Every year, over 20 million people get on a cruise ship and set sail for a seafaring vacation. Most of those cruises take their vacationers to warm, sunny climates. But thanks to climate change, a new hoard of ships might start sailing North rather than South. This episode of Flash Forward explores a future where the Arctic becomes a tourist destination just like the Bahamas or the Great Barrier Reef.
Researchers at UCLA have projected that the Northwest Passage might be totally ice-free by 2050. And that’s something that big commercial cargo ships have been eyeing for a while. But now, cruise ships are getting in on the game. The first big cruise ship to make the full Northwest Passage trip was the Crystal Serenity. Here’s the route the ship took.
And here’s a promotional video for the cruise:
This week we talk to a few people who have seen the impacts of this new tourism boom.
Arielle Duhaime-Ross is a climate and environment correspondent for HBO’s VICE News Tonight. Arielle went up to Pond Inlet to see the Crystal Serenity, and talk to the people in Pond Inlet about what it’s like to suddenly be flooded with visitors in puffy coats. Here’s her segment.
Jackie Dawson is the Canada Research Chair in Environment, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa. She’s done a lot of work studying the ways tourism impacts people and the environment in places like Pond Inlet. And she spent years trying to convince people to take arctic tourism seriously.
Nancy Guyon is the Director of Tourism and Cultural Industries for Nunavut, the northernmost Canadian territory. And Nancy’s job is to try and figure out how to harness this new interest in the arctic for the good of Nunavut.
So this future is a little bit unlike some of the other ones I do on this show, because it’s a future that’s kind of inevitable. It’s happening, it’s going to happen. Are communities ready for it? No, is the general consensus. And in this episode we talk about what might happen as this gets more and more popular. What happens when a ship hits and iceberg? What happens when private yachts show up to communities that don’t want them? How do you make sure that these ships don’t disrupt local hunts, and that the tourists respect the people living in these communities?
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The music in this episode was:
Sounds in this episode: “Wind, Synthesized, A.wav” by InspectorJ of Freesound.org