Notes from WATERtea:

“Responsible Travel: Can We Even Do it Any More?”

with Rosemary Ganley

Tuesday, December 13, 2022


INTRODUCTION of Rosemary Ganley

Dr. Rosemary Burns Ganley is well known to WATER audiences. She is a retired teacher, a constant educator through her weekly columns in the Peterborough Examiner in Ontario. These articles are collected into various anthologies including her Positive Community: Columns from the Peterborough Examiner 2015-2018 and the follow-up volume Gleanings. She approaches her topic based on a good deal of global experience.

Rosemary and her late husband John spent three years with their three then young sons working in Jamaica and later founding the Canadian-based development organization “Jamaican Self Help.” She wrote a book about it called Jamaica Journal: The Story of a Grassroots Canadian Aid Organization, which shows the care and consciousness with which they did international work. They also worked in Tanzania for several years, again learning how to be global citizens with deep roots in Canada. Those experiences and the Fourth UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 shaped Rosemary’s broad and wide worldview and grounded her later work through Catholics for Choice in Canada, Women-Church Convergence, and other non-profits.

Trent University in Peterborough awarded her an honorary doctorate in June, 2022. It was a festive occasion, a richly deserved honor. Her son observed at the time to me about her family that they are her clan, but WATER people are her tribe.

Note the WATER Essay Contest In the Style of Rosemary Ganley, “Feminists Change the World 650 Words at a Time.”

Rosemary Ganley Remarks

Rosemary began with her “late life mantra” that comes from the poet Mary Oliver: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

She moved on to Job 12: 7-10 in which the instruction is to listen to the animals and to Earth. Elizabeth Johnson’s book, Ask the Beasts: Darwin and the God of Love, in which Catholic theology meets Darwin is another source of inspiration.

The bulk of her presentation was a creative slide show “The Glories of Galapagos” June 13-22, 2022 by Megan Ganley and Rosemary Ganley. Megan is her college-age granddaughter, a student at the University of Edmonton in Animal Studies with whom she went on a memorable trip to Ecuador with an excursion to the land of turtles. The slide show is included in the video.

It is clear that Ecuador is attempting to offer responsible tourism. Limits on numbers, restrictions on access, inviting people to sign commitments to ecological practices, and creative solutions to housing allow the country to receive tourists and tourist revenues while at the same time protecting the animals and the land. The Ganley women’s adventure took place in this context.

The amazing flora and fauna, the beautiful land and people, and not to forget the ancient turtles make Galapagos a quintessential travel destination. Like so many others, there is much to learn and enjoy, much to share and find fascinating. But should we?

Watch the video for important details. There are no easy answers here, but a lot of good food for thought as we make travel plans (or not).

Small groups met to discuss our main question:

There is a dilemma of two goods: travel is a way to learn, meet, and be in global solidarity, and travel is a way in which vast resources are used only by those who can afford to go despite being a potential source of problems for those who are visited.

Reports from the small groups spanned the spectrum. One group was firmly convinced that the benefits outweigh the risks, that travel is an imperative in international justice work.

Several people said they ask: who will go, whom will they visit, why are they going, what is their larger purpose? They limit their trips prudently. Still another said that regardless of whether she has a good purpose or not to her travels, the laws of nature, and in this case of eco-disaster, rule.

Another person observed that while tourist money is important in some economies, places like Hawaii did not miss tourists during Covid and now want to limit the numbers of visitors. One person denounced the choice to travel out of hand relying on her well informed ecological perspective to ground her opposition.  Still one more lifted up indigenous ways of knowing as a resource for weighing the hard choices.

One clear benefit that accrues with travel is a realization of “the variety of global goodness” (RBG). Another is the importance of face to face meetings, late night chats, conversations over meals with colleagues. A thoughtful set of questions on volunteering arose: Do people want me there? Am I a burden or a help? Carbon offsets were mentioned. See note below for one example.

Conclusions were few in this hour, but everyone left with questions to ponder, decisions to make, a larger picture to consider.

Additional resources to add to the conversation:

A. “Putting Nature First While Traveling the World, and Leaving a Positive Footprint While Doing So (New York Times, 12/28/22, p. B4 in print)

B. Sustainability reports, e.g. sustainable-travel-what-do-consumers-want? gclid=CjwKCAiAv9ucBhBXEiwA6N8nYFChCn8FOw2qDMLYUUM9I7LhGYLnaRwC7yKW99WkYf79f_BXNVmunRoCntAQAvD_BwE

Simon and Kucher are marketing consultants–“Our Global Sustainability Study 2022, investigated the impact of sustainability on travel consumer preferences and had over 11,000 people across 19 countries take part…

Consumers expect sustainability to become the norm, not the exception. “With most consumers ranking sustainability highly in their purchasing decisions, the message is clear: Sustainability must become the norm not the differentiator. In fact, 57 percent of respondents indicated they consider sustainability important or extremely important when making purchasing decisions about transportation, accommodation, or holiday and vacation packages.

“Moreover, nearly half of consumers indicated they would travel less to travel more sustainably, while only 15 percent stated that they don’t intend on doing so. This indicates that environmental sustainability is poised to impact the vast majority of consumers’ travelling habits.

“However, only a third of consumers are willing to pay more for an environmentally sustainable trip. Yet, WTP increased among higher income individuals. We also asked those willing to pay more what premium they would consider acceptable and what they would consider expensive. For this, the median incremental values across all countries were 15 percent and 30 percent, respectively. High income individuals would be willing to pay significantly more – between 25 percent and 40 percent premium for sustainable travel…”

C. On carbon offsets from Beth Blissman of the Loretto Community:

From the Loretto Carbon Reduction Fund: “In 2022, the Loretto Carbon Reduction fund was thrilled to award grants to 16 projects that either reduce emissions, prevent emissions or provide infrastructure and education around such projects. With your generous support, these grants have totaled $14,850! At this time, there is only $2,100 remaining in the Loretto Carbon Reduction Fund. As you reflect on 2022 and consider your carbon footprint for the year, please consider making a donation to the fund to allow us to continue this vital work. We look forward to three more robust rounds of grants in 2023 that will support individuals and organizations who are doing the steady work of drawing down carbon emissions.”

D. Related resources on travel:

A hearty thank you to Rosemary Ganley for getting us off the ground, as it were, on this topic. There is a lot to think about and some hard decisions ahead. We will revisit this theme because it can literally mean life and death for our dear Earth.