“The future will look back at this time and depending on the world they inherit, they will either ask,
”What were you thinking?
How did you find the courage and moral authority to stand up and work together to do the right thing?
If we succeed in protecting Lake Tahoe, part of the answer will be that people across all lines became part of a movement to make political will a renewable resource!" -- Al Gore, Tahoe Executive Summit 2013
On July 26, 1997 Bill Clinton issued an executive order to protect natural, recreational and ecological resources of Lake Tahoe (Executive Order 13057). Organizations were formed to regain and sustain the 100ft of water clarity the Lake had for a millennia. Currently the lake's visibility hovers around 60 ft. Many groups have provided relentless management actions, costing billions of dollars to protect our National Treasure. In addition, consultants from outside the watershed are hired through Federal and State issued Request For Proposals (RFP) to guide stakeholders (local business, government, nonprofits and the public) in creating visions and plans for ecologically sustainable prosperity through tourism, transit, infrastructure, housing and recreation. While much has been accomplished from the insight of the stakeholders and consultants, our fragile ecosystem is still straining under the weight of unsustainable tourism demand.
To address these concerns the generous people at TRPA (Tahoe Regional Planning Agency), the Tahoe Fund, Tahoe Visitor Authority, Chamber of Commerce and USFS (United States Forest Service) partnered to fund a new 2021 Tourism Initiative RFP "Lake Tahoe Future of Tourism and Shared Vision Stewardship Roadmap". Eight Consulting teams have responded ready to guide stakeholders to adopt sustainability principles that would encourage more responsible travel.
Concurrently, the University Nevada Reno (UNR) and Sierra Nevada University (SNU) located in Incline Village at Lake Tahoe, are merging. The SNU location or UNR 'Tahoe Campus', will offer environmental programs to compliment UC Davis, epicenter for Tahoe's world class Limnology research and programs, also located on SNU campus. There are other colleges in the Tahoe watershed that would also be ideal contenders, as the long term objective would be to connect this curriculum to all local educational facilities at some capacity.
These two events provide a unique opportunity to respond to Al Gore's call.
Sustainable Tahoe is proposing the creation of a Sustainable Tourism PILOT PROGRAM to leverage the expertise of the publicly funded Sustainable Travel Consultant Team to guide Tahoe-based sustainability students. For example, the RFP tasks become student assignments, such as; analyzing visitor data , travel challenges, visitor hosting protocol and then determine activities most conducive to sustaining Lake Tahoe. In this way the Shared Vision Roadmap is co-created by the generation inheriting the long term results. The trained, dedicated and active team of local students can help to sort out policy and implement a public/private partnership to affect positive change.
The Sustainable Travel Pilot Program then can evolve into a Sustainable Tourism Certification or Masters Degree. Student teams will co-design, deliver and implement a Responsible Travel Roadmap. Students will learn by doing through course work that provides field experience, a resume, a degree and new careers to ensure the roadmap to a sustainable future becomes a reality. Potential job positions might be 'Chamber of Stewardship' leader, 'Biodiversity Officer', 'Responsible Travel Manager'.
We have a classroom sitting in a fragile watershed, overwhelmed by tourists still responding to a marketing and hosting strategy ripe for transformation. Our climate emergency requires innovation, and the time to act is now.
Applied Learning or Community Based Learning courses are now being offered at Evergreen State College, in Washington and Barstow Community College in California. UC Davis classes already utilize Lake Tahoe as a laboratory for learning that could potentially support a Sustainable Tourism Major. SNU presently, offers Resort Management and Business Management majors, but it's hard to imagine a Tahoe economy without an "eco”-onomy first.
Sustainable Tourism is a growing major offered in universities around the world, while redefining new sustainability career paths. In the future other colleges located in Tahoe Truckee watershed within all the gateways, counties, 2 states and communities could be connected, working together to learn, APPLY and evolve sustainable strategies of Tahoe's Shared Vision Roadmap.
Fresh student minds ready to learn can make it "cool to care" and will not hesitate to leverage the wealth of insight gained from decades of consultant driven public engagement to support Sustainable Tourism... making 'political collaboration a renewable resource'.
Our world class destination, schools and business all have a responsibility to lead-by-example for the lake, wildlife and visitors. The world is watching to see if Tahoe will indeed embrace and implement responsible travel as a mission...even after the consultants leave.
FYI: Metaphor on how we need to pick up the pace
Education Innovation for our Climate Emergency
National Geographic Sustainable Destinations appointed Geotourism (destination stewardship) Liaison of Lake Tahoe