From Exploitation To Friendship: Creating Eco-tourism with Doug Thompson, Robin Kobaly, Diana Hart

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A small group of visionary naturalists is helping indigenous people develop new industries that preserve their culture, and their environment. Doug Thompson, and Robin Kobaly are at the center of the emerging eco-tourism movement. They bring people from all over the world to visit the Grey Whales of Baja, Mexico. But it's not about intruding on the animals' habitat. With stringent controls on the number of visitors and the length of their stay, guests venture out in tiny boats, then watch and wait for the whales to come to them. The experience changes lives for the humans who come face to face with the largest animal on earth. And the future of the whales is changed as well, as fisherman and their families discover they are richer in every way when they let the cetaceans live. It's good news for all of us, for as Robin Kobaly explains, "When we come back from wilderness, that's when we seem to bring our best inspirations to help humankind, and our own selves, too. If we don't have that wilderness to go to, that refuge and that wellspring, we will not be as good a people, a society, or a race." (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Doug Thompson is a marine naturalist who teaches worldwide about the perils facing the oceans, whales, and other marine life. He has led natural history expeditions from Mexico to New Zealand, hosting some of the world's most influential decision-makers. He is Director of Expeditions for The Summer Tree Institute, a nonprofit environmental education organization, and founder of Dolphin Works, which provides natural history education for businesses.

He is the author of the book and DVD:

  • Whales: Touching the Mystery (NewSage Press 2006)

Robin Kobaly holds a masters degree in biology, with a specialty in desert botany. She is Executive Director of the Summer Tree Institute.

Diana Hart is a lover of whales who has participated in numerous whale watching expeditions.

To learn more about the work of Summer Tree Institute go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • Why whales need to be saved and what you can do
  • How whales identify humans who kill vs. those who don't
  • Why solar power plays an important role in ecotourism
  • How fishermen have increased their income tenfold by switching to ecotourism
  • Why whales are being killed in Japan while whale meat rots in storage lockers
Host: Justine Willis Toms      Interview Date: 9/4/2006      Program Number: 3169