I found myself breathing in and out more easily tonight, Sunday night, than I have in a long time. I am relaxing. My shoulders are coming down from my ears to their more natural position. The USFS closed the four most popular roads in Big Sur on the South Coast. And we breathe a breath of relief.
I live on one of those roads — the one that had 2 fires in June. COVID has changed things everywhere, and here is no exception. There are those who are angry. They feel entitled to camp and party and off-road in what was once a pristine area of Big Sur. Since COVID, it has been much more like downtown LA or SF — before the COVID. I understand humanity has thinned out in these metropolitan areas. I think they all came here.
The road closure is for safety and road preservation. Three of the four roads have been destroyed by more traffic than the roads were designed to support, and by people trying to drive on a 4×4 road in a two-wheeled drive car. The roads can’t take that. They dig holes, trying to get unstuck. They block the roads for emergency vehicles and residents trying to get to work or just to town for supplies.
What this news story linked below does not talk about is the silent disco with hundreds of people present on one ridge, with no toilet facilities and no trash facilities held on Prewitt only two weeks earlier. This one blocked roads to residences and to places where illegal campfires are created on the weekend.
Our Fire Captain, Marcus Foster, and the USFS Public Information Officer. Andrew Marsden, explain the problems well in this news story. The two overdoses on Prewitt Ridge this past Saturday night demonstrated so clearly how dangerous it is for both residents and visitors as well as to Big Sur herself.
The three roads that people live on have suffered significant damage such that emergency responders cannot respond with needed equipment if there is a fire or other emergency. Additionally, every night there is at least one illegal campfire. Local residents applaud the order, which goes into effect today, 8/7 and remains in effect until Oct 19.
Given the nature of the comments I have received, I am turning off all comments for this post.
We hope that all of you, and your families, are staying safe and healthy in these challenging times due to the Coronavirus. Although public health advisories in California and elsewhere have resulted in disruptions to daily schedules and planning, we want to let you know that the Beyond Green Travel team continues to move forward working on the Big Sur Sustainable Tourism Destination Stewardship Plan (DSP).
Among the most important goals is to continue to collect feedback and comments from the Big Sur community. Given the need to adjust to new public health protocols, including avoiding public meetings and gatherings, we are extending the timeframe for completing the Big Sur Residents Survey to allow more residents of Big Sur the opportunity to complete it. We are happy to report that we have received 306 completed surveys to date and we hope to receive more, so if you have not yet filled out the survey, please do so soon. Here are the links in both English and Spanish. The survey will remain available untilMarch 27:
In addition, we wish to remind everyone that the Big Sur Destination Stewardship Plan comment website, www.bigsurdsp.com, remains open 24/7 to provide an easy way for you to share your thoughts, recommendations and ideas for how to better manage visitation to Big Sur for the future as part of the DSP multi-stakeholder process.
We wish you a healthy and enjoyable Spring season – a time for nature’s renewal and an inspiration for better days to come.
Best regards, Costas Christ & The Beyond Green Travel Team
I have continually requested that in these types of communications when we list balancing the interests of … or listing our priorities, that we put the environment first, not last, as without the environment, the residents, the businesses, the tourists would not be here, and yet, it continues to be listed last. (See *bolded portion below in 3d ¶) Get our priorities straight, and eventually, people will listen. That is my first suggestion.
Despite this misapplication of priorities, I applaud the efforts of BGT, CABS, CHP, MoCo, USFS, State Parks, and all of us who are involved enough to make a difference. Please, let your voice be heard.
Beyond Green Travel Announces that a Community Big Sur Destination Stewardship Plan Comment Portal is Open
In order to capture as much stakeholder input as possible, BGT has created an online website to capture written comments and suggestions pertaining to the creation of a sustainable tourism plan for Big Sur. Please visit www.bigsurdsp.com.
Your suggestions, observations and recommendations are welcome and integral to developing a plan that *balances the interests of the visiting public with businesses, residents, commuting workers and the environment. Please take this opportunity to express constructive, solution based comments HERE: www.bigsurdsp.com
In the coming weeks, the local DSP steering committee will be announced. Additionally, surveys are being developed to solicit specific feedback from diverse stakeholders. We will provide updates on both the steering committee and the survey process in the next 30 days.
On behalf of BGT,
Download a copy of the above notice HERE. (PDF, 1 Page, 132 KB)
I ended my multi-year discussion of overtourism in Big Sur through my Tourist Tuesday posts sometime ago and how it relates to other destinations in the world. It seemed to be on a trajectory where nothing could be done. I am not convinced, one way or the other, that it is a problem than will be solved, only that it must. Unsustainable population translates into unsustainable tourism, which in turn contributes more than its share to climate change. As we know from other studies, systems here on this finite planet are intimately interwoven and interconnected. Overtourism is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
The Atlantic wrote and created video on this problem, published yesterday.
Last year, 1.4 billion people traveled the world. That’s up from just 25 million in 1950. In China alone, overseas trips have risen from 10 million to 150 million in less than two decades.
This dramatic surge in mass tourism can be attributed to the emergence of the global middle class, and in some ways, it’s a good thing. But the consequences are grave—particularly for the planet. In a new episode of The Idea File, the staff writer Annie Lowrey explains how overtourism has contributed to large-scale environmental degradation, dangerous conditions, and the immiseration and pricing-out of locals.
“Tourists can alter the experience of visiting something such that they ruin the very experience that they’ve been trying to have,” Lowrey says in the video. “That’s the essential definition of overtourism.”
I apologize for my lack of blogging this week, but several things converged at once, and since Saturday, I have had to be selfish. First I was sick and ended up sleeping most of three days. Then, I had a deadline to make for Voices (see below), and finally, the winter power issues have hit, which means no internet, among other things.
I have recovered from that nasty bug (thanks in part to the Elderberry tincture I made last year), I made my deadline, and will give you the lead-in and a link below, and today, I am, hopefully, resolving my power issues, by making sure my batteries are fully charged after having replenished them with two gallons of distilled water.
From Voices of Monterey Bay:
“Big Sur is the greatest meeting of land and sea. It is where the mountains are constantly marching to the ocean. It is a place to which the word “iconic” has been applied much too often. It is a place that has been “discovered” and Instagramed into a cliché.
We have come to experience ‘LA-type traffic‘ here in paradise, and thus, we are in need of a plan.
Just in the last few days the magazine Fodor’s Travel put Big Sur on its 2020 NO GO list. It is in good company, along with Bali, Barcelona and 10 other popular destinations. With its beauty and all the promotion it gets, the chickens ’have come home to roost,’ according to Fodor’s.
Big Sur is past the point of needing to be ‘managed.’ Any plan that attempts to do this ‘managing’ will be, by necessity, complex and difficult. In the end, it is Mother Nature who determines much of what happens here. That is the allure and the draw. We humans must be careful to consider the needs of this place — her environment — before our own. And a proposed plan meant to tackle the problem acknowledges that Big Sur’s terrain and remote location make solutions even more difficult.”
The Community Association of Big Sur (CABS) has launched a private public partnership to address tourism and its impact in Big Sur. In partnership with the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and their provision of a seed grant to begin the process, CABS has hired Costas Christ of Beyond Green Travel to lead the effort.
However, we need to raise more funding in order to not only complete the analysis and planning process, but to also test out recommended mitigations.
CABS is proud to announce that the Monterey County Weekly in partnership with the Community Foundation for Monterey County and the Monterey Peninsula Foundation have chosen our non-profit and this project to be highlighted in the Monterey County Givesfundraising campaign.
See link at below photo to go to the Monterey County Gives link to make a donation.
Your contribution will be matched by these sponsors, enabling our community to do this important work to benefit generations to come.
With gratitude, Butch Kronlund, ED, Community Association of Big Sur
“Our community can design innovative solutions to ensure that tourism benefits businesses, visitors, residents and our fragile coastline.”Butch Kronlund, ED, Community Association of Big Sur Donate to McGives & help Big Sur complete and implement a sustainable tourism plan.www.CABigSur.orgwww.BigSurPledge.org
I give you something a bit different for my Tourist Tuesday column today. Later, this afternoon, Community Association of Big Sur hosts a meeting here on the South Coast about developing our Destination Management Plan, specifically beginning with data collection. It is a follow-up of the ones held in a whirlwind series of meetings in August by CABS. Those meetings introduced us to what we have been planning and doing since last year. I will report on this meeting later. But for today, I would like to concentrate on what overtourism does to our local environment, and to the greater environment of our world and its impact on Climate Change.
I have been concerned about this for years, and have expressed my frustration in this blog about what some of our tourists/visitors have done, particularly at Bixby, McWay, and here in my backyard of Plaskett Ridge Rd. The destruction is visible and disturbing. From the wildfires started by abandoned campfires:
To the denuding of all the ridge tops:
There isn’t a single ridge top left on Plaskett that hasn’t been denuded and the wildflowers destroyed in order to create a new off-road road and campsite. The escalation of this destruction just this summer has been unbelievable. I have never witnessed anything like it.
I was inspired by the 5- minute speech given by Greta Thunberg to the Climate Change Summit of the U.N. yesterday. It is quite moving. One can find it here: https://twitter.com/CNN/status/1176159504288886785 And realized that our overtourism problem in Big Sur is just one example or manifestation of the destruction of this planet. We can watch the destruction for ourselves right here. But it is happening all over the world in various degrees and in various ways.
It discusses the granting of “Personhood” or legal status to various parts of nature. It begins with the new declaration in Bangladesh granting “rights” to all the rivers in that country.
It is a thorough article that discusses other areas that have done the same thing, including Ohio and the granting of legal status to Lake Erie. It ends with this discussion:
Granting the status of personhood to a natural environment may seem like a bizarre legal fiction, but it’s no more bizarre than the idea that corporations should enjoy that same status, which has been with us since the 1880s.
If we find it strange to view nature the way we view people, that may just be because we’ve grown up in an anthropocentric intellectual tradition that treats the natural world as an object to be examined and exploited for human use, rather than as a subject to be communed with and respected.
“The idea that we can be separate from nature is really a Western reductionist way of looking at the world — we can trace it back to Francis Bacon and the scientific method,” said Price.
He told me that just as women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery were once unthinkable but gradually became accepted and normalized, the rights of nature idea seems odd now but will eventually gain social currency. “For the rights of nature to be understood and become something we’re comfortable with is going require a paradigm shift, just like the end of slavery did,” Price said.
That paradigm shift may entail nothing less than a total rejection of capitalism, according to Eduardo Gudynas, the executive secretary of the Latin American Center for Social Ecology in Uruguay. He argues that attempts to reduce environmental devastation while staying within a capitalism framework won’t be enough to address the climate crisis.
“The debate around the rights of nature is one of the most active frontlines in the fight for a non-market-based point of view,” Gudynas told me. “It’s a reaction against our society’s commodification of everything.”
I think it is important to emphasize that a paradigm shift must happen for us to end the destruction of Big Sur, a microcosm of the rest of the world, and Mother Nature. How that shift manifests may be completely unexpected.
Once one of Norway’s most accessible glaciers, the Nigardsbreen has receded to reveal a difficult trek across hard slabs of rock. Instead of 50 tourists at a time, guides now take as few as six people, even though business couldn’t be better.
Steinar Bruheim, a guide who’s led tours across glaciers for over 30 years, knows why tourists flock to Norway’s rural, western countryside in the summer.
“They want to see it before it disappears,” Bruheim said.
The Nigarsbreen, like over 90% of the world’s glaciers, is melting. And while the planet is experiencing record temperatures, global travel and tourism, which researchers believe represent at least 8% of carbon emissions, couldn’t be healthier. In 2017, there were 1.32 billion tourist arrivals internationally, with Norway earning almost $19 billion from tourism representing 4.2% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Innovation Norway, a government entity focusing on business growth.
Norway, like most countries in Western Europe, is experiencing record numbers of tourists, especially during the peak summer months—more than half of all overnight stays traditionally happen from May to August. And most of those tourists, according to Innovation Norway, come to see the fjords and the famous Northern Lights in northern Norway.
That influx of tourists is putting a strain on its natural wonders, especially glaciers.
Big Sur Sustainable Destination Stewardship Plan Update And A Request for Input Dear Big Sur Community Members,
Many thanks to all the community members who participated in meeting with Costas Christ of Beyond Green Travel during his visit in August. CABS has now entered into a contract with Beyond Green Travel to move forward on a Destination Stewardship Plan for Big Sur. To learn more about this process, go to the “Initiatives” page on our website.
An important component of this work is collecting data on traffic. CABS is coordinating with traffic engineers, Cal Trans and TAMC to consolidate existing data sets and reports on traffic volume as a preliminary step to establish where we are going in terms of gathering data for overall vehicle impact on the Highway.
Residents from up and down the coast have expressed that capturing traffic counts in real time, 24-7, 365 days a year for multiple years is an important place to start. Three locations stand out as initial gathering locations: Mal Paso Creek Bridge, Nacimiento Rd and Highway 1 intersection and the southern county line.
We believe that the residents who travel the highway on a regular basis may have insights that could inform the scope of this study. You can help us with the following question. Aside from these 3 locations, above, where else along the Highway or side roads would data on traffic volume be of value?