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A zip-line over the rainforest canopy in Costa Rica.

1. Tourism involving travel to areas of natural or ecological interest, typically under the guidance of a naturalist, for the purpose of observing wildlife and learning about the environment.

2. Tourism which is designed to contribute to the protection of the environment or at least minimize damage to it, often involving travel to areas of natural interest in developing countries or participation in environmental projects

3. Tourism to exotic or threatened ecosystems to observe wildlife or to help preserve nature.

Everywhere you go these days you see tour companies and travel agencies, cruise lines, and resorts tout their practice of ecotourism.

Florida EcoSafaris: Soar Over Forever Florida On Our NEW Zipline Safari™

The Phillipines gets four new zip lines and ecotourism efforts continue.

Ecoquest Adventures & Tours specializes in organizing adventures and tours to interesting and exciting destinations in Puerto Rico. Our excursions include ziplining, rappelling, hiking, kayaking and canopy bridges.

Zip below the orange hairpiece for more.

An excerpt from the blog World Changing.

The View From Eco-Tourism’s Birthplace

If you know Costa Rica from anything other than first-hand experience, this is probably what you know: it is a pioneer in the field of eco-tourism. Costa Rica has long been regarded as a model of sustainable tourism development, a deep-green nation in many senses of the word, beginning with the dense foliage that blankets its rugged terrain. What exactly it is that puts the eco in eco-tourism, however, is less obvious at close range.

Though the brochure image of Costa Rica is often rainforest-themed, the sandy beaches and world-class surf of the Central Pacific has seen considerable development in recent years, including a giant Marriott resort complex further up the coast called Los Suenos, around which were constructed several cliffside enclaves of timeshare townhouses. One of these – a secluded, picturesque spot over a steep hill several kilometres past the Marriott and several more from any non-resort services – was my homebase in Costa Rica. And so whatever else eco-tourism meant, for me it meant constant commuting in a 4WD Suzuki Grand Vitara. This seemed to be a pretty common predicament for the would-be eco-tourist – whether by Grand Vitara or chartered minibus or (in more remote enclaves) rented ATV, eco-tourism in Costa Rica today is largely a commuter affair…

In Costa Rica, eco-tourism is, to begin with, a brand. Every other collection of beachfront villas calls itself an “eco-lodge” or “eco-resort” in Costa Rica, and just about every tourist activity drapes itself in imagery of pristine rainforest canopies and rainbow-beaked toucans. Perhaps the strangest use of the prefix was the collection of outsized timeshare villas next to the Marriott resort’s back nine that called itself “Eco-Golf Estates.” (On the other hand, I saw more toucans and iguanas on the Marriott’s back nine than I did on my tour of the rain-soaked jungle canopy at the Rainmaker Conservation Project, so maybe eco-golf isn’t an oxymoron after all. It was a shorter drive too.)

In any case, the promise of Costa Rican eco-tourism has, in many locales, been boiled down to a single awkward institution: the zipline canopy tour. There seem to be a dozen on offer just in the Jaco area, and I partook of one on a previous visit a few years ago. Each provides about the same experience. The “tour” invariably consists of a series of platforms mounted on towering tree trunks high in the rainforest canopy. These are linked by long steel cables and traversed at high speed by yelping eco-tourists, who dangle from the cables by industrial-grade climbing harnesses like overly safety-conscious Tarzans.

As the above examples show zip lining is touted as eco-tourism. Why? Is it because your feet don’t hit the ground? Is it because it requires no footpath to be constructed? How about what is required to provide this tourist activity. Aren’t towers built to provide the platforms from which to zip? Aren’t they made from wood or metal? How about the cable and harnesses. How much energy and resources are used in their production? How are the tourists transported to the beginning of the zip line trip? Isn’t it always up and isn’t a vehicle always used to take people up?

Do zippers ever hike up to zip down? What about the noise pollution? The sound of the sliding cables and the screams of the tourists as the thrill of zipping overwhelms them. Is this ecologically friendly? Is it less noise than old-fashioned hiking? And isn’t zip lining just one more additional tourist activity disturbing the natural environment added to all the previous ones? I don’t think anybody eliminated other forrest activities when zipping came along. No zip lining was in addition to all the others. It resulted in a net increase in human activity disturbing the natural environment. It further reduced the forests ability to sustain itself in its natural undisturbed state.

The fact is zip lining is a new way for the tourism industry to make money. It is a new way for tourists to be thrilled and entertained. And it is a new way to consume resources and disturb nature. This ecotourism activity is in fact very unecological. I point all this out not because I’m so against zip lining. That’s not the point. I point this out to illustrate the contradictions and fallacies of our thinking and how easy it is to fool ourselves into believing something totally different to the actual reality. It’s environmental double-think. The ability to hold two contradictory beliefs simultaneously and believe both are true.

The trouble with man and our relationship with the environment is we want our cake and be able to eat it too. If we want it, we go to great lengths to justify the expenditure of energy and consumption of resources to make it available. At the same time we bemoan the destruction of our environment around us and give lip service to our supposed desire to protect and preserve it. We practice ass-backwards double-think.

To give us a feel good cover we couch our activities in nice sounding words. Tourism and all its exploitative connotations becomes ecotourism and so when we partake in the activity we can more easily justify it and even convince ourselves we are doing something good for the environment.

In actuality most things given the label of ecotourism are in fact just the opposite. From an ass-forward waste-end soft and fluffy perspective they should be told to just zip it on their false claims of being ecological. That especially goes for zip lines.  Claiming this activity is anything close to ecological is a bunch of crap!

Zip it! It's not ecological!
The Church of the Holy Shitters will post articles on our holy S.H.I.T. day ( So Happy It's Thursday)  

Last week: 7/17/14 - The Ass-backward RV

Next week: 7/31/14 - No post this week - time to unplug and go fishing.

In 2 weeks: 8/7/14  - Pop a Poop Pill

Hoping to add some humor, provoke thought, spark debate,  deepen understanding, and shed some light on the fecal side.  

Remember:  "If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit." ( Shitbit by Poop John the First of the Church of the Holy Shitters)
Church of the Holy Shitters
A secular environmental religion, scientifically based, with a focus on the psychology of it all. Our ego is the culprit when it comes to dealing with climate change. We cannot save the planet. We can only save ourselves. Our current egotistical self-perception makes that prospect a dubious one at best. Meekness, humility and a realization that our shit does stink, guides us on our path to true sustainable living and climate equilibrium.

Cross posted at

Originally posted to Holy $h*tters on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 10:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by Seattle & Puget Sound Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Today I'm picking up some good friends (9+ / 0-)

    coming in from Thailand so I'll be unable to participate in comments in as timely a manner as I would like.  But I'll read every one as soon as I can.  Thanks for understanding.  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Mon Jul 21, 2014 at 09:35:09 AM PDT

    •  The airport, how awful, how could you (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      John Crapper

      There are a lot of comments below about how environmentally awful flying is, yes, it is, passenger travel as well as the military C180 exercises. the USPS planes, the FedEx planes with the overnight deliveries, the palatte holding one mouse (true story) ...

      I quit flying in 1990 unless necessary, but criminey, I can't sit in judgement on others, I'm just not that special, something about the purest among us can cast the first stone? Really, on the one hand we hear about travels to China or whatever, then we hear how awful people are for flying?

      The plane's leaving anyway, your 180lbs won't really make a difference, if you moved 400 people by alternate method equivalent distance might, some students I've known travel by hitching rides, it's free...

      Maybe people are just figuring this our now? That's the scarier part, that they couldn't do the math years ago.

      And regarding ecotourism, for some it's a job, and denying employments not cool either.

      So unless you're all that, that pure please cut it out with telling individuals they are wrong for flying.

      So John, I'm glad you've got friends coming in, I hope their opportunity to travel to meet you is warm and happy
  •  I ziplined in Costa Rica (4+ / 0-)

    The cool thing was when I went through a family of monkeys.  They were as surprised as I was.

    Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

    by Shockwave on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 10:38:55 AM PDT

  •  amen. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, John Crapper


    We are not broke, we are being robbed. ~Shop Kos Katalogue~

    by Glen The Plumber on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 11:27:15 AM PDT

  •  the most ecologically friendly zipline (7+ / 0-)

    would be the one near where you live. All things considered, the getting to and from your ecotourism destination is probably the most unsustainable part of it all. While travel is one of the great joys and learning experiences of being human, I think these days the ecologically-minded traveler can do best by choosing destinations reachable by train, ship, bike, or foot, as much as possible.

    Ecology is the new Economy => Kosonomy

    by citisven on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 11:57:36 AM PDT

  •  Well that is what I might refer to as the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, cai, John Crapper, James Wells

    Vulcan view of things.  Quite logical and undoubtedly correct.  If you really want to save the rainforest you don't spend money (and burn fuel) visiting it - you donate money to people who live close to it so they can save it.

    Unfortunately, as I have come to realize over the years, humans (and I include myself here) don't make logical decisions.  People are far more likely to respond in situations where they have personal experience.  So, although ecotourism definitely does cause some habitat disturbance it can (note the word can) be balanced by the fact that the (relatively) intact habitat becomes a source of revenue.

    Prior to my exposure to them I thought a zip line was a leisurely trip through the canopy allowing the ZIPper to stop and look at interesting stuff.  Having seen one I have no desire to go on one.  However if the choice is between ziplines and oil wells I know which one I would choose.

    "To see both sides of a quarrel, is to judge without hate or alarm" - Richard Thompson

    by matching mole on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 01:02:43 PM PDT

  •  Real ecotourism? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    John Crapper, James Wells

    Can anyone recommend a real green ecotourism experience, rather than just a greenwashed marketed version?

  •  From the moment you step on to an aircraft you'... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, cai, John Crapper

    From the moment you step on to an aircraft you're doing huge damage to the environment. If people stayed home and vacation close to their house that's the only way they can truly be an ecotourist

  •  No tourism for me right now but glad (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, John Crapper, James Wells

    i checked my inbox to see your post!

    My daughter and her SO are considering moving to Nicaragua and to do what? He wants to open up an EcoLodge (finishing his Masters in Environmental Studies); she wants to dig into the indigenous health scene and determine how she can get involved in ... basically, they both want out of the US and can't see a way to move to East Africa with their dogs.

    I've been trying to work with the folks organizing action around the Climate Conference in NY in September but there is a lot of will and not enough time or resources committed to making things happen.  Frustrating.

    I'm back in CA right now, but once again will be fouling up to atmosphere heading back to family. Actually thinking I might have to consider relocating there until my parents' lives play out.  

    Hoping for a week to really get some steam up and try to reignite work on campaign in NY.  I just might end up being there after all.

    Good diary and no, I have never ziplined. Closest I ever came to one was at Justin Herman Plaza in SF during the Occupy movement. I have some great shots of that.

    Miss all you guys.

    If you're not terrified into action by the IPCC's 5th Assessment , you're not human.

    by boatsie on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 02:02:58 PM PDT

    •  good to hear from you, dear boatsie (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      John Crapper

      sounds like lots of stuff going on in all of our lives. Good to check in here at the GUS from time to time.

      All the best with taking care of your parents, keep us posted!

      Ecology is the new Economy => Kosonomy

      by citisven on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 02:56:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Miss you too. Hope your life settles down. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Know how the parents situations can disrupt.  We have 2 on my wife's side still living in a 3 BR with basement house in their mid 90's .  Waiting for shoes to drop.  

      Thanks boatsie for you efforts with NY!  

      If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

      by John Crapper on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 05:21:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I think the biggest problem with "eco-tourism" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    citisven, John Crapper

    is flying.  Flying in an airplane is hugely destructive in terms of COO emissions, as well as other pollution at altitude.  A single plane flight might emit as much as the rest of your emissions for a year, or half a year.

    I support people who are flying to conferences on the environment because they actually are trying to do good with their flying -- to change laws and regulations, to prevent total climate breakdown.  Their individual flights are a tiny drop in the bucket, and the work they're doing is important.  Likewise, if you're doing aid work or diplomacy, or research for environmental or educational books or films, your flights are probably doing more good than harm.

    But people who claim to be environmentalists, to the point where they condemn others for driving or building or the like, and then swan off to Costa Rica or Florida for a vacation -- these people make me grind my teeth.

    I do understand why people fly places.  It's a wonderful thing, to be able to go around the world.  It can feel like a necessary thing, to see one's birthplace, or go to weddings or funerals far away.

    It's also the privilege of those of us who are, by global standards, wealthy.  Most of the earth's population has never and will never go on a plane.  And those of us who can and do are contributing to their deaths by flooding and drought and storm and starvation.  

    Zip lines are the least of it.  We gotta stop flying everywhere.  We've got to stop the presumption that we have the right to fly everywhere.

    © cai Visit to join the fight against global warming.

    by cai on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 02:38:03 PM PDT

    •  well said, cai (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cai, John Crapper

      it's exactly what I meant to express further up, but you did so with much more nuance!

      Ecology is the new Economy => Kosonomy

      by citisven on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 02:58:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I think you said it very well; I just said it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        John Crapper, citisven

        more pointedly/obnoxiously.  :)

        It's not like I've convinced anybody.  My family members still fly lots of places.  It's hard to argue that they shouldn't be able to, when life has scattered us to the four winds.  I want them to come see me.  (And, it's admittedly easier for me to say "don't fly" when none of my close blood relatives live on other continents.)  

        But we gotta get real.  For the moment, we don't have the technology to make flying eco-friendly.  This makes it the outlier in global warming mitigation.  Unlike local and regional transportation, shipping, heating, cooling, refrigeration, and electricity, there's simply no good way to power a plane off renewables.  (Yet.)

        As long as we all say, "I care about global warming, but I'm not going to give up the most damaging of my luxuries," we're not going to get very far.

        © cai Visit to join the fight against global warming.

        by cai on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 03:06:14 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Got to attend/visit with guests. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    but will check in later.  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 05:22:15 PM PDT

  •  On the other hand, (2+ / 0-)

    a tangible benefit of ecotourism is that it incentivizes localities to maintain the environments where the ecotourists visit.

    And this benefit can be substantial. Too lazy to look up right now but I read about elephant ecotourism operations whose revenue has created great benefits for locals who in turn have aggressively turfed out the poachers and protected the elephants.

    The forests that all those ziplining people are disturbing - it could be a clear cut instead.

    And when we look at local questions like the possible permitting of North America's largest coal terminal in our back yard, one of the impacts that gets serious consideration is the impact on tourism.

    All actions have impacts. The question is which actions are most protective of the environment that remains to us - on balance and considering all effects both positive and negative.

    BTW - yes I have ziplined, it was really fun and I thought  it was a fantastic learning and confidence building activity for my nine year old. We rode a train, the Empire Builder, to Montana and back on that vacation.

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