Saturday, September 09, 2006

One More Hard Luck Story
An island paradise. An archipelago set in a shining sea. Unique habitats, exotic vegetation, a coastline of rugged rocks and empty golden beaches, a haven for bird and marine life. Of between 100 and 200 islands (depending on whether you count them when the tide is in or out), only 5 are inhabited. Over 90% of economic activity is related to tourism, with a little fishing and agriculture. Most visitors arrive on the daily freight ship, with a few coming in by light plane or helicopter. There are no cars apart from those owned by the 2000 or so locals, making walking and cycling something to be enjoyed rather than endured. And yet this Eden, like many places around the world, is under threat from the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, projected to increase by 90cm by 2050, are already causing intermittent local flooding. Erosion of cliffs and beaches is increasing. More violent weather and changes to unique, vistor-attracting habitats are putting the all-important tourist trade at risk. This all sounds depressingly familiar. So where is this place, some tiny atoll nation in the Indian Ocean or the Pacific? No, it's quite a bit closer to home.
Lying 40 miles off the coast of Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly are the westernmost outpost of England, one of the UK's best-kept secrets as a holiday destination. The quality of the experience brings visitors back year after year. WIth all Scilly's advantages, it might be forgiven for thinking that climate change could be good for business. A recent report claims that climate change may lead to the traditional package holiday to the Mediterranean becoming "consigned to the scrapbook of history" click. Rising temperatures and sea levels are likely to make summer holidays in Britain and other Northern European destinations a more viable proposition. It's ironic that Scilly is facing similar threats that may destroy everything that makes it attractive to tourists. It's doubly ironic that, while UK citizens remain largely impervious to pleas from low lying island states to reduce greenhouse emissions, a beautiful part of their own country is set to go the way of Tuvalu.


At 12:57 pm, Blogger Matt Burge said...

And just how Scilly is that. ;-)


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