Earth Community Organization (ECO)
the Global Community
Dr. Gopalsamy Poyya moli
for Discussion Roundtables 13, 15, 17, 19 and 25
Table of Contents|
There is an urgent growing need for local/regional/national/international peace and security for evolving strategies for effective Earth governance. This may be broadly ascribed to the increasing conflicts arising out of social, economic, religious and political factors. Peace and sustainability, considered as the indicators of development are threatened due to a myriad of conflicts and they are more visible than ever before, globally. Tourism considered as a Global Peace Industry has greater potentials to reduce these conflicts. This paper analyzes the threats to peace and sustainable earth governance and indicates that the newly emerging Heritage Eco-cultural Tourism holds the key for solving these interconnected problems.Research Paper
(Key words – Alternative tourism, Community based tourism, conflicts, Earth governance, Eco-Tourism, Eco-cultural tourism, Environmental quality, Externalities, Heritage Eco-cultural Tourism, Indicators, Mass tourism, Peace, Paradigm shifts, Sustainability, Sustainable Tourism, Threats, Tourism policy).
"Tourism is like a fire; you can cook your soup in it; but you can also burn down your house with it"
- Asian proverb
As we enter into the next millennium and the birth of a new global era, we are confronting the urgent need for local/regional/national/international peace and security more than in the past. This may be broadly ascribed to the increasing conflicts arising out of social, economic, religious and political factors. The widening gap between the haves and have-nots, have further accelerated these conflicts. Hence, we are seeking universal human rights and universal human progress and prosperity. One powerful indicator of such a development is the fact that more people are traveling from more countries than ever before, making travel and tourism the worlds largest industry. Its growth is expected to continue with globalization and as people everywhere seem determined to exercise their right to travel and to make their world a more familiar place in the spirit of peace and friendship. Tourism itself has always been a peace-based industry and may be considered as a Global Peace Industry (ref. www.iipt.org). In the face of current human population increases and worldwide ecological degradation, intact and healthy ecosystems are becoming the world's most sought-after tourism destinations. Culture and Heritage besides peace and harmony in such areas attract special groups of tourists, who demand quality products.
2. THREATS TO PEACE AND SUSTAINABLE EARTH GOVERNANCE
Peace and sustainability, considered as the indicators of development and governance of the earth are threatened due to a myriad of conflicts – Social, Economic, political, cultural and Environmental. These conflicts usually confront multiple and diverse stakeholders such as state institutions, religious organizations, communities, indigenous ethnic groups, local institutions, private development and non-government organizations, international organizations/Governments, and many other players.
Wide differences in culture, knowledge, power, influence, and resources characterize these groups. Even though most conflicts essentially develop in a local framework they are also frequently connected at regional, national and even international levels, transcending political and geographical boundaries including non-represented interests (e.g. future generations). Such complexity explains, in part, the lack of sustained attention that conflicts receive. In addition, many conflicts in several countries are often dealt with unprofessionally and results in frustrations, violence, greater inequities, and negative impacts on quality of life, economic and social processes and in the natural resources themselves. The most common methods of intervention in conflicts tend to be centralized, hierarchical, and sectorial, with a predominantly technical and adversarial (judicial) and at times political. Seldom do they achieve a reasonable level of satisfaction for all interested parties. Hence, we are urgently in need of alternative paradigms for development – we are moving from the narrower ‘reductionist’, ‘reactive’ and ‘bureaucratic’ approaches to ‘wholistic /Integrated or Systems’ view of looking at issues, ‘pro-active’ policies and ‘participatory’ strategies. How quick and how effective we are in reorienting ourselves according to these shifting paradigms will determine our sustainable futures and will help us in achieving our goal of sustainable earth governance. Easy access to data/information, democratic institutions, transparency in decision-making, active stakeholder participation, capacity building, accountability and Environmentally conscious and committed judiciary besides international cooperation will go a long way in working towards these goals.
3.THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TOURISM SECTOR AS THE PROMOTER OF PEACE, AND SUSTAINABLE EARTH GOVERNANCE
Tourism is different from other sectors by some special characteristics that include:
· A wider variety of stake-holders but with lack of communication and coordination
The word ‘conflict’ carries negative connotations. It is often thought of as the opposite of cooperation and peace, and is most commonly associated with violence or the threat of violence. This view of conflict is not always helpful. In many settings it should be seen as a potential force for positive social change - its presence a visible demonstration of society adapting to a new political, economic or physical environment (Warner and Jones, 1998). A potential non-violent approach to solve these conflicts at the least social/economic/Environmental costs may be through evolving alternative tourism strategies.
In the midst of growing tensions and worries everywhere "Getting away from it all," is understandably popular. With so many wonderful places in the world, prices of international travel falling, and the stresses and strains off everyday life increasing, more people are traveling. And as the population grows and incomes rise in many societies, the trend is steeply up. In 2000, international tourist arrivals reached an all time high of 698 million, an increase of 7.4 % that was double the growth rate of 1999, according to the World Tourism Organization. Tourism sector employs 11 per cent of the global workforce - over 200 million people - either directly or indirectly (ref. www.world-tourism.org.).
Thanks to the new economic boom and greater mobility, tourists throughout the world have a wider choice now to chose from - with a large variety ranging from rich cultural diversity, world-renowned historical, religious, heritage and architectural monuments, unique fairs, festivals, folklore and folk dances besides the costumes and customs to wildlife sanctuaries with exquisite flora and fauna. Besides, there are cool hill stations and long stretches of unspoiled sunny beaches. Added to this, there are plenty of traditional arts and crafts to carry back as souvenirs; a wider choice of adventure sports ranging from the daring to the exotic – trekking, camping, rock climbing, white water rafting, skating, air/water gliding, etc. We have also started to explore the Polar regions and space for special types of tourists. In spite of these facts, we have not seriously considered sofar the Tourism sector as the promoter of peace, sustainability and efficient earth governance.
Tourism industry is fundamentally dependent on the diversity and quality of the natural and cultural resources. Hence, it has grater reasons to conserve/ protect the same (Hawkes and Williams, 1993). But are we giving adequate attention/ priorities for natural and cultural resources while planning and implementing Tourism projects?
Though tourism is one of the largest foreign exchange earners and one among the fastest growing industries, the natural resource base that supports tourism is "heavily stressed" in and around the main tourist destination areas. In spite of the overwhelming technological and information revolution, we have trapped ourselves in a vicious circle of self-destruction by adopting the typical " boom and bust " tourism paths paved by the ill-conceived and unplanned/ uncontrolled mass tourism, promoted for short-term profit maximization at the cost of degradation in Environmental quality. Ironically, this in turn, ultimately detracts the tourists and destroys the Tourism industry itself. The question is whether we, in the blind pursuit of rapid Economic growth and earning more foreign exchange can afford to sacrifice the higher Environmental quality and our rich cultural Heritage upon which tourism so strongly depends. Though we have already learnt many bitter lessons, we tend to overlook them. Changes in the physical, spatial, and socio-economic structure of a tourist area as well as the existence of several, sometimes burdensome, environmental/social problems testify to the presence of these conflicts and the crying need for evolving appropriate strategies to sustainably manage the Environmental quality, and to improve the local livelihood opportunities (e.g. Singh, et.al. 1989).
However, the researchers as well as policy makers largely ignore the inseparable links between the Environmental quality (EQ), sustainability, peace and tourism and pay little attention to participation of local communities, by focusing only on setting up infrastructures, promoting marketing strategies and make only ad-hoc/piece meal efforts to improve the EQ, sustainability and peace in the destination areas. This is self-evident from the "tell-tale symptoms" or "indicators" such as garbage dumps, foul smell, very high rates of pollution, overexploitation of natural resources, alienation of local communities, increasing conflicts and violence in several destination areas. The industry has learned these bitter lessons only after the irreversible damages have already set in. Examples can be seen every where the mass tourism went out of control – starting from the North to the South; As a result, tourism has become a dirty word amongst many communities, environmental groups and human rights campaigners. This is really unfortunate as the tourism sector has greater potential to enhance local livelihoods and promote global peace and sustainability if it is properly planned. The proposed Earth Government has a lot to offer for the same.
4. THE ILLS OF THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
Though tourism could lead to a variety of potential benefits, uncontrolled mass tourism, the most predominant form of tourism to day, inevitably increases the already existing conflicts, besides creating new ones. Tourism’s voracious appetite for basic resources - land, water and energy - has meant that the tourism industry and Government Agencies are increasingly finding themselves opposed over land rights and water rights by local people. Lack of access by locals to public beaches, violation by hotels of environmental regulations, and heavy-handed tactics by local authorities to free-up beach areas for hotels' use, have all been cited in legal disputes throughout the world. For instance, three quarters of the sand dunes on the Mediterranean coast between Spain and Sicily have now disappeared, largely because of the construction of hotels and holiday flats. One of the most famous long-term tourism protests has been in Goa, India. With one five-star hotel consuming as much water as five local villages and one five-star tourist consuming 28 times more electricity per day than a local Goan, local discontent over resource-use is understandable. Thus, the modern world is characterized by mass concentrations of people, mass production, and mass activities. Diversity and beauty of land and life are more and more replaced by uniformity and ugliness. Human settlements in their mad rush for development have turned beautiful tree-clad landscapes into desolate concrete jungles, and fertile lands with diverse native vegetation are increasingly destroyed by monocultures. Tourism is no exception to this general rule.
5. THE GREEN SIGNALS
Over the last decade, understanding of these complex and interconnected issues by the world tourism industry, tourists, governments and communities has increased as indicated by the evolution of numerous alternative forms of tourism such as 'green' tourism, 'alternative' tourism, 'responsible' tourism, 'sustainable' tourism, 'eco' tourism, ‘eco-cultural' tourism (ECT), ‘eco-development’ tourism, ‘Heritage eco-cultural' tourism (HECT), ‘community' tourism, ‘'ethical' tourism, 'fair-trade' tourism and even, most recently, the particularly un-catchy, 'pro-poor' tourism(PPT). Unfortunately, we, have not sufficiently re-oriented ourselves, to meet the future international market demand for these specialized forms of tourism.
The concept of sustainable tourism should not be confused with ECT. According to WTO, all tourism activities, be they geared to holidays, business, conferences, congresses or fairs, health, adventure or ECT itself, must be sustainable. This means that the planning and development of tourism infrastructure, its subsequent operation and also its marketing should focus on environmental, social, cultural and economic sustainability criteria, so as to ensure that neither the natural environment nor the socio-cultural fabric of the host communities will be impaired by the arrival/activities of tourists; on the contrary, enterprises, as well as the communities in which they operate, should benefit from tourism, both economically and culturally.
Eco-tourism, a growing trend, is the most commonly understood term as tourism that focuses on an appreciation of the environment. In 1993 the World Tourism Organisation (WTO) estimated nature tourism generates 7 per cent of all international travel expenditure. More recent research reveals this is now much higher, accounting for 20 per cent of international travel in the Asia-Pacific region and some areas, such as South Africa, experiencing a massive growth in visitors to game and nature reserves, of over 100 per cent annually. Research by The International Ecotourism Society (TIES) reveals that eco-tourists are likely to be higher spenders on their holidays than 'ordinary' mass tourists. And high spending, nature-loving, responsible tourists are undoubtedly an attractive option for governments looking for ways of earning foreign exchange.
The recent Amman Declaration on Peace Through Tourism (8-11 November 2000) reflects many of the strategies discussed above and has recognised that peace is an essential precondition for travel and tourism and all aspects of human growth and development. Hence, it has recommended the development of tourism as a global vehicle for promoting understanding, trust and goodwill among peoples of the world through an appropriate political and economic framework
6. THE NEW THREATS
The alternative tourism strategies, evolved in response to the concern for the Ecology, culture, Heritage and local livelihoods, have created both new opportunities as well as new threats. One of eco-tourism's first problems is one of definition. Although, there are several definitions, there is no certification system to abide by or international monitoring body. The term can be used by anyone at anytime for anything from a small-scale locally run rainforest lodge where the money goes to support a local community, to a large, luxury, foreign-owned resort which has little community involvement and uses masses of natural resources. Eco-tourists may even visit areas of national beauty and wildlife significance without realizing that local people have been evicted from the area in order for eco-tourism to be developed, as has happened in East Africa, India, Southern Africa and many other destinations.
Ill-conceived and / or ill-planned Eco-tourism, as practiced now by a majority of the business communities has caused serious, irreversible negative impacts in Environmentally and culturally sensitive areas, even in countries that are well known as eco-tourism destinations like Belize or Costa Rica. The Malaysian-based Third World Network working with the Thailand-based Tourism Information Monitoring team (TIM-team) cite examples throughout Asia, including the eco-tourism policy promoted by the tourism working group under the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) development scheme, led by the Asian Development Bank, which covers a vast area across Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan/China. They are riddled with several problems relating to accusations of 'human zoos' being created and financial exploitation of hill tribe villages by outside tour operators. Besides, the increasing link of eco-tourism to the multi-million dollar biotechnology industry through bio-piracy in key eco-tourist sites like rainforests, and the use of eco-tourism by the World Bank's Social Investment Project to support massive development projects, some involving logging operations are becoming common in many developing countries.
The revolution in information and communication technologies would enable both the promoters and the tourists to exploit the hidden potentials ECT in a region, more efficiently than ever. However, the lack of discipline of government and the escalating demand for growth will undermine efforts to create sustainable eco-tourism economies that are small but beautiful. Under extreme conditions of land grabbing and unplanned structures, it may create concrete jungles, surrounded by degraded vegetation, thus destroying the once tranquil zones. Hence, we have to be extremely careful while promoting ECT.
Despite these problems, an International Year of Ecotourism (IYE) has been declared by the United Nations for 2002. This will be co-ordinated by the WTO and UNEP and a range of activities held, including a World Ecotourism Summit from 19-22 May 2002 in Quebec, Canada plus various regional conferences. Oliver Hillel, the UNEP tourism programme co-ordinator sees the IYE as a chance to "assess what eco-tourism is, or can be, rather than only a promotional event for UN member governments, for the private sector and for recipients of development aid." It is clear to many that nature-based tourism is presently seen as one of the most lucrative niche markets, and powerful transnational corporations are likely to exploit the IYE to dictate their own definitions and rules of eco-tourism on society, while people-centred initiatives will be squeezed out and marginalised.
While the commitment of the global tourism industry to tackle these complex issues seems limited, a few innovative operators are keen to work closely with local people in order for the communities to support their business and out of an honest desire to protect environments and optimise benefits to local people. Hence, the proposed Earth Government may capitalize on these case studies to spread the message.
7. THE POTENTIAL ALTERNATIVES
In any outdoor tourism activity, human experience, knowledge, expectation, and socio-cultural contexts interact with environmental elements and environments as entities to produce an outcome that affects both the humans and the environment (eg.Pitt & Zube, 1987, Inskeep, 1991). Thus, sustainable tourism development depends in many important ways on the proper handling of the relationships between Tourism and the Environment (Inskeep, 1991). Sustainability, Peace and Environmental quality occupy the central table in the wake of global terrorism. Greater sustainability of the tourism would mean more regional products, less noise and emissions, lesser solid wastes and appropriate sewage treatment measures, creation of jobs, lesser social conflicts/ violence by learning to live in harmony and higher quality of life for the local populations well as improved quality of holidays for the guest. The conventional mass tourism, by its very nature cannot cater to these demands. Hence, alternative tourism strategies are emerging.
Sustainable tourism is defined (WTTC, WTO and Earth council, 1996) as "Tourism that meets the needs of the present tourists and host regions while protecting and enhancing opportunity for the future. It is envisaged as leading to management of all resources in such a way that Economic, Social and aesthetic needs can be fulfilled while maintaining Cultural integrity, essential Ecological processes, Bio-Diversity and life supporting systems (soil, air and water)". Thus, it has the inbuilt mechanism for promoting peace and harmony among the tourism stakeholders.
A related alternative is Eco-cultural Tourism (ECT). ECT activities are offered by a large and wide variety of operators, and practiced by an even larger array of tourists. While there is no single universal definition for ECT, its general characteristics can be summarized as follows (modified from Ceballos-Lascurain, 1993, Zeppel, 1997 and Goodwin et.al. 1998):
. All nature-based forms of tourism in which the main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation for admiring, enjoying and/ or studying nature as well as the traditional cultures and Heritage (both past and present) prevailing in relatively undisturbed or uncontaminated natural areasIt supports the protection of natural areas and the revival of culture by:
· generating equitable economic benefits for host communities (by providing alternative employment and income opportunities), organizations and authorities managing natural areas with conservation purposes, and adding value to local heritage, cultural and natural resources through sustainable tourist access to those resources and thus provides incentives for protecting themHeritage Eco-cultural Tourism (HECT) is a newly emerging type of alternative tourism. When Heritage of the destination areas can be exploited along with the local Ecological and cultural attractions, we have a case for Heritage Eco-cultural Tourism.
Heritage embraces magnificent natural, indigenous and historic landscapes (natural or man-made), wildlife and healthy, intact ecosystems, historical elements (that has helped to shape the regional/National identity), cultural elements and human values, shaping regional / national / global identity; it also incorporates a strong connection to ‘place’; that is, people come to the place by choice, they are somehow transformed by it, and they choose to identify themselves with it even if they don't live there. This may be because of the outstanding universal value of the areas visited from the point of view of science, conservation or natural beauty.
Historical places, objects and manifestations of cultural, scientific, symbolic, spiritual and religious values are important expressions of the culture, identity and religious beliefs of societies. Their role and importance, particularly in the light of the need for cultural identity and continuity in a rapidly changing world, need to be promoted. Tourists are actively seeking such lost values. They come hoping for a profound psychic or spiritual experience in some quiet corners of the destination areas. Hence, we have greater responsibility to conserve the cultural Heritage areas.
HECT, by its very design is ideally suitable for this purpose.
The following are the key potential benefits of HECT:
. Protection and active conservation of natural and built heritage resources, justified by their own intrinsic value for posterity and the revenue which visitors contribute.
The available knowledge indicate that the following may be considered as the major criteria for selecting HECT sites:
. Geography – proximity to mass-tourism sites; sufficiently closer for easy accessibility but adequately away from motorable roads and other human disturbances,8.CONCLUDING REMARKS
"The future belongs to those who give the next generation reasons to hope"
- Pierre Teilhard DeChardin
The HECT will enable the tourists as well as the local communities to find ways to live sustainably, and in peace with nature, Cultural Heritage and intact, functioning ecosystems. More importantly, we will be re-connecting ourselves with our forgotten treasure of the diverse culture and Heritage of the bygone era. In this process, tourism will promote peace and sustainability by closer mutualistic interactions between tourists and the local communities.
Among the several organizations that could be involved in the promotion of HECT, mention must be made of UNESCO (World Heritage sites program) and the International Institute for Peace through Tourism (IIPT) at international levels and the Indian National Trust for the promotion of Arts and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) at the national level. The Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) and the State Tourism Development Corporations have to recognise the potentials of HECT and reorient themselves to the tasks ahead.
Broad guidelines for promoting HECT strategies may be modified and adopted from UNEP (1995) that has prescribed Environmental codes of conduct for tourism and Gonsalves’ (1991) paper on guidelines for alternative tourism for the third world. The adoption of the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, the Green Globe programme (WWF, 2000), the ECOTEL Certification awarded by HVS Eco Services, Certification Programs for Sustainable Tourism and Eco-tourism (Honey, & Rome, 2001), Exemplary Practices by Canadian Tourism Commission (1999), The National Eco-tourism Accreditation Program of the Eco-tourism Association of Australia and the Australian Tourism Operators Association and equitable community participation in tourism are a few other such initiatives to name, globally. Recently, Mastny (2002) from World Watch Institute has provided policy guidelines with examples for sustainable tourism. The recently emerging pro-poor tourism approaches (Ashley et.al., 2001), have to be ideally integrated into HECT.
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Pondicherry University was started in the year 1985 and currently it has 8 schools, 16 Departments and 12 Centres offering Post-graduate, M.Phil and Ph.D. programmes. The university has 140 faculty members and about 1,100 students.
School of Ecology and Environmental Sciences was started in the year 1987. The broad objectives of this strongly inter- disciplinary school include teaching, research, consultancy and extension in key areas of basic and applied Ecology. Besides, the local Ecosystem studies, the School has been actively engaged in doing research on bio-diversity and conservation issues in both Western and Eastern Ghats, sustainable management of coastal fisheries, Tourism Ecology and Agro-ecology. It has a fairly well equipped laboratory and a computer center.
Major academic achievements of Dr.G.Poyya moli:
CURRENT AREAS OF INTEREST;· Worked as a Research Associate at Tata Energy Research Institute, Pondicherry
Human Ecology – Community based Eco-regional Planning, Adaptive management of Natural Resources & Ecosystems & Tourism Ecology
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