Wasting the Alps (1989)

Film details

  • Featuring

    Andrew Sachs

  • Country

    United Kingdom

  • Year


  • Genre


  • Type


  • Category

    Non Fiction


Examines the threat to the delicate Alpine ecology of pasture and forest posed by growing tourism, pollution and acid rain. Includes black and white stills of early tourism, scenery, local customs, building for tourism, skiing and natural disasters such as an avalanche and floods/mud slides.

Looks at the development of tourism in the area, from being seen as an inhospitable area where few settled in the middle ages to the eighteenth century when philosophers and poets began to extol the virtues of natural beauty. The infrastructure necessary to support tourism (roads, train routes, car parks, funiculars, cable cars and ski lifts) have led to deforestation and floods in the area as previously permeable ground is rendered impermeable. Skiing also erodes slow-growing alpine grass which is permeable.

Damage to trees caused by acid rain and traffic pollution is shown as are the scientific studies being carried out. Forests were previously the first line of defence against avalanches.

The traditional labour of farming is also being abandoned as the next generation is lured by tourism and areas not suitable for tourism (i.e. no snow) become emptier. Unworked land causes erosion and unfarmed land becomes more susceptible to avalanches.

A Man and Biosphere study is being carried out to assess the impact of tourism on the landscape and the cultural communities of the Alps. In Obergurgl governance of the land has been kept in the hands of the locals, so big business has been kept at bay. In Grindelwald the authorities have introduced a voluntary restriction on second home development. They have also reduced capacity for a new cable car being planned, this reduces necessary car park space. In Chateau d' Oex attempts are being made to maintain a strong relationship between tourism and the local culture and farmers, and attract visitors who want more natural settings. Shows decoupage and a festival for farmers returning from the mountains with their cows.

Cast & Credits

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