I did a video on overtourism when I went to Takayama, Japan. We tend to avoid the big cities and aim for the mountains or remote islands or the countryside mostly because that’s who we are. We prefer adventure over shopping and lights. We prefer seclusion to people. But, we also do it to minimize our impact when it comes to overtousim.
I was inspired to make part two of this video when I booked our trip to Ishigaki. We are only 250 miles from the Okinawan mainland, but the corals are more vibrant, there are more fish, the water is bluer. Why? Sure, there might be more of a scientific explanation to it, but my first thought was overtourism. Okinawa sees 6.6 million tourists per year, not including the over 1 million people who live here, while the entire Yaeyama chain of 23 islands sees just 1 million. Just. Still, that is significantly less.
5 million extra tourists means more air pollution from cars and trains and buses. It means more people getting into the water with unsafe-for-coral sunscreen. It means more boats out in the water scaring away the fish and more fishing too, reducing the population. If you’ve been to a big city, think a city of 1 million people, you can feel it. The air is harder to breathe. This can cause problems to our oceans, too. Water quality can be affected when toxic chemicals fall from air pollution into the ocean. This is acid rain. As acid levels rise, species begin to die.
As of 2018, Okinawa had 99% unhealthy reef. Thankfully, there are coral restoration projects in place, but that isn’t enough. Of course, it’s not just overtourism, but that is a place to start. This happens all throughout the world, but this is happening in real time for me in our current home. I noticed this heavily when I went snorkeling a few weeks ago and then immediately researched the water in Ishigaki. It’s like another world. Okinawa’s coral is graying and the fish are scare but in Ishigaki, the coral is full of life. Okinawa’s reef is not even expected to fully recover because of larger factors changing in the environment. Rising ocean temperatures predict mass coral bleaching to become normal. Not only this, but it has been worsened due to water pollution from agricultural runoff and physical garbage. Coral bleaching is an international problem. Reefs are vital to the Okinawans as they help protect the island from waves, typhoons, and tsunamis. It is suspected that coral reefs could disappear by 2100 at this rate.
So, overtourism isn’t just destroying our coral reefs, it is also destroying the ecosystem as a whole by leading to the extinction of species. And, just to be clear, it’s not just overtourism. This is just the focus of this video. With more and more people traveling every year, we need to be cognizant of our actions.
Animals in unnatural habitats like places where you can ride elephants and pet tigers lead to unethical treatment of animals and ultimately their death. Roads are replacing forests. Resorts are replacing coastlines. Planes are replacing quiet and serene areas. Lights are replacing the starry sky. All of this has an effect on the greater environment, but ultimately the animals. They are overrun from their homes, migration patterns are disrupted, and the carbon footprint might be leading to extinction.
In just 50 years, a third of the plants and animals we know today could be extinct. This has to do with the maximum annual temperature that the globe can reach. If we go about 2.9 degrees celsius, it could be 95% extinction. I bring this up because one island near Ishigaki houses a rare cat species, the Iriomote cat. It’s going extinct too. It got me thinking, is that one of the species going extinct due to climate change or another factor? That I don’t know, but I wanted to explore this anyway.
And again, it’s not just overtourism, it’s all human action combined. But, is overtourism to this island contributing to the specific extinction of a species? Perhaps. We are actually in the sixth major extinction.
What can we do, though? It may seem bleak. How can my choice to not visit an over touristy area help save corals and animals. Honestly, it might not. We need action together, though. You making the action and inspiring more and more and more to take the action multiplies that action. Voting with your dollar for green energy and green companies and voting in elections by supporting candidates who truly want to save our earth.
Overall, overtousim is bad for the planet, the people, and the animals. Be respectful and avoid overtoutism when possible. If you missed the first video, check it out here and down below to learn more ways to help. It might seem like small changes, but your actions have a huge impact in the long run and when multiplied. Inspire others today to make changes.