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Money can grow on trees!

Even as global businesses and industry are being forced to take a closer look at their negative impact on environment, the ‘business of environment’ itself is looking up. The focus on global warming and climate change and the campaigns to help save the planet are bringing more people closer to environment than they have ever been.

Right from increasing attendance at wildlife reserves to the abundance of adventure sports that take people closer to nature, businesses that ‘exploit’ nature are doing better than ever before. Though, in India at least, questions still persist whether ‘ecotourism’ or ‘environment tourism’ really helps the conservation effort at the local level.

Amol Khante, director of CAC All Rounder an organization that’s involved in ecotourism activities, says, “There definitely has been more interest in the outdoors over the last few years, leading to more business. However, not all of the business leads to gains for the local environment or even the local people, whose day-to-day life impacts the environment. More needs to be done to ensure such businesses benefit local tribals or villagers and wean them away from a life living off the forests surrounding their villages.”

Even though such businesses may not always directly contribute finances to save the environment, Khante believes that they do help create awareness among the general population about the importance of environment. “Adventure sports pull you out of your comfort zone. At such times people are more receptive to new experiences. In this state of heightened awareness, say after a strenuous trek of 2-3 hours, any city-bred yuppie will realize the importance of a tree’s shadow or the grass under it. He will remember the taste of cool water from a natural spring, and how different it is from his office water cooler. This bonding will stay with the person permanently, prompting him to think a bit more about his environment over the long term.”

Most people closely involved with environmental issues agree that there is a link between tourism and the well-being of the environment, though tenuous at times. Now, with the government making efforts to ensure the negative impact of tourism is minimized, everyone can only hope that tourism and nature grow on each other in a symbiotic relationship.