Thursday, September 8, 2016

Chapter 4 Sustainable Tourism by David Weaver Relational Summary with Photos

Chapter 4:  Conventional Mass Tourism
Structure of the formal tourism industry
Dominance of the private sector
There was a time in the history of Western Civilization when people who had enormous political power, as well as most of those who were beholden to them, convinced themselves that the Earth was the center of the universe.  These were strongly self-centered individuals who had elaborate and complex philosophical and artistic models constructed to place themselves in the middle of everything important, declaring their cities the “center” of the action and everything else the “periphery”. 
The absurdity and hubris of this “solipsist” worldview had been keenly debated by the Greeks and Romans thousands of years earlier;  “solipsistic ” was coined to describe who believes that  nothing exists outside one’s own mind and today, according to the great Wiki in the cybersky, “solipsism is often introduced in the context of relating it to pathological psychological conditions”. 
Science from the days of  Pythagoras and Plato to Copernicus and Kepler and Galileo and on to our times with  Jane Goodall and the Hubble Space Telescope, have radically decentered our species and our planet, challenging Judeo-Christian-Islamic claims to Homo sapiens centrality, but, and here’s the tie in with our course theme, there is a focus on “self-centered sustainability incentives within the tourism industry” (see p 60) that brings this old debate front and… well… center.
So we need to start with Ethics, and what the Dominance of the Private Sector in tourism activity says about our ethical responsibilities as humans who have  the unusual and historically novel privilege of flying all over the planet on a whim in huge numbers.  Since the pressures created by this new found ability of Homo sapiens and its impacts have no precedent in the history of life on Earth we need to seriously confront the ethical and philosophical dilemmas it poses.
On p. 60, Weaver reminds us that “Most of the tourism industry in the MDCs is controlled by the private sector, with public sector ownership in major tourist origin countries being limited to certain types of attraction”, mostly national parks and historical sites. He cautions that “such patterns are relevant from a sustainability perspective since the public sector is normally mandated to represent the population as a whole rather than particular interests and is not as constrained by the imperative of producing short-term financial returns. Accordingly, it can be argued that the public sector is more amenable to pursuing sustainability than the private sector, which must be attracted (likely at the minimalist level at first) with incentives that offer self-centered possibilities of profit and self-advocacy.”
“Self centered possibilities”. Clearly a problem since the solipsist view is implicated in the very pathologies that lead to unsustainable outcomes in the first place.  Corporations and other “private sector” players have been likened to “externalization machines” whose self-centered logic pushes all the negative consequences of their actions, called by economists, “negative externalities”, to the external world, to the periphery, dumping all their problems and pollution basically into somebody else’s back yard.  With a blind faith that Adam Smith’s widely misunderstood “invisible hand” is going to come in like the Cat in the Hat and suddenly clean up the mess if we just keep focusing on self interest, unless there really  is some “Deus Ex Machina” that can “save our asses”, sustainable tourism without the public sector’s interests incentives and regulatory checks and balances seems highly unlikely.
Still there is “a discernable longstanding movement within the conventional business sector to incorporate ethical concerns” and “reflect societal expectations of ‘right’ behavior that for a variety of reasons have not been articulated by formal laws.  Expressed in the philosophy of corporate responsibility or ‘CSR’, the ethical approach advocates social justice to be pursued because it is the right thing to do and because economic clout creates special social responsibilities (Walle 1995).
In marketing, says Weaver, “this is reflected in Kotler’s ‘societal marketing concept’ which advocates ‘long-term consumer welfare’ as a core principle that needs to be taken into consideration to the more traditional goals of customer satisfaction and profitability (Crane 2000). An ethical foundation for business decisions may derive from religious fiat (i.e. “Do unto others…”) and/or from a realization that the failure to behave ethically will eventuate in disastrous consequences, in which case the foundation is an expression of the principle of enlightened self-interest”.(p61).
Interestingly, historians and academics are beginning to rediscover Adam Smith’s great work, “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” of which his famous “Wealth of Nations”, which espouses the confident virtues of self-interest taught in almost every introductory economics or business course, was just one part.  The Theory of Moral Sentiments from 1759 makes many of the same arguments about intergenerational enlightened self-interest made by todays CSR advocates.  So it seems that the “sudden introduction” of these core principles may actually be an indicator of just how bad things are getting.  In other words, it appears that while there were still huge short term profits to be made for most solipsist businesses pursuing pathological myopic self-centered sustainability (which mostly meant trying to sustain the financial profit margin), it was convenient to throw out the ethical foundations society had been struggling with for centuries. Now that the party is ending, some tourism businesses, along with other industries, are realizing they have little choice than to make decisions in which “the shorter-term profitability considerations are transcended by longer-term social and environmental considerations”. P 61.
And so we see the emergence of a Greener tourism industry.  But don’t be fooled.  Part of the decision of some players  in the sector to “go green” is simply a desire to capitalize on the emergence of the   “Green Consumer”.
Ah, Begorrah, as we Irish would say, “Bless the Green Consumer”, they may just save civilization yet!
Says Weaver, “Green consumers appear to constitute a large and growing portion of society in the more developed countries”, with an increase in ‘green products’ as a share of new US product introductions that has gone from 2.8% in 1988 to 9.5% less than a decade later. US organic products have gone from $178 million in revenue back in 1985 to over $3 billion in 1996. The trend is clear.  One can now get healthy food in the Dollar Store and Ross Dress for Less, as I did last night, with organic labelling and huge posters about protecting our environments and helping people dominating the walls in Walmart and Aldi.  Socially Responsible Investment portfolios have grown from $40 billion dollars in assets in 1984 to 2.16 TRILLION dollars in 2003. And that was over a decade ago. The trend is actually accelerating.
Who wouldn’t want to jump on that band-wagon?   There’s gold in them thar hills!

Weaver identifies five consumer market segments that the business world now uses to strategize just how green they should be. The segments come from the “Roper Survey” which in 1996 used clustering techniques to identify “five relative homogenous groups of American adult consumers”.
The first two of those groups they call “true-blue greens” and “greenback greens”.  These consist of “active environmentalists who are “most likely to fulfil the litmus test of active environmentalism by purchasing more expensive ‘environmentally friendly products and by otherwise taking environmental and social considerations into account for their everyday lives”. Many businesses began to cater to this growing segment, and even oil companies joined the hopeful move to accommodate what was seen as increasing  demand and political clout.  Shell Oil changed its name to Shell Energy and opened a Shell Solar division, and BP changed its name from British Petroleum to Beyond Petroleum even as they started participating in an  increasingly lucrative emissions trading market. In recent years, however, these marketing ploys have been reversed as analysts see fluctuations in the purchasing power of the true-blues and greenbacks.  Together they now account for only about 15 percent of the population, down from about 22 percent in 1990, and businesses are sensitive to these changing dynamics.
Two other groups that have a little more economic power are known as the “grousers” and “basic browns”, who Weaver tells us “account for over one-half of the population and are characterized by indifference and/or unwillingness to take environmental  considerations into account in their behavior unless they are required to.”  This is the segment of the market that most private enterprises play to, and in the absence of public sector regulations or some other external incentive, there becomes a cozy relationship between this 50% of consumers and suppliers who are more than happy to cut corners and engage in business as usual to keep them buying.

And then there are the “sprouts”, making up the remaining fluctuating third of the population. These are “conditional environmentalists whose environmental engagement  vacillates in accordance with convenience and other factors”. (p. 63.)
Other studies and surveys done in other countries find similar curves.  A study by Ray and Anderson in the late 1990s “identified 26 percent of American adults as ‘cultural creatives’ whose activist and holistic world view includes strong environmentalist tendencies and core ‘green values”, while finding on the other end of the spectrum 25% socially and culturally conservative ‘traditionals’ who are less likely to ascribe to strong environmentalist views, although many do hold strong desires to restore  the environment to ‘the way it used to be’… whatever that means…
The remaining 50% of the population, according to them, “consists of mainstream ‘moderns’ who are comfortable  with the commercialized urban-industrialized world and notions of growth and ‘progress’, which they regard as normative and desirable.
The priorities for almost all of them, by which I guess I mean almost all of us, for we are them, seems to be career advancement and material well being, and it can be said that the tipping point comes when the way to be more comfortable or to ‘get ahead’ becomes aligned with green practices.  If there is anything hopeful about all this it is that from a market trend perspective, the cultural creative cohort has dramatically increased since the 1960s, when they made up only about 5 % of the population  and the traditionals accounted for more than 50%.  So we are making generational progress.
Today, because it has become particularly  trendy in Europe, the green consumer base there , which  now makes up 45 to 60 % of some countries, is changing its habits, partially in response to perceived environmental problems.  And in Britain, a nation whose empire and its colonies were  arguably responsible for a majority of the social and environmental problems we face on the planet,   this green base is part of a now 90% of the population that claims to be “generally concerned’ about the natural environment its forefathers raped and pillaged.
Of course, given the magnitude and pace of the problem, we still have to remain just a little suspicious what that “general concern” amounts to and how we can leverage it toward positive gains.
While it is easy for the  self-avowed environmentalists and  sustainability advocates, who actualize their consciousness on a daily basis, and who now  make up a quarter of the population,  to point fingers at the other quarter of any given population that are avowed ‘non-environmentalists’ who do not make any particular concessions to environmental concerns in their everyday lives or voting patterns,  it is hard to know what to do about what Weaver calls “VENEER ENVIRONMENTALISTS” – people who claim to be environmentalists but “engage only in green behavior that is convenient and does not threaten their standard of living or consumer life style.  These superficial environmentalists, for example are enthusiastic  proponents of ‘soft’ green activities such as recycling, but would be reluctant to support and environmental tax on gasoline that would significantly increase their transportation costs. Similarly they usually avoid green products that are ‘too expensive’ or ‘less effective’ even though they indicate an intention and preference for consuming such practices.” (p. 64).
I have my own ideas of what to do about this, of course.  I am a professor of sustainability, and fairly radical when it comes to my own lifestyle choices.  I lived for three years off grid in Los Angeles at the urban Eco-village, using a self-built composting toilet and hot water system and self-installed photovoltaics,  I’ve ridden the bus and bicycled – an unicycled ! – as my main form of transportation  for all of my adult life, a challenge that was particularly difficult  in California and Florida. I turn almost all my food wastes into my  own cooking fuel and fertilizer, grow as much of my food as I can, eschew the use of detergents and shampoos, won’t support the fashion industry, buy things second hand and recycle and, after being vegetarian and vegan for years, have no spent almost a decade avoiding sugar, coffee and tea and other non-nutritional cash crops, and for the last half decade have almost completely eliminated the products of grain agriculture and monoculture for my diet, especially wheat, corn, rice, sugar, potatoes, barley, oats, millet, soy, milk and peanuts.  I engage in what is called the “Paleo healthy lifestyle”.  And when I travel I tend to engage in voluntourism and educational tourism first, then  backpacking, hostel travelling, guest house, and farm visit and urban cultural heritage alternative tourism types.  For empirical study and research reasons professionally as well as personal conviction,   I am experimenting with fashioning myself to be as close to the sustainable tourist ideal as I can, both when travelling and in my daily life.   Attempting to live with these self-imposed challenges does make me feel much healthier and balanced and happy on a personal level, and on a philosophical level gives me the psychological comfort that I am being “ethico-ecologically” consistent with my sustainability values.

So how do I engage with others in the spectrum of lifestyles and attitudes described by Weaver in our book?  How do I think we should deal with traditionalists, and veneer environmentalists and even people who are actively pursuing destructive agendas as they pursue their own self-interest?
What I have found first of all, is that if we truly want to  attempt to abandon the solipsism that has plagued so much of our existence and led to the current sustainability crisis, then we have to de-center ourselves.  If any one of us takes on a holier-than-thou attitude because of our sustainability commitments, then I believe we have stumbled back into the same trap that caught those who created the very problems we claim to be fighting. We must see ourselves as part of an organic whole that is evolving and is dynamic.  We have to believe in our common future by seeing the commonalities we share with all other human beings and with all other creatures, and try to never set ourselves apart.
In my opinion we have to help the paradigm shift along by understanding that most human beings, like all other animals and plants, evolved in systems that worked by maximizing reproductive success in a context of overlapping ecological webs.  It is scientifically accurate to say we are ALL connected, that we are all part of the weave that makes the tapestry of sustainability possible, and that each strand in the weave had its own valid, rational reasons for contributing its particular color, strength and pattern to the whole. If we want the picture that emerges to reflect beauty, we must honor each of the players and learn to work with them rather than against them.

Channeling Thomas Kuhn’s 1970 “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, Weaver cautions us at the end of the chapter, on p 67, “Whether the infiltration of green proclivities into conventional tourism is a significant trend or not depends in part on whether this can be situated as part of a broader paradigm shift  in society.  A paradigm is a COLLECTIVE world view more or less accepted as normative within a particular culture, and a paradigm shift begins when the currently dominant paradigm can no longer adequately explain or internalize evidence that contradicts its core assumptions. Gradually, one or more competing paradigms emerge that more convincingly explain these contradictions and eventually one of these new paradigms becomes dominant.”
Just as the theological paradigm of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that put us at the center of the universe was gradually replaced by the post-modern scientific paradigm that deprivileged us and helped us understand  our deep connection to all existence, the dominant western environmental paradigm that is “associated with environmentally destructive technologies, ‘rational’ economic theories that value GDP growth and material acquisition above all else and a social Darwinian approach to human relationships” is giving way to a new environmental paradigm that will one day seem as obvious to us as the need to wash our hands or look both ways when crossing a street. 

If you are one of those true-blue green cultural creatives who has suffered some feeling of alienation because our culture club of strong rather than veneer sustainability advocates has been in the minority, take heart.  The paradigm is shifting, and you can help it simply by living it and loving it, and loving everyone else you meet so that when they see that you are following Gandhi’s advice to “be the change you want to see in the world” they feel inspired rather than intimidated.  We are all in this together and sustainability isn’t just one way of doing things, it is the only way to do things if we want to survive. Your job is simply to make it more attractive than the alternative.
Welcome aboard.

In situ nature of tourism consumption
Emergence of the ‘green consumer’
Consumer segments
Incipient green markets
The ‘green tourist’
Green proclivities and altruism
Shades of green
Factors underlying the relative obscurity of the green tourist.
Paradigm shift
Advantages of large economies of scale
Diverse skills and competencies
Enhanced capacity to innovate
Profiting from Sustainability
Influencing distribution systems
Case study: Advocating for sustainable travel at tourism concern.

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