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Sustainable September: 20 questions with… Mark Watson



Mark Watson answers 20 questions on life, sustainability and everything.

Mark Watson is executive director of Tourism Concern, a charity that fights exploitation in the global tourism industry. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Chartered Manager with an MSc in sustainability and a first degree in geography and international development.

He will be speaking at Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Sustainable September Tourism Debate, at the Museum of London on September 3, arguing for the motion “Growth in tourism is undesirable: it is rarely economically or environmentally ‘good’. Tickets for the evening event are available here.

We want the world to be as blue and green tomorrow as it was yesterday. What’s your mission?

Fairness and social justice – everyone is better off in more equal societies and our current economic systems are disastrously inefficient ways of producing well-being, as well as wasting resources.

When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A scientific explorer; along the lines of Darwin. 

How would your friends describe you?

Grounded and loyal but also impatient and argumentative!

What was your ‘road to Damascus moment’ in terms of sustainability?

When I was a kid I was devastated that we were hunting whales to extinction. We live on such an incredible planet yet seem determined to trash it.

Who or what inspires you?

The team that is landing a spacecraft on a comet – not for the achievement as such, but as a testament to what we can achieve when we try. If we can do that, making the world a fairer, more sustainable and better place should be easy. 

What really grinds your gears?

Lazy thinking.

Describe your perfect day.

Spending the day out for a walk with my partner, preferably somewhere with mountains.

What do you see when you look out your window at home?

A small pond and fruit trees. 

What do you like spending your money on?

The garden.

What’s your favourite holiday destination?

The Lake District. 

What’s your favourite book?

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

What’s your favourite film?

In the Loop. 

You’re made prime minister. What’s the first thing you do?

Bring in TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas – personal carbon budgets). They would not only make us responsible for the energy we use, but redistribute wealth as well. 

If you were stuck on a desert island, which famous person would you like to be stuck with and why?

Stephen Hawking – we would have plenty of time so he could explain life, the universe and everything. 

What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given? And the worst?

Best: Find a vocation you want to get out of bed for. Worst: Butter is bad for you.

What would you like to be doing five years from now?

I love what I’m doing now; so more of the same (but hopefully with a bigger team).

What’s your biggest regret?

I wish I had learnt more languages – communication is the key to positive change.

What one thing would you encourage readers to do to make their life more sustainable?

Enjoy what they have rather than want for more. We are some of the luckiest people alive and who have ever lived, but our constant quest for more is making us unhappy.

What’s the one idea that you think could change the world for the better?

Gross National Happiness is more important than the GDP.

What’s your favourite quote?

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.” Epicurus.

Take our 2014 reader survey and you could win an iPad, Kindle or donation to a charity of your choice.

Further reading:

Sustainable September to ask ‘is the future growth of tourism ‘desirable’?’

Sustainable September: 20 questions with… Manda Brookman

Yates, Brackenbury and Watson confirmed for Sustainable September Tourism Debate

Museum of London to host Sustainable September Tourism Debate

Tickets on sale for Blue & Green Tomorrow’s Sustainable September events


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