eco-tourism .

Apologies in advance for the lack of interesting eco-tourism images. I have never been abroad before so my photographs were all taken in the United Kingdom. Information is sourced from the International Ecotourism Society (TIES) and an organisation called Sustainable Travel.


I first learnt about eco-tourism when I was fifteen as a GCSE student. I had chosen Geography as an optional subject, of which, tourism was in the syllabus. Within this, we did case studies including one of an eco-tourism resort in Trinidad (the Caribbean), assessing its physical and human effects. Around eight years later, this topic remains stuck in my mind, inspiring me to write this post. And what a pertinent topic it is. Since 2014, climate change has accelerated exponentially. The United Kingdom has made new climate pledges, left the European Union and witnessed America leave and re-join the Paris Agreement. Moreover, COVID-19 proved to a global audience the impact of industrial pause on climate statistics, placing scrutiny on the tourism industry.

Hence,  a modern and inclusive phenomenon, eco-tourism was defined by TIES (2015) as ‘responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education’. Historically too, Caballos-Lascurain (1983), a Mexican environmentalist and architect, defined eco-tourism in terms of ‘travelling to relatively undisturbed natural areas with the specific object of studying, admiring and enjoying the scenery and its wild plants and animals, as well as any existing cultural aspects found in these areas… the person who practices ecotourism has the opportunity of immersing [themself]  in nature in a way that most people cannot enjoy in their routine, urban existences’. However, he elaborated this, ten years on, to capture the importance of supporting local communities, demonstrating parallels to TIES’ definition twenty years on.

Caballos-Lascurin’s extended definition, taking cultural features, responsibility and impact into consideration, proved highly influential as the World Conservation Union adopted it in 1996. Moreover, TIES 

began celebrating conscientious tourism destinations, encouraging eco-friendly travel. This followed a sharp rise in popularity for eco-tourism which mirrored neoliberalism and late-stage globalisation in an international society where many saw themselves as citizens of the world (Calhoun, 2008). 

Thought of by many as an antidote to the package holiday pandemic, eco-tourism was seen to provide a platform for conservationists to protect habitats while economically supporting local communities. Here then, resorts in places such as Trinidad hosted sandy, coral-clad beaches, sprawling jungles and vast mountain ranges, offering the global citizen opportunity to explore the world. Hence, eco-tourism involves large-scale conservation schemes, community empowerment and a Western appreciation for nature and local cultures.

However, so-called economic solutions, whether eco-tourism or volunteer outreach, nonetheless have implications for the natural environment. With many countries only accessible by aeroplane, related carbon costs are vast and a primary contributor to climate change. That means, while eco-tourism minimises the effects of other forms of tourism (environmental destruction, material consumerism and cultural imposition), they do not disappear entirely. After all, it is easy for businesses to falsely describe themselves as sustainable and eco-friendly on the grounds of being rustic, deceiving tourists.

In addition, a question is raised as to whether travel can ever be sustainable. Where planes are involved, probably not. After all, the majority of transportation systems rely, to some extent, on power generation of non-renewable sources. Oil, for instance, is predicted to run out sometime in the mid twenty-first century. So, should we just try to balance economic growth and sustainability to avoid generating severe consequences on either side of the quadrium? Is it ethical to travel abroad at all? These are unanswerable, creating fear regarding the mortality of our world.


corruption in the contemporary .

Information sourced from Transparency International, a world-leading NGO.


Known as the abuse of power for private gain, corruption amplifies inequality in society while juxtaposing democracy. Social conflict is consequently exacerbated within a global superstructure, obscuring humanity’s ability to reduce it. Whether monetary or otherwise, actions by civil servants, politicians and corporate tycoons swiftly undermine the wellbeing of all, especially when occurrent at all levels. Which, when citizens become directly involved, makes the shadowy underworld opaquer to those attempting to glean insight, whether with the utilisation of shell companies or client-attorney privilege.

Corruption, then, takes various forms dependent on extraneous variables, but fundamentally ends with similar costs, whether political, economic, social or environmental. Globally, this is comparable with the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), formed from expert assessments and public opinion to rank 180 countries on a scale of 0-100, with those closer to 100 considered ‘clean’ and just. This mirrors the global West – South disparity to an extent. No wonder given the intensity of turmoil suffered from colonialism. Impacts of which continue to be felt today, several centuries on, as archaic, externally-imposed regulations continue to live on. 

Somewhat understandably, imperialism and its effects reflect significantly on scoring. Of the nine nations that scored 80 or above in 2020, only two (New Zealand and Singapore) lie outside Europe. A large contrast to the rest of the globe, then, as the average score internationally is 43. Within Western Europe, Scandinavia dominated the scale with Denmark, Finland and Sweden in the top four. The UK, similarly, sits comfortably in position eleven where it steadily rose to since 2012, Belgium fifteenth and Iceland seventeenth. 

Drifting in the opposite direction, America has slipped to position twenty-five, though given the current political climate, it is expected. In the middle of the pack are the new economic powerhouses of India and China (86 and 78 respectively), and in the bottom third of countries globally, Russia, featuring dictator Vladimir Putin (129).

Further down though are Iran (149), Chad (160), North Korea (170) and Somalia (179), countries faced with dictatorship, the effects of colonialism and/or civil wars. Which, following COVID-19, has only amplified issues as access to healthcare is persistently scarce for those outside of the elite. Issues that protests and campaigns have done little to change over the past decade, albeit, public optimism to ‘making a difference’ still remains high.

Transparency International continue to recommend oversight institutions, transparent contracting and free access to information, but a lack of practical action makes it just words as countries stay stagnant despite a few notable exceptions (Greece and Myanmar being the most-improved nations since 2012). Therefore, there is a long way to go in instigating steadfast change.


the abandonment of mainstream political parties .

Stephen Yip & the Liverpool Mayoral Election


The 2021 local and mayoral elections marked a definitive shift in the UK political landscape. I, an otherwise-staunch Labour voter, supported an independent mayoral candidate for the first time ever while simultaneously prioritising Green candidates running for council. This was a widespread phenomenon as unheard-of candidates rose from the dust to rival stronghold party vote shares. Following the bribery controversy in Liverpool, placing scrutiny on former Mayor Joe Anderson, Joanne Anderson, the first woman of colour to hold mayoral office in the area (and not to be confused with the former Mayor), took over as the Labour candidate for this city. 

Though resolutely left-wing in terms of voting patterns, results nonetheless marked independent Stephen Yip as a close second to Anderson (with nearly 41% of the vote share), an unprecedented result in a county where 93% of MP’s are of Labour, almost all of which with five-figure majorities. For comparison, Yip gained more first-preference votes than the Lib Dems and Tories combined, emphasising the failure of minority parties in the area to capitalise on the Labour council controversy.


Why was this the result in Liverpool?

In early 2021, support for mainstream political parties hit an all-time low. While Starmer, the centrist replacement to Corbyn in leading the Labour party lacks charisma and ability to unite a party devoid of a clear audience, the general public have become disillusioned. As a result, many Labour loyalists lent support to smaller parties, independents or even Boris Johnson (Bojo) in making a political point, while outside the central Labour heartlands, Tory support thrived, expanding majorities and consolidating the blue sea of rural English constituencies. 

The picture is mixed elsewhere, however. Continued support for independence referendum-supporting parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland demonstrates understandable contempt for the mainstream political system, no wonder in a time of COVID, Brexit and economic instability where lower classes are exponentially susceptible to its discriminatory arm.


Who is Stephen Yip?

A charity founder, philanthropist and millionaire, Yip campaigned as an independent to reset the Liverpool political system. Directly challenging mainstream parties by pushing for a new voting system, Yip advocates council transparency, whistle-blower protection and further environmental protections among education and city-wide employment initiatives to rebuild and regain trust. This would require an new level of cross-party collaboration that remains unseen in mainstream politics, however, if the opportunity for change is seized, potential exists for the political system in Liverpool to be transformed for the benefit of its members.


impairments & body ideals .

Disclaimer: Post discusses eugenics and discrimination.


As defined previously, an impairment is a condition in of itself, for instance, deafness, while a disability constitutes the addition of social dimensions, for instance, discrimination experienced in the social realm. Disabilities have historically been treated with contempt and scrutiny, whether through their elimination (eugenics or genocide) or correction (through medical intervention), producing lived experiences. Following this, Hughes explored consequent feelings of invalidation as possessing two differing meanings. The first, confinement through incapacity, can exist in the form of a hospital impatient, and the other, loss of credibility, as social devaluation. Therefore, social penalties of disabilities remain far-reaching.

Which brings us on to the focus of this post, a case study discussed at length by Millett-Gallant of a certain statue. One of Alison Lapper, a then-pregnant woman who was born with shortened legs and no arms. This statue displayed her naked body, in all her beauty and strength, to passers-by in Trafalgar Square (London). And though received with mixed responses, the statue’s existence as a public statement of productivity certainly challenged mindsets and assumptions of those without disabilities.

A welcome change from traditional statues of white, able-bodied men, Lapper’s statue acknowledges bodies otherwise excluded by mainstream society, questions pregnancy stereotypes, and, while placed alongside historical statues, creates distinct contrast to tackle representation issues in modern society. In this, beauty ideals are distorted, gender is neutralised and society is made more accessible. Cultural battles are embodied, discourse opened and liberation catalysed. All elements necessary for social change to occur.

And isn’t it just. Shaped to a large extent by social perception and prejudice, those with disabilities were found by the EHRC (2016) to earn disproportionately less than those without disabilities, experience greater health inequalities and vulnerability to hate crime. Not to mention that disability compounds with other forms of oppression, for instance racism or homophobia, to further affect individual wellbeing. So, though Lapper’s statue is a step in the right direction, more must be done to ensure systemic change. Now and in the years to come.


trains . accessibility & appreciation

Despite COVID-19 increasing time taken by seven months, I travelled to all 81 rail stations in Merseyside (in addition to 10 on the Merseyrail route while in the counties of Lancashire and Cheshire). Naively, a month before the first lockdown, I plotted a route estimated to take ten hours across a single day, to then find it closer to thirty over seven months, something only Northern rail is normally capable of achieving!

If Merseyside had the rate of service that London has, I would have easily covered it in under ten hours, however, services in the area averaged 2-3 trains an hour, slowing my connections and resulting in a lot of waiting! On my first day in February 2020, I travelled for nine hours, covering 40-or-so stations, many of which formed the entirety of the Wirral, an area of aquatic marshes and aesthetic sea views galore.

Forlorn by my (relative) lack of success, I headed home and, distracted by work and university, was unable to finish Merseyside before the first lockdown, instead of finishing the remaining stations, most of which were in East Merseyside, across two days in sunny September, mask equipped. Happy with this success, I made plans to begin covering the remainder of the English, then UK rail stations, starting with counties closest to my hometown, however, two lockdowns occurred since those could become possible.

It has been strange not travelling on trains for so long, albeit, it will also feel that once we are all back to normality! I think that I have forgotten how to have face-to-face conversations with everyone but my partner, given how long everyone has been inside. Necessary for all but challenging for most.


Now though, let us re-route to talking about accessibility on trains. Though newer trains entering the network, for instance on Merseyrail, have more carriage space for manoeuvrability and automatic, wide-opening doors, archaic platform design creates platform-carriage gaps of over forty centimetres. Design that historically made many stations inaccessible for those with disabilities, barely improved by metal ramps as advance notice and staff availability was critical for their deployment.

However, newer trains on the network will be equipped with sensor-operated lowering floors and ramps that remove the need for manual clip-on ramps, improving some elements of inaccessibility, though these, scheduled for operation in 2020, have been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. And taking into consideration how much of the national network is comprised of inaccessible Victorian stations and disabled-unfriendly carriages, there is clearly room for change.

On a positive note though, policies around rail accessibility continue to encourage a disability-inclusive network to evolve. Additionally, collaboration in regular consultation between those with disabilities, activists and designers enables future infrastructure to function accessibly. So, though we have far to go, the route is lined in optimism.


disaster capitalism .

The 2003 Iraq war. Hurricane Katrina. Grenfell. Brexit. COVID. Endless examples among the plethora.


Much of this post is based on work by Naomi Klein, a staunch Feminist and critic of capitalism. Defining disaster capitalism as the way that private industry emerges to profit directly from mass crises, she identified how its presence in society intensified following the 9/11 bombings, generating security crises of an infinite span. ‘Calculated, free-market (so-called) solutions to crises that exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities’.

Meanwhile, shock doctrine was coined by Klein to describe the tactic of public disorientation following mass crises to push radical, pro-corporate measures through the House. A process tied in and interrelated to neoliberal policy.

And as for the Iraq war, disaster capitalism remains ubiquitous to conflict pushed by Western powers. For instance, the partially privatised invasion and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by the US, with profits including power and capital alike.

With the privatisation of the security state, funds dissipate from government budgets while Big Oil (ExxonMobil) siphons yet more money, or to make a bad pun, black gold, from the Middle East. And to defend themselves, Big Oil encourages the spreading of misinformation to discredit climate change activism and discourse. Fake news that serves as a tool to neoliberal goals.

Moving swiftly on, the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina was rife with chaos and destabilisation. While the Iraq war was orchestrated by the West, hurricanes exist as (fairly) natural phenomena.

Though that didn’t stop private military contractors interfering in this case study, either. The role of Pence, then-Governor of Indiana, in failing to protect the ethnically diverse population of New Orleans from the hurricane through the inadequacy of infrastructure, tax cuts, slow crisis response and victim-blaming was sizeable too. Which then stirred the media into a writing frenzy about so-called ‘black looters’. Conveniently ignoring the real culprits yet further marginalising the innocent.

Moreover, privatised prisons demonstrate disaster capitalism at its finest. Private profit from so-called terrorists and those malevolently profiled. With zero-tolerance policy placing swathes of the American population behind bars, while stocks for CoreCivic and the Geo Group skyrocketed during Trump’s first month in office. And with Trump’s decision to appoint numerous war-profiting corporates into central government during his time in the Oval Office, international peace goes out of the window.

And next, the shambles that has been the Brexit referendum. A decision which, regardless of what side you support, sits neck-deep in incorrect statistics, fake news and deceit. And disaster capitalism? In combination with a government who prioritise austerity, corporation tax cuts and academisation of schools over national stability, yes, disaster capitalism isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Regardless of whether or not we’re in the EU. 

Grenfell, too. The fault of poor building quality in a bid to save money, yet the senior MP Rees-Mogg cannot resist an opportunity to victim-blame ethnic minorities and the traditional working-class, falsely claiming that Grenfell victims lacked common-sense when evacuating the building. Another instance of the Tories destroying lives and wasting taxpayer money on sub-par, for-profit contractors. 

Lastly though, we turn to the COVID pandemic where the only winners are gig economy corporations, Big Pharma and private hospitals. Where employees struggle to make ends meet without paid leave, the general public is bombarded with mixed messages and misinformation shrouds the internet in a green haze.

And who is being blamed for the chaos? The general public, not the companies incompetent in all but making profits.


drug decriminalisation .

There are so many reasons for decriminalising drug use, the most pertinent relating to public health. 


Firstly, decriminalising recreational drugs enables accessible education around their benefits and risks. By removing surrounding stigma, individuals can feel comfortable receiving judgment-free support & medical advice.

Plus, there are countless national case studies of its positive, longitudinal impact, for instance, within Portugal (2001) and Uruguay (2013), emphasising how decriminalisation does not increase addiction levels, instead, reducing them whilst saving taxpayer money by decreasing prisoner numbers. Additionally, its effect of reducing the drug trafficking market minimises the number of people whose lives are exploited in the process.

Besides, its effect of reducing the influence of criminal drug industries surrounding users would enable individuals to come to their own conclusions. Yes, drugs can still have an impact on those surrounding users, but at least the user would be in a better place to access support and/or rehabilitation if desired. And yes, drugs kill, but people who want to consume drugs will do so regardless of their legality. Surely it’s better to regulate than prohibit, then.

Naturally, though, it’s important to remember that this post is biased in favour of decriminalisation. It’s a blog, after all. I’m not going to try and convince people to support drug prohibition when I don’t personally believe in it. And this is hardly scientific or complete, it’s just my personal opinion. So, it’s important to research both sides of the argument with a range of credible sources before solidifying your opinion. Shun the Sun in your research, too!

Historically, the prohibition of drugs through possession charges and zero-tolerance policy have failed to curb consumption, instead, encouraging a criminogenic society by devastating user lives inside the criminal justice system and beyond. Considering the potential economic, social and physical health benefits of decriminalisation in Portugal and Uruguay, why not try elsewhere?

Further Resources: 

- The National Institute on Drug Abuse
- Frank

motivation .

Lyrics: NF (2019)


The Search


Try to hold it underwater but it always survives

Then it comes up out of nowhere like an evil surprise

Then it hovers over you to tell you millions of lies

You don't relate to that? Must not be as crazy as I am
 
Just think about it for a second, if you look at your face

Every day when you get up and think you'll never be great

You'll never be great, not because you're not, but the hate

Will always find a way to cut you up and murder your faith

megs’ thoughts

Motivation is one side of a two-edged sword. The sword will always have two edges. We will always have to battle against the side of our mind that says ‘I can’t do this’. But we can flip the sword around.

No one is perfect and everyone slips up sometimes, but success does not exist without sufficient motivation.

And that’s hard. But it’s the truth.


Change

 
But lately, I been thinkin' I'ma have to

Lettin' go of things that I'm attached to

World don't stop just because I'm in a bad mood

You don't know what love is 'til you holdin' onto somethin' that you can't lose

...

I swear I'm tryna get it together

Sleeves up, puttin' work in, tryna be better

I like to rap, but I ain't gon' do it forever

Forget to charge up my focus, and I'm holdin' my head up

megs’ thoughts

Perseverance doesn’t automatically create success, but it will get us much closer to the result we want.

As bleak as things may appear, things can always be  improved to some extent. Failure helps us succeed next time.


When I Grow Up


I been crunchin' numbers, you ain't gotta be a mathematician

To see the odds ain't rootin' for me

I can't lie though, it's kinda how I like it to be

The underdog, yeah, you probably think you know what I mean

...

That don't make a lot of sense to me, forget the Happy Meals

I don't like the dollar menu, I would rather make a mil'

Huh? Make a meal? Nah, I said make a mil'

Home-cookin', get the grill, how you want it? Pretty well?

megs’ thoughts

No matter how much the odds lie against us, motivation goes a long way to change them.

Small, conscious actions to improve those odds add up to create a better picture, despite everyone trying to stop us from succeeding.


the perils of privatisation .

Let’s get started with a subject close to my heart: healthcare. In the context of this introductory anecdote: trans healthcare. Later on: alternative dimensions.

In the UK, we are pretty fortunate in that tax-funded healthcare is available to most. That we don’t need health insurance etc. Or at least, at the moment. As the NHS is used as a symbol of national pride, however, it may yet survive in some form. But the situation is still far from perfect.

Back to the anecdote, though. As a trans person in the UK, to access medical transition I have to take one of the following routes:


The first, and most ideal, would be to go through the NHS-funded Gender Identity Clinic (GIC), though few exist & I am still waiting for that first appointment, six-and-a-bit years after the initial referral. The second is accessing private healthcare and the third self-medicating online.

So, I opted for the second route, at least, temporarily. Private healthcare. Until the GIC finally got back to me, anyway. Which, given the gradual defunding of the NHS and COVID, will not be anytime soon.

I’m privileged enough to have a network of close friends who, when I was eighteen, helped me to raise money towards covering consultation fees to access hormone replacement therapy (HRT) privately, which for that stage, was around £1000 if we include train fares, etc. Compared with many, my medical transition was relatively early, maximising its effectiveness. Something that I am thankful and privileged about.

Though I tackled the initial financial hurdle with assistance, the £600-per-year for follow-ups and prescriptions was mine to face alone. With hourly fees for appointments anywhere up to £300/hour, a salary 35 times that of the UK minimum wage as of 2021, that is pretty tricky to afford for someone living off student loans. Especially when, at the end of last year, I found out that the appointment cost of my follow-ups had increased by 50%. Which is the main point of my anecdote, really. That for an appointment where your blood pressure and weight are taken, it’s so much money. No student discount, either!


That is one example within an insurmountable pile of others. In other countries across the globe, privatisation means that folk have to pay for something as small as an appointment with a GP, or cancer screening, or for access to HIV medication that could extend their life for years.

I amongst many argue that healthcare should be nationalised everywhere; something that anyone can access to improve their wellbeing. Even if it means a minority of rich folk have to pay more taxes each year. That someone living in social housing has just as much right as a millionaire to access life-saving treatments such as chemotherapy. If not more so. Little solace for someone who has spent their entire life being oppressed by a cruel, uncompromising system.

Not to mention that nationalisation of other industries; transport and the marketplace to name a few examples, have extensive benefits to the majority. Whether that is avoiding price hikes or ending corporate monopolising. Smoothing out the ever-widening financial inequalities between the elite and lumpenproletariat. Making a better society, even if radical measures are needed to achieve that.


animals, plants & veganism .

Disclaimer: I am not a qualified nutritionist or ecologist. For more information about either area, visit www.nutritionfacts.org and www.greenpeace.org


Ever since I was born, I loved trees beyond almost all else. The way that they stand through time, their age marked concentrically, steadfast for dozens, hundreds or thousands of years. As someone who couldn’t afford to venture abroad in childhood and adolescence, I haven’t met many of the oldest, but hope to one day. Their vastness eludes my understanding. We as individuals are but ants in pale contrast to their tenacity. 

Yet they are all dying. And we all contribute to that in some way, whether when using the toilet or buying that extra bookshelf. Paper, card and wood are all staples to life as we know it. And of the half-billion square kilometres of land on the earth, thirty percent are canvassed in trees. Beautiful souls that we cannot begin to understand the complexity of. 


We have all heard about the deforestation statistics that use football pitches as a measurement unit for rainforest destruction every year, month, week, day and hour. Most also know that the rainforest as a biome is the most bio-diverse. Inconceivably rich in medicine, oil, plant species, animal life and minerals. Not to mention the obvious, trees. And it’s the consumer demands of the West driving unsustainable crop production and resource extraction here. Which brings us to the topic of veganism.

The way that food chains work is that producers (organisms that create their own food) form the basis of life on all levels, for all animals, as nutritional matter passes up the chain, eventually reaching the carnivores at the top. Which begs the question: why is meat bad beyond moral concerns?

To rear animals, extract by-products and slaughter them, they require an over-abundance of food, maximising their meat output. Which sounds really crude and detached. Species that have been bred in such a way that they are unrecognisable from their natural ancestors. To the point where they would not survive in the natural environment anymore. Which is heart-breaking. Regardless of whether it is an organic, grass-fed cow (<3%) or factory-raised.

Not to mention global warming considerations such as methane output, or land requirement, or the effects of meat-based diets on the human physique. What else could explain why heart disease (featuring fatty arteries) is the leading cause of death in the West?

There are countless arguments against meat consumption, even if you try to overlook the gory, systemic and brutality of slaughterhouses. And the abysmal conditions experienced by dairy cows and egg-laying hens. The ones that survive, that is.

Plus, the UN Health Body has classified processed meats such as bacon, sausages and ham as class one carcinogens (cancer-causing substances), matching that of cigarettes, asbestos and arsenic. That bacon in the frying pan may smell and look appetising, but it kills you from the inside out. 


I love plants. They are tasty, easy to cook with and produce satisfying meals. Especially in 2021, where vegan food forms half of the supermarket. Though it is understandable when accessibility and cost affect low-income family ability to avoid meat, dairy and eggs. the way that corporations sell cheap-quality meat products for less than vegetarian and vegan alternatives to low-income families is, nonetheless, despicable.

Whether to placate big-meat and big-dairy conglomerates or sell surplus stock before its expiry, companies have much to answer for. Their unsustainable practices and marketing of unhealthy and straight-up toxic foods to folx with a lower budget. Plus, vegan brands marketing their food several times above the cost of meat should reconsider the value of human life in contrast to their profit margins. Their policies, ethos and approaches ebb insidiously. Unacceptably.

But it’s not just the working-class who suffer. It’s the animals, plants and the planet. Plant protein reigns supreme over animal protein any day of the year, nutritionally and personally.