Can Protected Environmental Preserves Still Become "At Risk"????

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Unesco World Heritage Site: 

[The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.
Heritage is our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations. Our cultural and natural heritage are both irreplaceable sources of life and inspiration.

Places as unique and diverse as the wilds of East Africa’s Serengeti, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Baroque cathedrals of Latin America make up our world’s heritage.
What makes the concept of World Heritage exceptional is its universal application. World Heritage sites belong to all the peoples of the world, irrespective of the territory on which they are located.]

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I cannot imagine the world without organizations like UNESCO that protect our heritage and beauty with such diligence.  We all need to recognize their efforts and work with them to protect the beauty we live in.  

One site that is currently on the “danger list” by UNESCO is the Galapagos Islands.

But how does that happen if it is protected???

Part of UNESCO’s belief is that these sites belong to everyone so that means people can visit them, creating a tourism industry.  While the industry is regulated it is still impossible to stop the effects of humans on the area.  Humans have an affect on everything.

Each and every year more and more people visit the Galapagos.  Since 2006 the number of visitors has risen 250% to 145,000 and the number of commercial flights between 2001 and 2006 has risen 193%.

While those percentages may sound positive in creating more economic development for the islands it has not.  The “eco-tourist” that visit these islands still require a certain amount of comfort in their travels and that has attracted foreign investors to create businesses there.  In turn it takes away from the locals – they cannot compete with the foreign run companies that have billions of dollars to work with.  Annually $418 million is generated by tourism but only $63 million goes back into the local economy.  So that is a staggering $355 million that goes to foreign investors.  
For example: tourism boats are a HUGE activity there and currently 80 boat companies operate.  Of those 80 boats only 40% are owned locally.    
Dr. Graham Watkins, executive director of the Charles Darwin Foundation, says “unless we start to make fundamental changes right now, in the next 10 to 15 years we will see the Galapagos suffer from both economic and environmental degradation.  What we have here is an unsustainable model of development.” 

Also, until recently a multinational company called Voyages of Discovery brought over 500 passengers to the islands each month.  They are no longer permitted to do so and it is because the Galapagos Conservancy said that the islands were becoming to “disneyfied and less reflective of the surroundings.”  Those huge ships are basically floating hotels and those individuals staying there are not putting money back into the local economy.  

So how do you protect and share what is valued and loved?

The Galapagos Conservancy along with the Ecuadorian government are working to encourage the tourist to stay longer and spend their money at local establishments.  They hope that travelers will see the islands as “the Mona Lisa of natural places in the world” and leave with a new found adornment and commit to the protection. 

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So you see, even when you visit a protected site it still could be hurting the area instead of helping it.

A great concept to live by (at home and traveling) is:

You really never have any idea how your simple presence in an establishment can affect their livelihood hood and the local economy’s livelihood.  

When you knowingly visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site stop and ask yourself if what you are doing is leaving behind human influence or can you enjoy without disturbing nature.

Go and visit these sites – they are yours to enjoy just be courteous.

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