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Ecotourism and Environmental Concerns: The Rise of Eco-travel Writing?

By Mariana Roccia

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This essay seeks to broadly delve into the production of creative non-fiction travel writing within the context of contemporary environmental writing, particularly, by exploring its connection to ecotourism. Travel, according to the novelist Pico Iyer, “shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore; but it also, and more deeply, shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise go rusty”; thus, travelling brings in both the traveller’s subjectivity and perception, which can be a means to explore certain “political urgencies” and the “life-and-death dilemmas” (“Why we travel?” 3) that we may fail to see from our comfort zone. Environmental issues such as global warming, biodiversity loss and air pollution affect people’s attitudes and choices, and travelling is not an exception. Paradoxically, in accomplishing such an endeavour, we also contribute to the increase of our carbon footprint and environmental stress. The underlying hypothesis is that these attitudinal changes along with the current global environmental crises have a significant impact within the wider field of environmental writing and have given rise to a new sub-genre called eco-travel writing. This advances the question as to the extent current environmental concerns are reflected in contemporary writing, and how ecotourism frames the production of non-fiction travel writing that reflects on these global issues. The scope will then be narrowed down to reflect on eco-travel writing in South America, particularly to works addressing the Patagonia Region. Examples will be drawn to reflect on the contemporary state-of-the-art and examine whether this genre is developing in this part of the world.

Key words: Ecotourism, environmental writing, eco-travel writing, creative non-fiction