The following is an interview with Web Coordinator of the Sapiens Tribune, Felicia Appenteng and Professor of Experimental Sciences at the IE School of Arts and Humanities, Pablo Tejedo Sanz.


1.  What are the specific dangers that tourism to Antarctica poses?    While the impact of rising tourism will not show specific impacts, the danger basically is connected to the number of visitors.  Every year the number of visitors grows larger, which also has to do with the fact that it is now cheaper to travel to Antarctica.  There are now more companies that offer cruises to Antarctica and some of these cruise ships can carry more than 500 passengers.  Since there are very few places in Antarctica where you can actually walk, these cruises put lots of physical pressure and stress on these few points and all cruises go to these same sites.  One of the most serious effects of eco-tourism is the “bio-invaders,” which are brought by the tourists.  For example, every time your feet touch the ground on Antarctica, you must clean your boots carefully before you leave the ship and when you come back.  If not, all of the microorganisms on your shoes from every other place that you have been could be transported to Antarctica.  Larger bio invaders can include seeds, spores, mites, lichens, mosses, insects and even rats, which typically find their way onto ships.  These are all specimens that have never existed in Antarctica, so the tourists do not only bring themselves, but new, dangerous parts of their own ecosystem with them.


2.  As one of the largest ungoverned bodies of land, how do you feel that its lack of government contributes to its current state in the world?  This is a very serious problem, because Antarctica is a country without an owner.  An international organization called the Scientific Committee on Antarctica Research (SCAR) is responsible for monitoring research activity, but fishing and tourism, the two main Antarctic natural resources that can be currently exploited, are less controlled. There are some government organizations who create norms for Antarctica, like IATOO (International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators), but these rules are self-moderated and self-regulated.   It would be preferable that the output ports from South America exert greater control over the ships that go to Antarctica, but this is very complicated.  The politics to address this problem are moving very slowly.


3.  As people begin to become more concerned and aware of global climate change, as a scientist, what are three real things that ordinary people can do to help reduce the problem?  I think that people already know how to do this.  The governments have already given lots of information.  People must consume thoughtfully, use public transport etc.  Now, what we must do is try to make big changes.  This can be done by thinking about how you invest your money, your decisions as a consumer.  I believe that people are tired of hearing the same things about the kind of light bulb to use and to turn off the tap etc. and they want something new.  People advocating these policies sound like a broken record and people are saturated with the same message, so politicians need to be more ambitious in what they ask of their people.


4.  What economic potential does ecotourism hold for developing countries?  This depends on the country.  Costa Rica, for example, is doing it quite well and could be an example for other Latin-American countries.  Today’s tourist is much more demanding in terms of a travel experience, but it is important to also take care of the planet.  Poorer countries with natural resources have a lot of potential in the field of ecotourism. This is one of these areas in which developing countries have much to teach to the rest of the world.

5.  It is said that global climate change will have the strongest economic impact on the poorest countries in the world.   Does this create an opportunity for science and business to work together?  How do you envision this collaboration?  Certainly, global climate change will have the strongest effect in the Southern Hemisphere.  There is a great opportunity for international investment and the transfer of technology from richer countries to poorer countries. The carbon market to deal with this problem is really not yet active because the regulation agencies need to improve their systems. Although things could always be better, we are certainly on our way.


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