Photographer's Note

The Azores come second in the world top of sustainable tourism.
That is the conclusion of  the "National Geographic Traveler" magazine in the latest edition of November / December, after examining 111 destinations, and hearing a panel of 522 experts in sustainable tourism. (1) The Azores scored 84 points on a 0 to 100 scale, being classifiied as "Wonderful place. Built environment in good shape".(2)

Capricious Climate?
Being known that such ratings in large circulation magazines are always the result of commercial interests, at first glance, surprisingly for the first time, a major American tourism magazine, values correctly the Azores.
But a quick look at the other destinations rated at the top is enough to conclude that these experts do not understand much about the Azores. Beginning with the Faroe Islands, ranked first, where the sustainability is not enough to even allow trees to grow.  This is confirmed by almost all of the other 10 places at the Top, which make the list look rather like the top of the harshest places. The only other subtropical location, Kangaroo Island, was probably ranked seventh because the climate is even more windy than the rest of the coast of southern Australia, which means that only kangaroos can live there.
It is impossible to be just ignorance from National Geographic to associate the Azores with those summerless islands whose cold weather has nothing to do with any of the Azorean climates (3). No wonder what was the reason these "experts" found to explain why the Azores are still relatively intact: "Not a beach destination or otherwise susceptible to mass tourism; indeed, its capricious climate probably impedes the flow of tourists"(2).

Uniform Mass?
Continuing on the kangaroos and Australia note: Azores landscapes, which for the "experts" are a uniform mass, in fact resemble the most varied sites. For instance in the tiny Azores island of Santa Maria, only a few miles separate these two photos (4), evoking the red earth of Australia and the ocean blues of the beaches around Esperance, in southwestern Australia. The tranquility of the waters and the vineyards rising directly above, evoke the Mediterranean. Actually nowhere in the world but in some Azores shores do vineyards grow in contact with the surf of the ocean waves.

"Sophisticated" Emigrants?
The traditional azorean way of life as close to "the way life should be" as you can get, shielded from "civilization". The first tourists experienced it first of all  in the Azorean hospitality, which is explained by the "experts" not less hillariously : "Locals are very sophisticated as most have lived overseas". (2) Sophistication is associated by the "experts" with a feature that signals the opposite of sustainability,  emigration.
Indeed emigration avoided overpopulation in the past. First to remote Santa Catarina in southern Brazil and later to Hawaii and California. But only in the last years did some emigrants of recent years, to Canada and the US East Coast, begin to return. The latest stage of migration in the "global village", e.g. yearly contracts, mostly to Bermuda, appeared only in this millenium.

I wonder if the "experts" mean the many descendants of Azoreans who lately set their feet on the Azores for the first time after being "repatriated" from United States prisons, with the shameful consent of the Portuguese "authorities". But there are not as many yet, in spite of the fact that the American experts in the destruction of sustainability continue to work overtime to solve the problem that the Azores so far were not decisevely destroyed. And unfortunately these are REAL experts. (5)

Like Hawaii for the tropics, the Azores paradise in the subtropics was first of all the result of exceptionally constant and mild climate combined with exceptional local variations caused by relief. This factor also contributed for the second reason why it remained a highly sustainable society: until 1990 it totally escaped the "integration" in the "global village". In other words, the exact opposite of what is described by the  National Geographic "experts".

1 -  In the top 12, besides windy Kangaroo Island, the only other island with mild climate is Molokai, Hawaii:
Incidentally guess where can you also find an island evoking the north coast of Molokai? Right, Sao Jorge Island, Azores...


3 - The Azores seashore boasts one of the mildest climates of the world, measured as minimal sum of heating and cooling degree days. Documented here:

4- Exceptional local variations of landscape - Island of Santa Maria: Red Earth:  and ocean vineyards.

5- Meanwhile the local experts are also working overtime. Like in the destruction of the landscape in this aerial photo of the south coast of the island of Sao Miguel: a highway, connecting Lagoa to Vila Franca do Campo. Island of Santa Maria would be visible further to the right.
Even if the construction did not yet start, the explosion of oil price is coming too late to save this landscape

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