Sex, ski resorts and global warming

Climate change gets blamed for meddling with Bulgaria's prostitution industry.

Published March 6, 2007 9:34PM (EST)

Who doesn't love a story that mixes together sex, skiing and global warming? So when the Environmental Economics blog linked to a blurb in the U.K.'s trashy Metro newspaper reporting that an escort agency manager in Sofia, Bulgaria, was complaining that rising temperatures were hurting her business, further investigation was required.

According to the Metro, a lack of snow at Bulgarian ski resorts has left patrons spinning their wheels. Petra Nestorova is quoted as declaring that this sad state of affairs is encouraging top-quality hookers to hightail it to the resorts and provide some alternative entertainment.

The Metro's account is unbylined and reads suspiciously like an urban fairy tale. But it doesn't have to be true to be useful.

News reports indicate that Bulgarian ski resorts did report low levels of snowfall in January and February. Whether this is just a random fluctuation or can be directly linked to rising temperatures attributable to global warming is, as we like to say in every other post at How the World Works, difficult to prove, but there certainly has been no shortage of reports predicting problems for Europe's ski industry in upcoming decades if temperatures continue to rise. This could pose particular difficulties for Bulgaria, where the biggest ski resorts, such as Bansko, tend to be fairly low in altitude.

Bansko is an interesting case, as it has been carved out of a national park, and is the subject of ongoing criticism from environmentalists who make a pretty good case that just about every environmental law or regulation on the Bulgarian or European Union books has been willfully broken by developers expanding the ski resort. Biodiversity be damned -- with the threat of global warming looming, the time is now for those who want to keep cashing in on Bulgaria's European niche as a cheap ski vacation destination where the government turns a tourist-friendly blind eye to rampant prostitution.

I will conjecture that back in 1989, most of those of us who watched, mouths hanging open, as the totalitarian Communist governments of the Eastern Bloc melted away like so much primo powder under a hot noonday sun, did not foresee that Bulgaria would soon become a hotbed of packaged ski tours and cheap hookers. We probably should have, but were too busy happily waving a fond goodbye to Brezhnevian-clone dictators like Bulgaria's Todor Zhivkov.

Eighteen years later, Bulgaria is the newest and poorest member of the European Union (it joined on Jan. 1, 2007). And after a few economic bumps along the way, it's got everything a good free market society could want, including 5 percent annual GDP growth, sex trafficking and out-of-control commercial ski resort development in national parks. And if the snow doesn't fall, heck, they'll make their own, and still be cheaper than the Swiss or Austrian Alps.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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