“Last-Chance Tourism” Threatens Heritage Destinations

Tourists are flocking to locations threatened by climate change. That only makes things worse.

“Last-chance tourism” is hastening the decline of destinations like the Florida Reef and the Galapagos Islands.

By Aditi Shrikant | March 18

As climate change worsens, last-chance tourism grows. When Canadian researchers started exploring last-chance tourism almost a decade ago, they faced backlash from scientists who feared this term was too alarmist, according to E&E News, a news organization focused on energy and climate. But with 71 percent of the American population now agreeing that climate change is real, the term last-chance tourism is more statement than prediction.

Their 2010 study, done in Churchill, Manitoba, a city that offers dozens of tours of the dwindling polar bear population, found that the increasing vulnerability of polar bears motivated a majority of visitors to travel there. Sixty percent of visitors said they would still want to see polar bears even if they looked emaciated, and 71 percent said that if the polar bear population in Churchill were destroyed, they would simply go somewhere else to view them.

Since its introduction, the phenomenon has been identified at other destinations. In a 2016 study of the Great Barrier Reef, researchers found that almost 70 percent of visitors wanted to visit the reef “before it was gone.” For $1,500, tourists go gorilla trekking in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, which houses 880 of the 100,000 to 200,000 gorillas left in the world. Lauren Alley, a representative from National Glacier Park, told E&E that many visitors tell her they want to see the glaciers before they melt away. In the mid-1800s, the park had 150 glaciers; only 26 are left.

Whether or not these destinations are being marketed specifically as last-chance destinations, their imminent disappearance is definitely part of their appeal. The irony is that by visiting these fragile ecosystems, travelers are actually accelerating their demise. And as cities try to deal with the damage tourism leaves behind, they must ask themselves: How does a region limit an industry that drives its economy? …

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Canada’s Heritage Crisis, Part 2: 40% of Parks Canada Real Estate in Poor Condition

Consultants say 40% of Parks Canada real estate in poor condition

CBC | March 11, 2019

About 40 per cent of Parks Canada’s buildings, forts, bridges and other items of real estate are unsafe or unusable, or require billions of dollars in major repairs, says a new report.

An analysis the agency commissioned from an independent consultant says Parks Canada has deferred up to $9.5 billion in badly needed work – and ought to spend up to $3.3 billion on top of that to cope with the threat of climate change.

Parks Canada’s current annual spending on repairs falls short, says the report, despite a $3-billion injection of cash that began in 2014 and is now about half-spent.

CBC News obtained the September 2018 document, produced by New Zealand-based Opus International Consultants, under the Access to Information Act.

Parks Canada paid the consultants about $1 million to review the condition of the agency’s 16,618 assets.

“When reviewed, 24 per cent of the asset[s] were assessed as being in good condition, 36 per cent in fair condition, and 40 per cent in poor or very poor condition,” says the report.

“Forty per cent is a significant percentage to be in poor/very poor condition, given the interconnected nature of the service that is provided by the PCA [Parks Canada Agency] assets.” …

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Canada’s Heritage Crisis, Part 1: Canada Set to Lose 9,000 Churches

From sacred to secular: Canada set to lose 9,000 churches, warns national heritage group

CBC | March 10, 2019

Shrinking congregations and rising maintenance costs force old churches to be closed, sold or repurposed

A national charity that works to save old buildings estimates that 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost in the next decade, roughly a third of all faith-owned buildings in the country.

National Trust for Canada regeneration project leader Robert Pajot says every community in the country is going to see old church buildings shuttered, sold off or demolished.

“Neighbourhoods are going to have multiple churches closing,” Pajot said. “Some people qualify this as a crisis, and I kind of agree. It is going to hit everybody.”

It’s not just beautiful, historic buildings that will be lost, but also the sense of community provided by worship spaces. Churches have not just been for Sunday, but for Girl Guides and political meetings, weddings and funerals, piano lessons and programs for the homeless.

“It’s not just about the buildings. It really is beyond the impact of the loss of a heritage building in the community. The places of faith really have been, for generations, centres of so much of community life. They play a de facto community hub role, community service role,” Pajot said.

Many congregations have seen the changes coming and taken steps to repurpose their old buildings in a way that will see them pay their own way.

In rural areas, congregations are shrinking as members age or move away. In cities, the increasing secularization of society coupled with new spiritual practices has cut into traditional Christian church attendance. Even rising immigration hasn’t been enough to offset the trend. With fewer people in the pews, and less money in the coffers, rising maintenance costs on old buildings have overwhelmed many congregations. …

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