Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sustainable Tourism Chapter 9 Relational Summary

Weaver Sustainable Tourism Chapter 9
Relational Summary T.H. Culhane

The objective for this chapter is that you will be able to:
Employ the concepts of frontstage and backstage as a framework for assigning tourism of different intensities to suitable areas within a destination
Assess the circumstances under which assumptions of flexible and fixed carrying capacity, respectively, should be adopted by destination planners
Describe the utility of development standards as a means of ensuring the quality of tourism-related landscape modifications and
Evaluate the role of zoning, districting, redevelopment, purchase of development rights (PDR) agreements and trade-offs as spatial strategies that can be implemented by destination managers and planners to achieve sustainable tourism.
Let’s start by talking about the key concepts of front and backstage.
Back in the 1960s there was a lot of work done in social psychology into a subject famously captured by Irving Goffman in his book “The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life”, which Weaver tells us set the stage for the whole frontstage/backstage framework. This was at a time  when the psychologist  Eric Berne was exploring ‘Games People Play” in Transactional Analysis, talking about the “T-shirts” or “identification slogans” people wear out in public and how they often  differ from what and who they are in private.   It was also the era when  the Zoologist Anthropologist Desmond Morris was “Manwatching” the Naked Ape, explaining what narratives we tell about ourselves at the interface between beings and cultures and turning the lens of anthropology from a focus on so-called “primitive tribes” to modern Homo-sapiens.  The thinking was, as French philosopher Bruno La Tour expressed it “We have never been modern”, we are all tribal in our way, our rituals are equally bizarre and spectacular to people from outside our own cultures, and everywhere is potentially a subject for anthropology and, of course, a destination for tourism.
These kinds of analysis also inform our attempts at Sustainable Tourism, now formalizing into an understanding of the grand theater of tourism and the touristic gaze we talked about in Chapter 8, in which there are essentially two spatial realms in which residents of a tourist destination operate – the “front-stage” and the “back-stage”.   These are posited as two psychological realms as well, the former being public, the latter private (at least as far as outsiders to the community are concerned).
And because of the way the human animal tends to present itself,  a perception of which of the two realms one is operating in can  have remarkably different impact on the people being observed.

The irony to me is that the two realms or stages almost invariably align with the types of tourism activities we spoke about in the last chapter, with SMT (Sustainable Mass Tourism) and UMT (Unsustainable Mass Tourism) alike, or rather Mass Tourism in general, mapping onto the frontstage, and Circumstantial and Deliberate Alternative Tourism (CAT and DAT) tending to be all about integrating outsiders into some part of the backstage.

And therein lies the rub to me  -- to feel “authentic” or “non-commercial” a tourism activity needs to feel like it is going on within what the French call “La Vie Quotodienne” or the “daily life” of the culture being visited, and this implies a completely different level of tolerance and social etiquette than anything that is packaged and presented to the masses.
What we are saying is, in essence, that the two realms have completely different carrying capacities.
Weaver tells us on page 155, “The frontstage/backstage distinction has important implications for the realization of sustainable tourism outcomes. It can be argued that local residents are better able to cope with the demands and impacts of tourism if the brunt of such activity is confined to designated frontstage locations where, ideally various strategies are implemented to moderate the impacts of these activities so that DAT or SMT outcomes are achieved. Elements of the local culture are offered to tourists in commodified form within the frontstage, leaving the backstage as an area where the traditional and ‘authentic’ culture can be practiced and preserved  beyond the convention tourist gaze and where local residents can retreat and recuperate after their exposure to tourists in the frontstage.  It is because of this ‘sanctuary factor’ that the intrusion of even well meaning alternative tourists holds such a high potential for negative sociocultural consequences”.
McCannel (1976) differentiated 6 stages of what he described as transitional movement along the axis from  back-stage to front-stage:
Stage 1 is the “unapologetically  contrived performance areas” of places like Las Vegas (the star trek ride in the Casino is a good example since there is as yet no authentic spacefaring culture), stage two would be frontstages decorated with artifacts from the backstage, which you see in places like the Adventurers club at Downtown Disney and almost all of EPCOT’s World Showcase and many themed attractions based on real cultures and places; stage three are places like the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii or the St. Catherine Bedouin village in the Sinai I used to take school groups too, organized to appear like backstages but self-consciously recreating heritage architecture and ritual for the benefit of visitors; stage 4 would be real cultural villages that are regularly opened to tourists – like the Amish farms we talked about in the last chapter that are some of the prime provinces of alternative tourism. Stage 5 are locations like strict nature reserves and scientific bases where tourists are allowed only occasional and privileged access – Voluntourism oriented Earthwatch expeditions like the ones I worked on in the jungles of Australia and Brunei while surveying insect biodiversity and the tours I led visiting researches on  to see orangutans at our ecologically sensitive Harvard Field Site at Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo are examples of these… and then there are the stage six  “true backstages” like the village I stayed in called Teluk Melano in Borneo, or the home of orangutan researchers Birute Galdikas and her Dayak husband Pak Bohap, whom I visited,  with their 100 or so rehabilitating orangutans and gibbons who tromp through the living room whenever they feel like it, and could potentially face hazards from  any tourist who is not properly trained for such encounters.
But of course this is not just a continuum of space, but one of time, such that the same space may serve as frontstage at one time of day, for example a beach used by locals for subsistence activities and rituals on Sunday mornings or every day after dusk, but opened to sunbathers and swimmers during the day.  Weaver calls these “periodic frontstages”.
Weaver talks about the “longhouses” of Borneo, which I visited, and describes them as stage 4, essentially a backstage/frontstage hybrid  on p. 154 and he stresses that there is also considerable mobility between frontstages and backstages.  Essentially it comes down to how intrusive the people and other sentient beings in the landscape feel visitors are becoming.
In the case of the  Dayak people whose longhouses I visited, the tension was not between the tourists traipsing through the long house during the day and the indigenous families that live in them, it was between the tribal people and the  zealous fundamentalist missionaries in the area who were working with real estate developers and government officials to get the people to give up longhouses and move into single family dwellings.  As it was explained to me by an Indonesian Christian from Java as he took me around the new development “we don’t want to encourage the people to celebrate their longhouse tradition – it is sinful… it enables men and women from different families, men and women who are not married, to live under the same roof where they can see one another and hear one another doing private things.  This is shameful. We want them to move into private houses where they can develop good morality.”
He was fine with a couple of long houses remaining as cultural museum pieces for tourists but thought nobody should live in them.  On the other hand, some local Dyak activists wanted tourists to see the backstage reality of  their people living traditionally in the long house to help influence public policy so they could be allowed to retain their traditions, figuring that liberal westerners could be their advocates for a lifestyle under threat by the fundamentalist religious right.  So moving backstage frontstage can sometimes be a way to retain authenticity, rather than a way to simply commercialize it.
The world is a complex place.
The same narrative was given to me when I went to stay WITH missionaries in a Dyak village in the deep forest. Here the chief welcomed me to a two story bamboo and wood hut in which the bottom floor housed “babi hutan” or “forest pigs”.  When I went to use the bathroom, which was on the second floor, I noted that my fecal material fell into the downstairs pig pen.  The chief confirmed for me something that was also explained by a tattooed  Batak tribesman to me in Sumatera who said  “our culture is Christian because we live from the great meat of the Babi Hutan.  We rejected Islam, the dominant religion in Indonesia because it makes no sense to us. What God would forbid man to eat the pig? What God would force a man to work in the hot sun in a rice field which has no nutrition anyway? So we chose to be Christians when the missionaries came.”  But, just as I was shown in local fish restaurants in Sumatera, there was some conflict with the Westerners about how to feed your animals.  In the fish restaurant the dining area was built on stilts over the fish pond and  they had bird cages over the aquaculture pond. The waiter explained that the fish we were eating were cleverly fed by the birds that created such a wonderful mellifluous and colorful jungle ambience.  When I went downstairs to go to the bathroom I couldn’t help but notice that the human toilets also drained into the aquaculture pond. When I returned to my table and queried the waiter he confirmed my suspicions and affirmed that the fish was well cooked.  Talk about closed loop recycling sustainability – guests are thanked for their…er… contributions to the food. 
And so it was in the Dayak village – the pigs grew healthy and fat living on the incompletely digested toilet wastes of the people mixed with the other food waste and plant parts and offal that people don’t eat.  Sustainability in action.  The people didn’t have to hunt the pigs, or the jungle fowl… the chickens that they ate… the pigs and birds came to them. Same with the fish.  So far from being hunters and gatherers they didn’t have to go far to get their food – much of the plants they ate – taro root and fruits for example, grew near the huts, fertilized by the pig manure and chicken manure  -- we only had to leave the immediate vicinity of the village to  gather special herbs for the bumbu sauce, and for that the elder witch doctor brought us into the forest with little boys who were experts in clambering up the vines into the trees directed by her watchful gaze. 
Seated around the meal cross legged on the woven bamboo carpet the chief lamented “we have everything we need here in the forest, but most of our young men are leaving the village for the city.  They are attracted by jobs that will give them money to buy motor bikes so they can find girls and impress them. That is what this generation cares about – impressing girls they don’t know with loud engines. This is what is destroying our cultural heritage.”
Far from lamenting voluntourists like me, the elders were delighted to share this backstage with the outside world because they sensed that we appreciated their cultures and traditions. We traded stories of ecological living and how to make a society work and our mutual antipathy for or distrust of so called “Modern Life”. 

Once again I find myself making the point that many of the lenses we use to look at sustainable tourism through, in my opinion, are colored by an uncomfortable tendency among the descendants of hegemonic powers to assume no agency or broad cultural awareness on the part of people’s who have chosen to remain within ecological cycles that are more immediate than the “cradle to grave” consumption patterns that dominate late stage capitalism.
As far as I’m concerned this bias is even reflected in the assumptions Weaver and others make about “Flexible” and Fixed Carrying Capacity”.
 Weaver and Lawton, 2002, define the carrying capacity of an area as “the amount of tourism activity  that can be accommodated without incurring serious harm to a destination” and distinctions are often made between the 3 dimensions of sustainability that form the bedrock of our study – ecological, economic and social carrying capacities. Weaver states, “A basic premise in designating an area as backstage is that anything more than a minimal tourism-related change in this area is undesirable… accordingly, as depicted in figure 9.1a, fixed carrying capacity assumptions are warranted. That is, the level and mode of tourism activity are maintained below the critical carrying capacity threshold range of the destination, regardless of the actual level of tourism demand. This can be described as a supply side approach, in that the decision to accept this assumption of fixed carrying capacities is based on what the destination (i.e. the  supply) is deemed to be capable of supporting under these circumsatqnces. Such an assumption may be warranted under several circumstances, including a) the rea where the designation is being considered is known to be occupied by a fragile, relatively undisturbed natural environment or culture; b) its carrying capacity is unknown (in which case the precautionary principle is invoked); (c ) resources are not available to accommodate the intensification or expansion of tourism, and/or d) residents are opposed to intensification. More  generally , the decision is underpinned by the assumption that a strong sustainability approach is appropriate. P. 157.
But the supply side carrying capacity doesn’t always have to mean fixed limits.  The example I gave from my experiences in Borneo and Sumatera are also corroborated by experiences in Rural China. The venerable practice of farmers collecting “night soil”  shows that this same type of “tourist trapping” was considered desirable there too. In the case of night soil, Chinese farmers would provide road side outhouses and food attractions and encourage travelers to stop and use the facilities. They then applied the “humanure” collected on their fields to achieve higher yields. Later, as biodigesters were introduced by agricultural extension agents beginning in the 1950s with the blessing of the Mao Tse Tung administration during what they hoped would be “A great leap forward” the idea was that the more tourists they could attract to the countryside not only would they gain more fertility but energy to displace the need for forest destructive firewood and charcoal and for rural electrification. Chairman Mao himself said of the growing population, “every mouth that is born comes with two hands to feed it”.  So the suggestion is that tourists, by transporting not just their eyes and  hands and mouths from place to place, but their anuses and ureters too… could be a supply side asset.
I tend to focus on the issues of food waste and toilet waste and kitchens and bathrooms as important backstage areas that need to be brought front and center because so many of the problems with unsustainable mass tourism really result simply from the wastes these two mostly hidden spaces produce – a beach I went to in the tourist resort enclave of  Latakia on the coast of Syria got every one of our tourist group very sick because the new hotels dumped their sewage right into the Mediterranean bay upstream from where we were swimming.  The acrid smelling air and huge problems with air pollution there are directly the result of burning organic wastes from the hotel restaurants.  And these are not really problems caused by the number of tourists per se, but the way their wastes are mismanaged.
One of the problems is that we Westerners, who the denizens of the East  at times described a “barbarians”  have tended to bring such bad practices with us as part of the development package that naturally the precautionary principle cautions us to “set limits on the number of these destructive creatures as you can.” Erik Erikson, the anthropologist and psychologist found similar attitudes toward Europeans by native Americans who told him, “what kind of a beast shits in the drinking water supply, creating disease ?  We do our business in the forest so that it can be used by the insects and fungi and others to create more trees”. Does a bear shit in the woods?
One of my proudest moments as a voluntourist was my second trip to the highlands of Nepal with National Geographic. The previous year I had trekked the Khumbu valley trail to Mount Everest base camp to install windmills, solar electric and solar hot water systems in the village of Dingboche and taught locals about small scale biogas to try and protect the vulnerable juniper shrub that was being destroyed by trekkers who used it for cooking fires.  I learned from the Sherpas about their traditional practice of building  two story compost toilets next to the north facing stone wall of their houses, using rhododendron leaves as cover material. The heat generated by the toilet’s aerobic decomposition helped to heat and insulate the house. Here they also wanted to encourage as many tourists as possible to use their “backstage” toilets so generate as much heat as possible.  There is little that is more “backstage” than people’s bathrooms and kitchens.  The following year I went on an expedition to the Hinku Valley on the other side of the mountain and found to my dismay that the outhouses from their guest lodges were mere pit latrines that stood right next to the river from which we got our drinking water.  In this case there was no complex biological activity to turn waste material into something safe and beneficial so I feared getting sick. I gathered cover material, leaves and grass, from the forest and made it my habit to throw it in the pit after me.  The lodge owner asked what I was doing and I explained I was replicating a traditional practice that had been going on on the other side of the mountain for centuries that would not only keep the drinking water safe but get rid of all the smell and flies and create heat so going to the bathroom wasn’t so unpleasant.. She had never heard of it.  My Sherpa friends said that in their culture these backstage  things simply aren’t talked about frontstage so there had been no cultural diffusion. It took tourists with different cultural norms to break the  ice and transfer ideas from one part of the valley to the other.
Even the current cholera crises in Haiti that has claimed more than 10,000 lives in the past decade has been revealed to have its origins in UN AID workers who flew in  from field work in  Nepal where compost toilets are unknown and dumped contaminated sewage in local streams.  Prior to the 1990s there was no cholera in Haiti.  Paradise was ruined in part because of just really bad practice, not because of the density of people per se.
The flexible carrying capacity assumption, in my mind COULD be applied to backstage tourism, but it is considered only appropriate for FRONTSTAGE TOURISM where “increases in the level of tourism in those areas are often considered desirable. Accordingly, strategies are implemented to allow for a gradual increase in the critical carrying capacity threshold range so that higher levels of tourism activity can follow as shown in Figure 9.1b. Even though this approach is basically demand-driven, it is important to stress that the visitation or intensification curve should ideally follow the threshold curve so that the conditions are already in place to cope with increased demand at the time that more visitors arrive…. The assumption of flexible carrying capacities is appropriate when a) the area in question is already  heavily modified or urbanized and a weak sustainability  approach is taken b) there is confidence in the projected carrying capacity thresholds associated with a given level of intensification , c) resources are available to invest in the appropriate coping mechanisms and /0r d) local residents and other stakeholders support intensification that leads toward SMT (p. 157).
More and more as we move through the post-colonial era we find recognition that ecosytems and cultural systems are dynamic systems that have always been in a state of flux. As William Cronin writes in “The trouble with wilderness,  or ‘getting back to the wrong nature’” some of the most beautiful and functional wild areas are actually artefacts of long histories of human interaction with the landscape.  This assumption that “change is inevitable” and can even be desirable, informs the decision of most schollars to embrace the LAC or LIMITS OF ACCEPTABLE CHANGE model rather than the old CC or Carrying Capacity model.  In the CC model we ask “how much use is too much” whereas in the LAC model we ask “How Much Change is Acceptable”. In the Khumbu valley where the traditional use of Juniper shrub wood for cooking was unsustainable when introduced to large numbers of people, change can’t come fast enough and the more tourists who visit with solar cookers and fuel efficient stoves or the knowledge and money to help local people implement them, the greater the carrying capacity of the landscape.   Weaver points out that “the idea of carrying capacity is still implicit in and compatible with the LAC…allowing a “variable threshold open to manipulation through various management techniques” but it changes the terms of the debate from facile assumptions that tourists are “bad” and management is all about limiting numbers to what KINDS of tourism might bring about GOOD changes and can be increased.
If the indicators and frameworks are used, the more voices we have in the mix, the better the outcome generally.  Each of us has our own perspectives and we need to engage in dialog. Our student Robyn selected as an example for section 9.2.3 on Flexible and Fixed Carry Capacity assumptions, ‘  I think the Aktun Tunichil Muknal cave in Belize is a prime example of carrying capacity and LAC. Belize has limited the number of tourists allowed to visit this cave in one day to 120 people and they've also limited what kind of tourists can visit the cave: only those who stay on the mainland. No cruise tourists are allowed to book this excursion. They've implemented these restrictions for the preservation of the cave system and the artifacts inside.”

She points out however, that restrictions, while helping to preserve natural or historical wonders, could also erode social sustainability and points out a mechanism for correcting that, saying, from her personal experience,
“An example of good  public access is Martell's Tiki Bar in Point Pleasant, NJ. This establishment has a portion of the beach to itself that you cannot access unless you've passed the bodyguard, had your ID checked (21+) and paid the entrance fee.” but that it is still available without discrimination. Each restriction can have a logical reason behind it that all stakeholders can vote on.

The development or performance standards thus being introduced now are more nuanced. The toolkit of “legal restrictions that regulate a physical  or measurable aspect of development and act as means by which a community can mandate that the physical characteristics of a development meet certain standards and also that a development does not generate certain measurable impacts” now includes such devices as:
Development density controls, Height restrictions, Size and configuration of the building ‘footprint’, Setbacks, Building standards, Landscaping, inducing naturalization and edible landscaping and site softening, signage and above ground utility controls, noise regulation, public access strategies like the network of rural public Rights of Way and the Swedish traditional concept of Allemannsratt (everymans right), Zoning and districting, Protected area zoning, and districting.
  And when development has gotten out of hand to the detriment of a landscape there is always the possibility of REDEVELOPMENT , which can turn UMT into SMT.  We are seeing this today in the historic Hudson River area of Yonkers, New York, where the Saw Mill River Tributary feeding the mighty Hudson through downtown Yonkers, which was a buried underground filthy sewer for almost a century,  has been “daylighted” – turned into an urban park  river system in the business district with signage and benches and has seen the return of the Sargasso sea glass eels, and the first Beaver sighting in several hundred years.
The economics of these positive changes are being worked out via Purchase of Development Rights or PDR agreements where a payment represents compensation for the decline in property value that is caused by the stipulated restrictions on bad development, and by quid pro quo trade offs like transfer of development rights (TDR) agreements and Mitigation strategies where damages in one site are compensated for by restoration elsewhere.  And of course there are government incentives, for example the Barbados Tourism Development Act of 2002 which, among other sustainability related measures, allows hotel operators to claim a 150 per cent tax deduction on expenses resulting from the pursuit of Green Globe certification. (p 170).
Finally, I would like to point out that at a recent sustainability meeting I attended at National Geographic in September 2016, chaired by the executives of United Technologies Corporation and Pratt Whitney, who manufacture aircraft, there is a game changer coming in the market – the introduction of jet engines this year  that consume 16% less fuel and generate 75% less noise.  This new technology means that many of the issues surrounding jet travel and siting of airports and the air and noise pollution they caused, cited by Weaver on page 161,  are starting to vanish.  People complained about air and noise quality, their complaints were heard, regulations were created and scientific principles were applied to meet those regulatory challenges. The outcome:  cleaner, quieter engines that obviate many of the problems associated with tourism in the first place.
What we are seeing is that the when people respect each other, particularly the views and needs of local stakeholders,  and apply traditional practices that worked for generations as well as post-modern scientific principles and actually use the sustainability indicators to engage in dialogue, we have almost all the tools and techniques needed to turn human visitation and dense human  presence into a positive thing.  The old Western  notion that “humans were bad”, an outgrowth of the lost Eden narrative in Genesis, and that the solution was mere restriction and preservation, was a very blunt tool, subtle as  a sledgehammer,  and itself was unsustainable because of the contradictions it caused between the three pillars of sustainability, particularly social justice.  Sustainable Tourism is now becoming more intelligent.  Let’s hope we get smart in time.

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