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What's the wider cost of us escaping British weather?

Ian Fergusson | 12:45 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009

I'm in the camp of opinion that this summer's weather was nowhere near as bad as some folk bemoaned, but nonethless, I confess to escaping our temperate climes for a fortnight's holiday abroad. 


After recently snorkelling and free-diving on the beautiful reefs of Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, I've been pondering the true environmental cost as we jet away to dodge the vagaries of the British climate.


And yes: I feel somewhat guilty. And that's despite the resultant tan and underwater photos of over one hundred species of fish.


Ok, so here's the guilt-trip:  firstly there's the carbon 'footprint' issue of taking the taxi to the airport; then the 6-hr 'plane journey; the coach at the destination; and running the hotel room aircon as desired, day and night......  all potentially adding to mankind's key role (at least according to scientific consensus) towards our changing climate.


And all putting pressure on coral reefs across the globe - including those I was there to enjoy - before I even put a toe into the water.


A pristine reef off Shark el-Sheikh... but for how much longer? (Photo: Ian Fergusson) 

Climate change is the major current threat to reefs, according to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), and the most serious consequence being a highly destructive phenomenon termed 'coral bleaching'


But I was really struck by how displacing ourselves from the British weather wreaks much more immediate destruction for reefs.  And it made depressing viewing, armed with a facemask and peering beneath the Red Sea's azure waters.


Holidaymakers flock to the sun-kissed Sinai every month, bringing increased footfall - quite literally - across its delicate coral.


I witnessed and photographed acts of mindless marine vandalism: large sections of pristine corals - growing for decades - sent tumbling down the reef face in an instant, as tourists trampled about, their feet (and flippers) often set-down with complete lack of care.


Whereas I (and the majority, in fairness) behaved as if tip-toeing across someone's wonderfully-laid flowerbed; others, it seems, acted as if they were trampling a ploughed field in wellies.


Mindless vandalism: A careless tourist tramples delicate Red Sea corals (Photo: Ian Fergusson) 

And all this in one of Egypt's foremost Marine Parks, where such behaviour carries a risk of hefty fines. I wondered how our nation would react if holidaymakers roamed the New Forest armed with chainsaws.


Whether from the coral bleaching of global warming, or wrecking from increased tourism, the world's reefs are paying a heavy price as a result of climate change and our jet-set desire for climate 'evasion'. It's estimated around 20% of coral reefs have already been lost.


A statistic worth thinking about, if - like me - you are fortunate enough to escape our shores and snorkel amongst these majestic seascapes. 


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Ian
    Could'nt agree more.....well I would would'nt I ...as I was diving next to you at the time!!! plus the odd beer in the evening. Some great pics from your lens but oh those guys wrecking the coral by jumping all over it......can we feed them to the sharks!!!

    Bass player!! And me a rhythum guitar see myspace thebandrecover

    Red Sea is stunning....long may it last...I'll certainly be back



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