PROVIDENCIALES, Turks & Caicos -- The 10th annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism opened here with an impassioned plea to take the issue of sustainability seriously by Dr. David Suzuki, Canadian geneticist, environmentalist and scientist activist.
In his keynote speech, Suzuki challenged delegates and Caribbean tourism ministers not to sacrifice the future for short-term economic gain, adding that dire warnings regarding the continued abuse of the environment, especially in the Caribbean region, should be heeded.
"In the past, neither politicians nor the corporate sector have made sustainability a priority," he said.
According to Suzuki, "Island people, better than most, understand that resources are finite, oil supplies are limited and the coastal environment is in danger of collapse. These crises will have massive repercussions for the Caribbean and especially the tourism industry."
He cited the challenges facing the airline industry in the coming years.
"Air travel leaves the heaviest carbon footprint among all modes of transportation and skyrocketing fuel prices are already having explosive effects," he said. That impact eventually will limit the amount of air travel taken and numbers of visitors traveling.
Despite the challenges, Suzuki praised the delegates for their efforts to address the environmental issues at the conference and offered hope for a brighter future.
"Are there solutions? Absolutely," he said. "We need clean air, water, food -- all the elements -- to survive. We need to focus on our eco-footprint today.
"Economists think tourism can continue to grow into infinity. We have to realize that nothing can grow forever. Unchecked growth only accelerates us on a suicidal path."
More than 150 delegates registered for this year's conference, an increase of 50% over 2007, which will run through May 1.
To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].