Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sustainable Tourism Chapter 8, Relational Summary

Sustainable Tourism Chapter 8 
Bringing the David Weaver Textbook to Life
Relational Summary by T.H. Culhane

My first trip to the cultural landscape of the Pennsylvania Dutch, aka the “Amish”, was to visit a massive vertical farm in a greenhouse surrounded by pastures with grain silos  and quaint red barns topped with photovoltaic solar panels with people in 18th century garb going to and fro in horse carriages rimmed with LED lights.  It has become a popular tourist destination, and every year I bring students from Envisaj Mercy, the Mercy College Environmental Sustainability and Justice League, who drive three and a half hours down from New York to see the modern day miracle of how the Amish produce 7 to 20 times the amount of fresh salad greens  and vegetables per acre all year round with less than 20% of the water and with no pesticides and, best of all with no soil.  That means no soil erosion, no contamination with fertilizer run off causing eutrophication and fish kills collapse of riparian, lacustrine and coastal ecosystems downstream.  We got fresh unpasteurized ice cream made from raw milk made from grass fed cows and attended rabbit and chicken and turkey auctions at local county fairs surrounded by booths selling Trump hats and T shirts and lawn signs and  posters  urging us to “Make America Great Again’ by putting America’s first female Presidential candidate behind bars.   Make America great again by going back to the 19th century?  But which 19th century is this? The one in the  alternative steampunk universe of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells   where  we all did vertical aeroponic farming on an indusrial scale? 
The ecologically conscious Amish and English (non-Amish) guides who gave us the tour of the impressive Aero farm showed us a massive trailing tomato  vine that was five years old and still growing and producing organic fruit after five winters, and showed how they pull lettuce heads right out of the tower garden and pop them in a plastic bag, roots and all, without needing to wash them, because there is no dirt and they have never been sprayed by anything toxic, and, best of all, they don’t need to be refrigerated because they are, they told us “still alive, and will keep growing and stay fresh without refrigeration as they are trucked up to New York to the market and after you get them home”.
Given that 40 to 60% of America’s produce has to be thrown away before it even gets to the market, much of it because it spoils on the way even while costing the consumer enormous amounts of money because of the cost of refrigeration, this solution of shipping living vegetables is so innovative it sounds like something out of a science fiction movie.   We learned on the tour that a box of  this aeroponic lettuce had been left in the trunk of a car on a hot summer day for three days, and when they opened it, the lettuce was still growing and was crisp and tasty.
If a trip to the hydroponics section of the Land Pavilion of Disney’s EPCOT center theme park is supposedly a voyage into some vague simulacrum of  tomorrowland, the trip to Amish country is a trip into the reality of post-modern hybridity where offstage and onstage cultural and market forces are shaping a whole new reality.
Weaver says about the Amish Lancaster county and other cultural landscapes on page 133 “The realtionaship between these landscapes and the tourism industry is complex and often uneasy, in that the cultural landscape is an amalgam of public and private spaces upon which the tourism industry is often dependent but over which the latter has little or no control… the tourism industry, however, benefits from these landscape on a largely cost-free basis by not having to pay any rent to the owners of the scenery and other tourism resources. This can cause resentment on the part of residents, especially if elements of the tourism industry such as accomodations and built attractions  become increasingly visible in the landscape and in their own right contribute to the degradation of its scenic quality”.
However, this concern is predicated on the assumption that tour operators have the most agency and that local communities are merely passive players in the tourism theater.  In the case of the Amish, they have non-Amish business allies known as the “English” who do the interfacing with outsiders, and because capturing revenue is important and we live in an age of “disintermediation” it is more and more the case that local people are calling the shot. As an example, take a look at this website for the Aeroponic Facility in Lacaster.  Not only do they have an official form for scheduling tours, which are available Monday through Friday from 10 to 3, but they cater to out of town visitors by giving 10% discounts at the Stoltzfus B&B, a lovely 19th century farm house.  There is little worry that the Amish are being exploited.  Far from being “frozen in time” by tourists expectations, the Amish maintain the look of the landscape and their own dress and traditional practices because it suits them.  They are quite post modern in that they pick and choose the elements of the past, present and future that THEY want and present it to the tourists not just as a way of making money as though they were living in a theme park, but in a deliberate attempt to INFLUENCE the visitor.  As they say on the website “We love talking about growing fresh, healthy food through aeroponics! And the best place for a discussion of aeroponics is standing in our greenhouse with a full view of the aeroponics system in action.”
Some people in the county also love discussing politics and religion, and there is little fear of cultural erosion occurring just because outsiders are visiting.  On the contrary, tourism can provide a way for people in remote periphery areas to  affect the outside world, showing off their best practices, so as to PROTECT their worldview against incursion by unsustainable practices from the urban core.  What may have started out as Circumstantial Alternative Tourism, or CAT, becomes a form of Deliberate Alternative Tourism, or DAT.
What seems to count most, according to Weaver, is whether the destination in question is WHOLLY DEPENDENT on tourism or whether it retains an identity outside of tourism that can keep it vibrant and help it maintain its integrity.

For example, in many urban tourist areas such as London, Paris, Sydney, Prague and Washington, Sustainable Mass Tourism or SMT is more easily achieved because “the main structural  characteristic that distinguishes these urban places from tourism cities is the fact that the tourism accounts for only a small component of all economic activity within the city. Their spatial and symbolic distinctiveness, moreover, is not primarily influenced by tourism, which has a less visible impact on the cultural landscapes or community composition… the concept of applying the destination life cycle to London or Paris as a whole is untenable and also because multiple factors and environments external to tourism will substantially influence the physical landacpaces and attitudes of residents. Among other effects, the urban economy is not as likely to be universally depressed by seasonal fluctuations in the tourism sector”.  P.141.
And this dynamic needn’t only apply to big cities.  The Amish are going to be Amish whether the tourists come or not.  They have fought hard for the identity and landscape they maintain, and if anything most members of their community will strive to turn tourism to their advantage as a way of influencing the outside world.
And this can be true of indigenous groups as well.  Weaver tells us on page 144 that “Approximately 400 million people or 7 per cent of the world’s population are considered ‘indiginous”insofar as they are recognized as the original inhabitants of a particular area or the people who occupied that area prior to colonization by the current residents. Despite their relatively small numbers, however, they constitute a majority of substantial minority within as much as one-half of the earth’s land area”, particularly those places that many so called “eco-tourists” now want to visit.

Some have  felt that tourism would unequivocably have an erosive effect on their culture, even when it was part of a “strategy to overcome economic deprivation and initiate a cultural revival, as per the advocacy platform.  When the political situation was not sustainable to begin with (for example where there is high unemployment reflected through cultural discrimination) then “indicator bench marks using the status quo are normally inappropriate  since this would involve sustaining the unsustainable…
This may include our application of sustainability indicators that measure   “percentage of land in protected areas”, which is usually regarded as a good indicator of environmental quality, but which ignores the fact that  certain ecological features, such as the availability of a wide variety of food producing plants  in a rain forest or the maintenance of biodiversity is more often  actually  the result of historical good practices by indigenous groups interacting with nature in a sustainable way that Western society is still struggling to learn.   Robinson (1999) for example “regards this issue as as indicative of the conflict between indigenous tradition and the Eurocentric concept of environmentalism that has largely informed the sustainability debate.  Eurocentrism is also evident in the assumption of Urlich Cloher  and others that DAT is the option most sympathetic with indigenous communities. “ p. 144.
What if the natives are restless and are no longer happy with  the idea of having to dress up in grass skirts and juggling fire in Luaus? What if they want to explore their own ways of creating Sustainable Mass Tourism that embrace post-modern hybridity, creating their own pastiche of ancient and modern practices and dress codes?  What if different players in the society want to do things differently? Weaver reminds us on page 145 that “Rightly or wrongly, it is commonly assumed that indigenous people are attuned to a communal or community approach to making decisions…however this assumption must be reassessed, since some indegnous communities have also been associated with nepotism, clan rivalries and other problems, based on tradition or not, that have negative implications for the sustainability of certain groups or individuals within those groups.”
Many of these problems, however, seem to be easier to deal with when the Eurocentric hegemony that is the legacy of colonialism is replaced by a simple overall respect for all people regardless of their ethnic or cultural heritage. For example, Robinson talks about the  emerging ‘permission to gaze” model in which indigenous people decide what is made available for tourist consumption and under what terms, so that their own version of an ‘authentic’ and ‘unsustainable ‘ tourism  experience is featured.” P. 145.

Interestingly, this is what is happening in the island communities of the Amish – islands because they are cultural pockets deliberately  isolated from the broader American society, but where they are determining what ‘authentic’ means.  The big difference is that the Amish are a European “indigenous” group who, despite their desire to hold on to centuries old traditions and resist government and corporate influence over their “low technology” lifestyle, have not suffered the prejudices and structural impediments that plague people of color and those who suffered from the legacy of colonialism. 
On page 136 Weaver talks about Doxey’s 1975 “Irridex” or IRRITATION INDEX model of community responses to tourism, which suggests parallels with Butler’s destination life cycle model.  Like the S curve, it starts out great but doesn’t end well, progressing through stages from Euphoria, where visitors are welcome but there is little planning, to Apathy, where visitors are taken for granted and contact becomes more formal, to Annoyance, where saturation is approached and the local people begin to have misgivings while planners attempt to control the situation via increasing infrastructure rather than limiting growth, and finally antagonism, where the local openly express their irritation.  In this scenario planning is remedial but paradoxically promotion of the destination is increased in order to offset the deteriorating reputation of the area and the decline in interest.
Remember the movie Jaws, and the dilemma the mayor of Amity Island faced after the first couple of shark attacks?
The challenge, as Weaver points out in section 8.3.1, is that it is dreadfully hard to define precisely WHO the community is. He reminds us that many of the most vocal pro tourism or con tourism members of the community “may actually account for only a small minority. Destinations usually contain several competing interest groups and T. Manning (199) goes so far as to suggest that a ‘communty’ is little more than an agglomeration of competing special interest groups.
The idea that successful advocacy groups are able to fulfil their vested interests reflects the broader truism that the costs and benefits from tourism within a community are not equally distributed, even in cases where alternative tourism is practiced. This complicates efforts to achieve consensus, which can be used as an indicator of sociocultural sustainability. During the era of the cautionary platform, the irridex model of Doxy proposed that community attitudes progress uniformly from euphoria through to apathy, annoyance and antagonism as tourism evolves through the destination life cycle. However this notion of an evolving consensus has since been refuted by numerous investigations that reveal conflicting attitudes and community discord at all stages of development in all types of destinations, with those in favour of tourism typically being those who benefit from employment within the sector. An additional complication is that many residents acknowledge positive economic benefits from tourism at the same time that they express concerns about concomitant sociocultural and environmental costs. ” P. 136.
And those special interest groups also appeal to special interest groups in the tourist population.  So, for example, some tourists may go to a coastal location, say in Australia as part of the GCV or Gold Coast visioning project mentioned in the book, to surf and party, while others like me may go to study insect diversity in the rainforests Lamington National park, as I did on an Earthwatch expedition in 1995 while  still others will visit the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre and have their faces painted and learn to throw Boomerangs.  Critics may contend that this is not an authentic experience in that the aborigines are now capitalizing on myths about their past and when they go home for the day they wash off the paint and wear trousers and go out drinking in the pubs of Brisbane rather than sit around the campfire in walkabout dreamtime.  The same criticism is vituperatively launched against the recreated Maya city at the Xcaret Maya theme park in Cancun, saying that it is totally contrived. But Lawton (2001a) found that the residents of the Gold Coast regard highly contrived and commercial specialized built attractions as contributing in a very positive way to their personal quality of life” while Weaver points out that “tourism cities may be described as the consummate spatial expression of post-modernism… (and) they are also symbolically distinct in that their identity is inextricably linked to their emphasis on tourism and leisure. This is extremely significant from a sustainable perspective in that tourism is more of a basis for the destination’s sense of place than an activity that has usurped a pre-existing identity. Theme parks and casinosl often castigated as placeless intruders in other urban areas are very much part of the identity of tourism cities such as Las Vegas rather than necessarily a negative indicator.” (p. 140).
And what is wrong with the idea of Australian Aborigines or the descendants of the Maya making a living engaging in their rituals in front of a paying public in a theme park or resort that recreates the architecture and environments of their past?  Far from being erased by tourism, one could say they are getting a chance to bring their cultural influences to a larger slice of humanity. And since many of the cultural practices came out of the abundant leisure time that many indigenous groups had – Anthropologist Marshal Sahlins called hunter gatherer groups “the original affluent society” after all – couldn’t it be argued that tourism’s leisure activity raison d’etre is the perfect place to continue the evolution of these practices?
Destinations, Weaver tells, us, are inherently complex places in which the pursuit of sustainability is critically influenced by factors such cultural landscape, scale, boundaries, absolute and relative location and the fact that all destinations are positioned withing and influenced by a nested hierarchy of other destinations and the presence of permanent resident populations or communities.” (p 148)   A Green Globe 21 Community  Standard now accompanies the Company Standard featured in Chapter 7, based on a trajectory of involvement that begins with Affiliate or Awareness status and progress to Benchmarked and Certified Status, and given the complexities of human societies, the biggest different between Community Standards and Company standards in Green Globe is that community standards place “greater emphasis on community consultation and participation and in formulating a sustainable tourism destination master plan.” (p. 148).  But there is no goal as “amorphous and subjective” than sustainabile tourism, Weaver reminds us, particularly since we live on a planet where every square inch is now a conceivable tourist destination, and deisntations are a “complicated amalgam of public and private sector componenets represented by numerous stakeholders ranging in their awarenss and pursuit of sustianbility from highly active to apathetic and even hostile.” (p. 148.
Certainly small islands are substantially over-represented as tourist destinations with just 0.3 percent of the population but 4.6 percent of all international stayowvers, with tourism accounting for as much as 70 percent of the economy. (p. 146), and these islands may be the most important battlegrounds for ecological sustainability, biodiversity preservation and cultural distinctiveness because of the endemism and the species richness and the fragility that isolation over evolutionary time created.  But it is perhaps because the entire world is now a tourist destination that we can have some hope to preserve these sensitive areas.  After I went to a very popular  tropical beach party in the city of Munich, Germany, on a completely false beach replete with coconut trees and lapping waves, and visited an ice skating rink on the outskirts of the slums in Manila in the Phillipines, I realized that much of what tourists are craving can be contrived anywhere, and it may be possible to preserve endangered species and ecosystems and their services precisely by recreating the leisure aspects of fragile natural landscapes elsewhere.  And if people want to eat farm grown sustainably harvested vegetables and watch people ride about in horse carts or dance with face paint and throw boomerangs then there is no reason these cultural practices and their landscapes can’t expand outside of their original regions of origin.  After all, if Europeans can turn most of America into a simulacrum of the English countryside with its lawns and brick buildings and English sparrows and sheep and cows, we can also turn parts of Europe into a land of tee pees and Bison.  Tourism may have started Circumstantially, with explorers discovering a cool practice or a neat area and invited others to visit as well.  But when the demand grows there are two ways to deal with it.
1) Try to figure out how to preserve the destination while encouraging more and more visitors to check it out, creating at DAT or SMT situation or
2) Trying to figure out how to create more and more places with the desirable characteristics of the original destination.
At some point in our post modern world, tourism may stop being a phenomenon where wealthy folks leave home to seek out a rare experience, but rather a part of the normal nomadic lifestyle that most human beings engaged in since we began to walk upright, going, like aborigines and other nomads, on walkabout, sharing songs and stories of where we’ve been and where we would like to go until we go on our final journey into dream time.
And with that, I would like to end with a poem, inspired by the CAT in the HAT by Dr. Seuss, called “When CAT turns to DAT”.

Circumstantial Altnerative Tourism (CAT) is great,
but it rarely sustains, so that sooner or later,
the crowds start to grow as the locale starts to cater
to higher demand
Causing harm to  the land,
so the way that things were,
 following Bulter’s s-curve, can no longer persist In a comfortable way
and that’s where planning comes in, to try and save the day.

If the CAT goes to DAT, well then, what’s wrong with that?
Circumstantial Alternative Tourism turning into Deliberate Alternative Tourism…
If you plan tourism well, and you know where you’re at…
oh the places you’ll go… oh the things we’ll create…
If we can just take it slow, if we can achieve steady state…
The danger of course is without strong regulation
The DAT may turn into a UMT operation (Unsustainable Mass Tourism)
Where the pressure on resources destroys destinations.
And where fixing the problem leads to only frustration
With spoiled beaches, high crime rates,… and that won’t attract any tourists…
why, just ask any Haitian.
The desirable outcome is of course SMT – Sustainable Mass Tourism
Cause there’s no going back to when things were pristine
So we look for the best ways to handle the crowd,
Passing laws to tell tourists what’s no longer allowed
Closing nutrient loops and recycling
Urging low impact hiking, encouraging biking,
And hoping “Green Tourism” is to everyone’s liking

in some ways its easier to start with a place
That has no real nature, no cultural face
A once vibrant city that’s seen better days,
Like the new tourist district down in downtown LA
Or out in the desert , like the town of Las Vegas
Where anything goes, because what’s contrived is what makes us,
come there…
You see tourists don’t really know what sustainability means, as long as a place has no crime and is clean
And exciting to visit and at least somewhat green,
with clean air to breath and clean water for swimming,
“authentic” or “man-made” for most men and women
Is only as important as the reaction they get,
When they are telling their friends where they went,  what they did and  bought, who they met
The Gold Coast of Australia’s the textbook example
Where “unremitting arrival” threatens resources once ample
with Butler’s stagnation, in what was once a surfer paradise
Now increasingly congested with high rises and vice
But they’ve pulled in the hinterland, with its quaint farms and rain forests
To handle the spill over through a border now porous
Between UMT and DAT, in a complex mosaic of Hypertourism sprawl
Where every place on earth now heeds tourism’s call
Whether urban or  rural
or the fringe in between
The world is complex, but there’s plenty to see
If we just make a commitment to avoid U M T."

I hope you enjoyed that and I hope you'll use your creativity to bring Weaver's textbook to life so that everybody can enjoy thinking about and contributing to our dialog about Sustainable Tourism. See you next time!

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