Is Ecoturism Environmentally and Socially Acceptable in the Climate, Demographic, and Political Regime of the Anthropocene?

In João Carlos Ribeiro Cardoso Mendes, Isabel Ponce de Leão, Maria do Carmo Mendes & Rui Paes Mendes (eds.), GREEN MARBLE 2023. Estudos sobre o Antropoceno e Ecocrítica / Studies on the Anthropocene and Ecocriticism. INfAST - Institute for Anthropocene Studies. pp. 73-88 (2023)
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Abstract

Tourism is one of the socio-economic trends that significantly contributes to the shift of the planetary system into the Anthropocene regime. At the same time, it is also a socio-cultural practice characteristic of the imperial mode of living, or consumerism. Thus, it is a form of commodification of nature, also a way of deepening social inequalities between a privileged minority of the global population and an exploited majority providing services to those whose socio-economic status allows them to travel for fun and commoditised “experience”. This is not an inevitable activity, an activity in which environmental costs (carbon footprint, water footprint, energy consumption, and waste production) are necessary to ensure the basic resources of life. Tourism is therefore a form of luxury consumption. For any tourism model to be, not only, environmentally sustainable but also socially just, or at least acceptable, it would have to be accessible to all people. Ecotourism should also have to meet the criterion of a solidarity mode of living referred to as sufficiency. This is hardly conceivable in the climatic, demographic, and political regime of the Anthropocene. The latter is likely to be characterized by, among other things, mass migration of climate or environmental refugees on the one hand and climate apartheid of the states of the global North on the other. Ecotourism, accessible to an even smaller proportion of the world`s population than the current mass tourism, will thus be more likely to accentuate the social and environmental inequalities of which it is already a significant manifestation. Therefore, the question is whether the concept of ecotourism is not just another manifestation of greenwashing, i.e. an attempt to legitimize economic, social, and cultural activities that devastate the social and environmental environment.

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Richard Sťahel
Slovak Academy of Sciences

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