National Parks all around the world attract many millions of visitors, help to protect habitats and wildlife, and provide areas where urban dwellers can go for a break from their normal lives. The world's first national park is generally held to be Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872 in the USA. But while parks and other protected areas are still being established, many existing ones are under pressure from growing populations, recreational pressure, and not least from tightening public purses. So it's probably not entirely coincidental that a report on the economic value of national parks in the USA, where the concept was first put into practice, was released on 1 March, the same day that 'sequestration' - the automatic implementation of budget cuts implemented when legislators failed to come up with a new budget deal - came into force, with national parks hit along with all other areas of government spending.
Pandemics appear to have occurred throughout history, the first being recognized in 1580. Reviewing previous pandemics can give an indication of what might be expected, however nothing is certain - it is impossible to predict the next pandemic virus or its impact, as demonstrated by the 2009 A(H1N1) pandemic.
By guest bloggers Jonathan Van-Tam and Chloe Sellwood
The 2009 flu pandemic was officially declared on 11 June 2009. The first cases of A(H1N1)pdm09 occurred in Mexico between January and March 2009, followed shortly by early first waves in north America, the UK and across the southern hemisphere countries in spring 2009. Many of the first cases of influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in Europe were reported in travellers returning from Mexico or the USA within a few days of the outbreak being announced, and cases rapidly emerged in countries as far away as New Zealand. A second, more widespread northern hemisphere wave followed in autumn/winter of the same year. After the pandemic was declared over on 10 August 2010 there were effective ‘third waves’ of A(H1N1)pdm09 disease in both southern then northern hemispheres in the following winter seasons.
Today, Monday 3 December, has been designated International Day of Persons with Disabilities by the UN, with the theme of "removing barriers to create an inclusive and accessible society for all". While the Paralympic Games in London this summer showed just what many people with disabilities are capable of achieving, and acted as a driver for improving accessibility in London, it is nevertheless the case that many aspects of life, including participation in travel, tourism, sport and other leisure activities, bring additional challenges to people with disabilities.
Earlier this week I got to visit the World Travel Market in London: primarily a trade show in travel and tourism, there are also many seminars, presentations and panel discussions which were my reason for attending. Having recently come back from Namibia where the main tourism draw is wildlife, I was interested to attend a session on wildlife tourism, featuring speakers from Africa, India and Scotland. While the speakers covered a highly varied range of situations, from private luxury reserves in Africa and India to an association in Scotland made up of small providers and individual guides, a number of themes which came up are common to much of the sector: the need to educate and manage expectations of the tourist, and the importance of gaining support among local communities.
Both as a wildlife enthusiast and a writer on tourism, I've been following with interest over the last month or so the ongoing debate in India over whether tourism should be banned from core areas of the country's tiger reserves. On Tuesday 24 July, India's Supreme Court temporarily banned any form of tourism in the core areas of tiger reserves to aid conservation efforts.
"We make it clear that till final directions are issued by this court, the core zones or core areas in the tiger reserves will not be used for tourism," justices Swatanter Kumar and Ibrahim Kalifulla said in their order.
The ban, a response to a petition by tiger activist Ajay Dubey of the nongovernmental organization Prayatna, was originally put in place until 22 August. Since its introduction, there has been much lobbying against the ban by tourist guides and companies, some wildlife organisations, and now state and central governments in India.
The Olympics are now only a week away, and watching the world's top athletes in action may inspire less elite sports participants to look for ways in which they can boost their own performance. There is a large industry offering all kinds of products claiming to do just that: sports drinks and supplements, shoes and equipment. But what is the evidence for their benefits? According to a BBC television programme broadcast in the UK last night, which draws on an investigation conducted with the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the answer is 'not a lot'.
The investigation reveals new research carried out by the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine and the BMJ, and published in the online journal BMJ Open. It concludes that no sound evidence could be found to support claims made by some of sport's biggest brands and that it is "virtually impossible for the public to make informed choices about the benefits and harms of advertised sports products."
As my colleague Vera Barbosa said in her blog last week, here at CABI HQ in the UK we have been experiencing our wettest spring and early summer on record. Not surprisingly therefore, when going on holiday many of those who are able like to jet off to parts of the world where we can count on warm, dry weather which we don’t get to enjoy at home at the moment. But influxes of tourists demanding frequent showers, swimming pools, lush gardens and maybe even nice green golf courses put huge pressure on water resources in these dryer destinations, and it can be local communities who lose out when wealthy tourism businesses demand secure water supplies. The issue is highlighted today by pressure group Tourism Concern, which has launched a campaign for ‘Water Equity in Tourism’ with the release today of a report which uses case studies to highlight how disproportionate use of fresh water by tourists can create problems for local communities in developing countries.
A small group of park scientists friends were sitting around the dining table at our home in Fort Collins, Colorado, in the mid-1990's digesting dinner along with a comment my wife, Susan Cockrell a long-time wildlife activist, had made about the growing public outcry over the state's wildlife management policies. One of the scientists, obviously experiencing some discomfort with the meal or the topic or perhaps both, in an outburst of emotion revealed his frustration with the public's resources being managed by the subjective passions of poorly-informed citizens and their biased beliefs. No amount of cajoling this purely objective scientist could get him to reconsider; not the fact that the public owns the resources, and has a right to be involved in policy-making; not the fact that other biased belief systems have wildlife managers firmly in their grasp; nor even the fact that science is, itself, a human belief system, approaching if not exceeding that of the most dogmatic religion.
As an Editor with varied responsibilities at CABI, information I come across at work often overlaps with what I do away from my desk. Thus, as a long-time practitioner of tai chi who isn't getting any younger, I was interested when looking for subjects to write about for the Leisure Tourism Database, to come across the latest piece of research on the health benefits of tai chi for 'older adults'.
The study from Hong Kong, recently published online in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, found that older subjects regularly practicing tai chi were less likely to suffer high blood pressure, and were physically stronger in particular areas such as the knees.
Recent years have seen a surge in investment in high-speed rail (HSR) infrastructure in many parts of the world, led by China where over $100 billion a year is being spent (although there was a slowdown in construction after a fatal crash in July 2011). The UK has so far lagged behind, but today the government looks set to approve plans for a high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham as the first stage of a planned network which will eventually extend to northern cities. With the mainstream media covering the debate in more detail than can be dealt with here, this blog instead features a recent Working Paper by de Rus which examines the economic rationale for government investment in the construction of HSR lines, before looking at the arguments in Britain in the context of this analysis.