I was contacted by the editor of an in-flight magazine recently to write an article about voluntourism. Satisfied with that piece, I was subsequently contacted by the same editor to write a second article about ecotourism; the angle assigned was to identify five of the world’s most “eco-friendly” places… and to do so in 600 words.
I’ve written before about my feelings regarding superlatives and I try to avoid them in my own writing, so the assignment was particularly challenging. How would I determine what countries were the world’s most eco-friendly? What criteria would I use?
I decided to start with my own experiences. What were the countries I’d visited that I felt were the most environmentally conscious and conscientious on the largest scale and with the greatest success? The list included intriguing possibilities, but they were not unproblematic. The more thought I gave to the assignment and the more reading I did of other writers’ “Best Green” or “Best Ecotourism” destinations lists, the more dissatisfied I was with making a broad sweeping claim that *any* country could wholesale claim to be eco-friendly at all. Brazil the most eco-friendly country in the world? It tops many ecotourism and green lists, but astronomical wildlife trafficking and deforestation rates cause me to call Brazil’s superlative position into serious question, as do my experiences having traveled there. Sure, Curitiba, Brazil has been an international pioneer in urban sustainability, but one city’s successes can’t earn a country a top spot on a list like this.
Ultimately, I chose five countries* and felt confident about my choices and justification for the inclusion of each. But space limitations prevented me from being able to explain *how* I made those choices, and I don’t really feel satisfied about that. Transparency and responsibility are important to me.
The assignment was a useful exercise in becoming more cognizant of the processes we enact as writers when researching stories.
What insights have you learned as the result of a recent assignment? Share what you’ve learned in the comments.
*Which ones? Well, you’ll have to get your hands on the next issue of Singapore Airlines’ in-flight magazine, SilverKris, to find out!