Topoaversion

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From Earth Emotions:

“Topoaversion” is a conceptual response to the feeling that you do not wish to return to a place that you once loved and enjoyed, when you know that it has been irrevocably changed for the worse.[1] It is not “topophobia”, where you have fear of a place that might prevent you from entering it; topoaversion is a strong enough feeling to keep you from ever returning to visit the place that was once beloved. The concept has its origins in topos (place), and aversion (to turn away).

Examples of topoaversion occur when people know that special places they visited, say, as tourists in the 1970s, have been transformed for the worse by development. The island of Bali is now off-limits to many who remember its naive and pristine beauty of the past. I had this feeling in 2017, when visiting Stonehenge in the UK for the first time since 1974; I was then a long-haired, backpacking hippie. What was once a wild, uncontrolled and semi-remote place, filled with the mystery and beauty of the henge and its environs, is now a World Heritage site with major road access, internal bus transport, a big visitors’ center, interpretive displays and strictly controlled pedestrian zones. I don’t think I will ever go back there again, as I feel the development has ruined the place for me. That judgement might be unfair, but my topoaversion has set in and is strong enough to prevent a third visit.

As the pace of development quickens, topoaversion is likely to increase in many as a felt emotional response to the changes that take place. It is somewhat ironic, as special places on Earth become major tourism and eco-tourism destinations, that management of the impacts of increased visitation demands changes to the way people and their needs are managed. The whole world has now become a bit like Mount Everest, where the actions of so many climbers and their support systems have turned what once must have been the ultimate ‘wilderness’ experience (alone at the summit) into the ascent of a huge garbage zone, complete with the frozen dead bodies of past ‘unsuccessful’ climbers. Jamling Tenzing Norgay, son of one of the first on the summit in 1953, has described contemporary Everest as “the world’s highest garbage dump”, as a result of the litter and abandoned infrastructure. He laments:

These activities have created a major ecological problem. They are also evidence of disrespect by the climbing community, and a disregard for nature by those men and women who believe their personal conquests are more important than preservation of the integrity of a unique environment.[2]

Mountain climbers with a sense of respect for nature, the mountain and its indigenous people, would now have, or should now have, the emotion of topoaversion that keeps them from adding to this already massive problem.

A similar issue exists in Australia where the famous rock in the middle of Australia, Uluru, is a case study in cultural topoaversion. The indigenous Anangu people of this region, do not, for cultural reasons, want people climbing the rock. However, many thousands disregard their explicit wishes and climb in any case. A culturally informed and respectful type of topoaversion keeps many others from climbing Uluru. I will certainly never climb Uluru. Topoaversion could become a more systematic emotion with respect to ecotourism in general when the full ecological and climatic footprint of such a form of travel is calculated. Recent estimates have put international tourism at about eight percent (and growing) of global carbon emissions.[3] To continue to ignore such information might be a form of escapism discussed below.

[1] Albrecht 2014a.

[2] Norgay 2004.

[3] Lenzen et al. 2018.

See: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-25/uluru-climb-closure-nt–groups-line-up-to-climb-before-ban/11638460

 

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