The unintended consequences of our expeditions

Unintended consequences has come to be used as an idiomatic warning that a solution (or intervention) in a complex system tends to create unexpected and sometimes undesirable outcomes.

The quality of VOPO depends largely on whether we can reduce the pressures that our expeditions will have on the environment, the local communities we work with and their economies.

For this, we have resorted to using the frameworks of life cycle thinking, systems thinking and impact assessment to understand what are some of the possible unintended environmental consequences from conduction our expedition to the Philippines.

Our findings identified the following: emissions, accommodation, animal welfare, waste and human contact to protected areas.

Let's go through them in more detail:

GHG Emissions from Travel | The Rush of Continuous Movement

Based on a footprint analysis we are quantifying (applications are still open!) and will estimate the average grams of carbon dioxide equivalent that will be emitted per person from the travel - to the destination and back.

To mitigate this, we will provide a voting choice to our expedition participants to select for one out of three verified and certified carbon offsetting solutions.

Accommodation | S H E L T E R

As living physical structures, accommodation can cause plenty sustainability issues to its surrounding areas. Electricity and fuel consumption have been identified in the past as carbon hotspots from accommodation. 

Danjugan Island Sanctuary, managed by PRRCF, will be our main accommodation for the expedition. Here is a little history lesson: In 1993, the World land trust was alerted to the dangers Danjugan Island was facing and the need for its protection. International expert on coral reefs, Sue Wells, was contacted to carry out a site visit to the island to assess its conservation importance, which reported back on the urgent need to protect the island from development. Our partners, the PRRFCI, purchased Danjugan Island to ensure the long-term protection. To the date, Danjugan Island Sanctuary conducts coastal restoration, research into fish stock management, working with local fisherman to conduct surveys, and environmental educational programs.

Outside of our main accommodation? We will make informed decisions with the best information available to us. A very interesting recent article publish the Journal of Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions expressed some positive impacts from using accommodation sharing, because it can promote a more efficient use of resources. However, this is incredibly dependant on many different factors.

Synthetic and Organic Waste | Psychic Surplus

Waste management is a recognised challenge when traveling to remote destinations. Lack of waste disposal infrastructure and improper disposal can be a major despoiler of the natural environment. Making sure that we educate ourselves and are well prepared before the expedition is key in order to minimise the synthetic and organic waste.

The strategy “Waste Management: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Compost” as part of our Sustainability Policy will help to give us during hard times.

Animal Welfare | Don’t Poke Him, He Don’t Like it

Tourism, sometimes, uses nature as part of its tourist product. In this case, animals – both domestic and wild – are a large component of the tourism industry. It employs thousands of workers and generates billions of dollars every year (World Society for the Protection for Animals). For example, the whale watching industry alone generates $2.1 B dollars and employs 13,000 people around the world.

Check our Animal Welfare policy states “VOPO believes in the fair and humane treatment of animals, and that they should have their basic needs met. We will ensure that our direct action and suppliers meet ethical guidelines for the treatment of all species.”

Human Contact to Protected Areas | Mindfulness Mindful

Protected areas are vital for human health and well-being (IUCN), however, our physical interaction can sometimes have unintended consequences. Education and good management is crucial to not create pressure on ecologically sensitive and protected areas.

Our partners, PRRCF and Danjugan Island Sanctuary, conservation groups working to ensure the long-term conservation of the marine and terrestrial environment through education and poverty alleviation. Our partners will show us the way, and may the force be with us.

Author: Erik Sumarkho