I’m not trying to ruin anyone’s holiday vacation this year, but there is something you might want to think about before you jet off to those white sandy beaches.
Mangroves are trees that live in coastal regions and feed off of salt water. They’re a staple in the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Cancun, Brazil and elsewhere. Almost anywhere you dream of being while sitting at your desk on stormy days happens to be home to mangrove trees. But thanks to the big guys in the hotel industry, mangrove forests are soon to be a thing of the past.
Major hotel companies nudge their way onto beaches and sunny locales despite contributing to the distinction of species and destroying local industries. Here’s the great irony: when you kill off the mangroves you make that fancy newly-built hotel all the more susceptible to hurricanes and disasters. This is because mangrove trees have the unique ability to store massive amounts of salt water in their roots. Water that is absorbed cannot rush into a person’s home or destroy property. But when you cut down mangroves, you are cutting down natural levees. Mangroves act as a natural barrier to debris kicked up during hurricanes. They filter the water, prevent erosion, and provide homes for various species of edible fish that locals traditionally feed off of. Of course killing the fish means there is no more fishing industry. And when indigenous people lose their one source of income they often have to resort to becoming an employee of the tourism industry which provides very little job security and even less income. These low wages force workers to live in makeshift homes, the first to be destroyed during a natural disaster.
With climate change comes increased risk of natural disasters as well as rising sea levels—both of which threaten tourism world-wide. The deterioration of mangrove forests can be one reason to advocate for ecotourism. A conscious decision to support the environment and the local population of your vacation destination can truly make a difference.