a First Nations-led group of young people aged 13 to 30 called Youth Verdict. It was the first time human rights arguments were used in a climate change case in Australia. The link between human rights and climate change is being increasingly recognised overseas. In September this year, for example, a United Nations committee decided that by failing to adequately address the climate crisis, Australia’s Coalition government violated the human rights of Torres Strait Islanders. Youth Verdict’s success today builds on this momentum. It heralds a new era for climate change cases in Australia by youth activists, who have been frustrated with the absence of meaningful federal government policy. Read more: Australia violated the rights of Torres Strait Islanders by failing to act on climate change, the UN says. Here's what that means 1.58 billion tonnes of emissions The Waratah Coal mine operation proposes to extract up to 40 million tonnes of coal from the Galilee Basin each year, over the next 25 years. This would produce 1.58 billion tonnes of carbon emissions, and is four times more coal extraction than Adani’s operation. While the project has already received approval at the federal government level, it also needs a state government mining lease and environmental authority to go ahead. Today, Queensland land court President Fleur Kingham has recommended to the state government that both entitlements be refused. In making this recommendation, Kingham reflected on how the global landscape has changed since the Paris Agreement in 2015, and since the last major challenge to a mine in Queensland in 2016: Adani’s Carmichael mine. She drew a clear link between the mining of this coal, its ultimate burning by a third party overseas, and the project’s material contribution to global emissions. She concluded that the project poses “unacceptable” climate change risks to people and property in Queensland. The Queensland Human Rights Act requires a decision-maker to weigh up whether there is any justifiable reason for limiting a human right, which could incorporate a consideration of new jobs. Kingham decided the importance of preserving the human rights outweighed the potential A$2.5 billion of economic benefits of the proposed mine. From a legal perspective, I believe there are four reasons in particular this case is so significant. 1. Rejecting an entrenched assumption A major barrier to climate change litigation in Queensland has been the “market substitution assumption”, also known as the “perfect substitution argument”. This is the assertion that a particular mine’s contribution to climate change is net zero, because if that mine doesn’t supply coal, then another will. Kingham rejected this argument. She noted that the economic benefits of the proposed project are uncertain with long-term global demand for thermal coal set to decline. She observed that there’s a real prospect the mine might not be viable for its projected life, rebutting the market substitution assumption. This is an enormous victory for environmental litigants as this was a previously entrenched argument in Australia’s legal system and policy debate. 2. Evidence from First Nations people It was also the first time the court took on-Country evidence from First Nations people in accordance with their traditional protocols. Kingham and legal counsel travelled to Gimuy (around Cairns) and Traditional Owners showed how climate change has directly harmed their Country. As Youth Verdict co-director and First Nations lead Murrawah Johnson put it: We are taking this case against Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal mine because climate change threatens all of our futures. For First Nations peoples, climate change is taking away our connection to Country and robbing us of our cultures which are grounded in our relationship to our homelands. Climate change will prevent us from educating our young people in their responsibilities to protect Country and deny them their birth rights to their cultures, law, lands and waters. This decision reflects the court’s deep engagement with First Nations’ arguments, in considering the impacts of climate change on First Nations people. 3. The human rights implications In yet another Australian first, the court heard submissions on the human rights implications of the mine. The Land Court of Queensland has a unique jurisdiction in these matters, because it makes a recommendation, rather than a final judgment. This recommendation must be taken into account by the final decision-makers – in this case, the Queensland resources minister, and the state Department of Environment and Science. In an earlier proceeding, Kingham found the land court itself is subject to obligations under Queensland’s Human Rights Act. This means she must properly consider whether a decision to approve the mine would limit human rights and if so, whether limits to those human rights can be demonstrably justified. Kingham found approving the mine would contribute to climate change impacts, which would limit: the right to life the cultural rights of First Nations peoples the rights of children the right to property and to privacy and home the right to enjoy human rights equally. Internationally, there are clear links made between climate change and human rights. For example, climate change is worsening heatwaves, risking a greater number of deaths, thereby affecting the right to life. 4. A victory for a nature refuge Kingham also considered the environmental impacts of the proposed mine on the Bimblebox Nature Refuge – 8,000 hectares semi-arid woodland, home to a recorded 176 bird species, in the Galilee Basin. She deemed these impacts unacceptable, as “the ecological values of Bimblebox [could be] seriously and possibly irreversibly damaged”. She also observed that the costs of climate change to people in Queensland have not been fully accounted for, nor have the costs of mining on the Bimblebox Nature Refuge. Further, she found the mine would violate Bimblebox Alliance’s right to family and home. Making history This case has made legal history. It is the first time a Queensland court has recommended refusal of a coal mine on climate change grounds, and the first case linking human rights and climate change in Australia. As Kingham concluded: Approving the application would risk disproportionate burdens for future generations, which does not give effect to the goal of intergenerational equity. The future of the project remains unclear. But in a year marked by climate-related disasters, the land court’s decision offers a ray of hope that Queensland may start to leave coal in the ground. Read more: Mass starvation, extinctions, disasters: the new IPCC report’s grim predictions, and why adaptation efforts are falling behind Justine Bell-James receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She has previously been affiliated with the Environmental Defender's Office who were counsel for Youth Verdict and the Bimblebox Alliance.

Planning your 2023 travel? Skip these places in order to save them

With environmental and cultural strains, places like Lake Tahoe could use a break

Fodor’s, the popular travel company that built its business on telling you where to go and where to stay, eat and drink once you’re there, has just released a list of places around the world you should skip in 2023.  The company’s 2023 “No List” isn’t advising you to avoid these destinations because of bad food, lousy attractions, or risk of danger, but because the presence of large numbers of tourists in these places is causing unsustainable ecological, cultural, and social harm. The “No List” focuses on global tourism’s impact on three key areas: unique and sensitive natural environments increasingly degraded by tourists, “cultural hotspots” facing overcrowding and strained housing and infrastructure, and destinations in the midst of water crises that already heavily burden local communities. Lake Tahoe, California, and Antarctica made the list of natural wonders that deserve a respite from tourists due to their ecologically sensitive environments. As for cultural destinations on the list, Venice and the Amalfi Coast in Italy; Cornwall, England; Amsterdam, Netherlands; as well as Thailand, were noted as experiencing strained infrastructure and higher costs of living that are increasingly pushing out locals.    Global tourism, through a combination of food consumption, accommodation, transportation, and the purchasing of souvenirs, contributes eight percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. After a brief respite in the first months of the pandemic, tourism numbers have exploded, exceeding even pre-pandemic numbers.  But the pandemic-induced downtown in tourism gave locals, environmental activists, and government officials in places like Thailand the chance to witness something seemingly unimaginable: the revival of their local ecologies and communities that had been devastated by the social and environmental costs attributed to the industry. In April, the Southeast Asian country’s government banned styrofoam packaging and single-use plastics from national parks. The minister of natural resources and environment also ordered that all national parks in Thailand be closed for one month a year. Amidst global droughts and depleting reserves, water is central to understanding some of the pushback from local communities against mass tourism. On the Hawaiian Island of Maui, which also made the “No List,” many Native Hawaiians have become increasingly vocal about how mass tourism is negatively impacting their access to increasingly scarce water resources. This past June, mandatory water restrictions were put in place in parts of Maui most visited by mainland and international tourists. The order prohibited non-essential use of water, including irrigation, lawn watering and washing vehicles. But as local households were forced to adjust or face hefty fines, hotels and other tourism facilities were exempt from these cutbacks. “When they stay in a destination, tourists essentially become temporary residents,” said Justin Francis, the co-founder and CEO of travel company Responsible Travel, in an email. “That can place an additional strain on local services and facilities.” Francis advocates for more tourism taxes, which he says can boost funding for infrastructure development – roads, access to clean water, energy provision – that benefits local communities as well as tourists.  Pushback against mass tourism has also extended to policies on housing availability and affordability. On Oahu, Hawaii’s most populous island, the mayor of Honolulu signed a bill in April restrictions on short-term rental properties and Airbnbs in an attempt to help alleviate the local housing crisis. The proliferation of these properties, particularly in densely populated cities like Amsterdam and Barcelona, has become one of the most controversial issues not only among housing advocates and travel experts, but also official marketing and tourism officials. “They’re literally decimating communities – pricing local people out of their homes and areas they’ve lived their whole lives in,” said Francis. Amsterdam’s left-wing city council attempted to ban Airbnb rentals in three central districts of the city, but it was overturned by local courts last year.   The city of Honolulu’s policy includes limiting the number of Airbnbs and short-term rental properties as well as increasing the minimum length of stay required for visitors who use these services. The majority of homeless on the streets of the city are Native Hawaiians, who experience disproportionate levels of poverty throughout the state.      Of course, many communities most vulnerable to the negative social and environmental impacts of mass tourism are also dependent on it for their livelihoods. Simply boycotting travel can also hurt groups that are most vulnerable, including women, migrants, and people of color. Some destinations are seeking to make the most of the economic benefits of tourism while minimizing its cultural and environmental impacts simply by restricting travel to “high value” tourists – i.e, those with more disposable income. The Himalayan nation of Bhutan is a prime example. Visitors are charged a daily $200 fee, which doesn’t cover the cost of hotels or other services. Bhutan’s government says that the fee supports sustainable tourism development and training, as well as carbon offsetting.   As for Antarctica, some experts argue that its inclusion on Fodor’s list is complicated, due to the fact that the landmass has no local population that would benefit from visitors. On the other hand, thoughtful and sustainable tourism could arguably protect more of the environment there, which could serve as a buffer against more destructive economic industries like mining. “Tourism here cannot be allowed to grow without limits and mandatory environmental measures,” said Francis from Responsible Travel. However, The Antarctic Treaty, which prohibits economic and military exploitation of the region, will likely continue to protect the area’s environment and resources. The big takeaway from Fodor’s list is that travel can be a force for good – both for nature and for local communities. The key is not necessarily to stay away, said Francis, but to always make informed choices that minimize harm and maximize benefits to local communities first.  “As an industry we need to do better than ‘leaving nothing but footprints’, and actively work towards creating positive impacts,” he said.   This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Planning your 2023 travel? Skip these places in order to save them on Nov 23, 2022.

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