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It does not harm the environment!

Gössling, S., Peeters, P.M.
Bibliographical information:
Gössling, S. & Peeters, P. M. (2005) “It does not harm the environment!” - An analysis of discourses on tourism, air travel and the environment. 4th International Symposium on Aspects of Tourism. The End of Tourism? Mobility and local-global connections, 23-24 of June 2005. Eastbourne.

The knowledge about climate change in industrialized societies is diffuse. While a substantial share of the population in Europe seems well informed about the very phenomenon of climate change, uncertainty seems to prevail in terms of its seriousness, its consequences for society and action that needs to be taken. Such a “psychology of denial” seems particularly strong in the context of air travel. Over the past 45 years, air travel has turned from a luxury form of mobility for the wealthy few into a contemporary form of hypermobility. This hypermobility is characterized by promises of cheap high-speed travel, and the inclusion of new social groups in air transportation, including the mass movement of long-distance tourists. Obviously, these developments are in conflict with goals to achieve environmental sustainability.
A wide variety of discourses are identified, such as “air travel is energy-efficient”, “air travel’s share of total emissions is negligible”, “fuel use is constantly minimized” and “new technology will solve the problem”. The industry also stresses the great importance of air travel for society and economy. Based on the social construction of a ‘universal right of travel and tourism’, as proclaimed by the World Tourism Organization, discourses like “airports enable remote and island communities to participate more fully in world-markets”, “air transport is essential for world business” and “air transport is a necessary pre-condition for international tourism” are also investigated. The discourses presented are then deconstructed in order to test their “truthfulness”. Finally, the developments induced by these discourses are evaluated with respect to their short and long term consequences for tourism and sustainability.
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