Hi Steve. I’m not against ‘ecotourism’ (or nature-based tourism – not keen on either name), but a closer examination shows realities which do not always fit the rosy image that has been promoted for decades. 1/16 https://twitter.com/SwaySteveK/status/1287250611432554498
Whether ecotourism works and for whom it works is a contested issue. There are studies showing it has positive effects in some places, for some people and some species, and negative effects in other places. 2/
Overall, analyses by political ecologists are far from rosy. And when you take climate into account then it becomes even more problematic. https://go.nature.com/2IREpqa
An assessment of ecotourism needs to include questions about why places become dependent on tourism and the consequences of this. One needs to consider the wider economic and institutional context of programmes to develop tourism as a conservation tool. 4/
An excellent analysis of this is Corson’s Corridors of Power. The Politics of Environmental Aid to Madagascar. https://bit.ly/365VNm4
From the 1990s international aid for development has often been tied to structural adjustment policies that have reduced the size of states, resulting in a lack of state capacity to enforce conservation laws and need for foreign exchange. 6/
This development approach envisions market mechanisms such as ecotourism, bioprospecting, carbon offsetting as key funding for biodiversity conservation. Legitimate question is why should biodiversity conservation & ultimately the future of a liveable planet depend on the market.
Madagascar is often mentioned as a success story. Ivan Scales (Cambridge University) argues that market-based conservation doesn’t generate sufficient revenue to compensate rural people for their loss of access to land and resources and fund conservation. 8/
Re Costa Rica, Fletcher argues that ‘state-centered command-and-control-style policies …are responsible for much of the env & developmental achievements for which Costa Rica has been widely celebrated & for which more recent market-oriented reforms are often mistakenly credited’
Importantly, the pandemic revealed the fragility of the ‘conservation-funded-through-tourism’ model. It’s not just the loss of revenue in the coming months / years. Tourism development can result in a loss of local knowledge & skills for activities that provided local resilience.
Places dependent on tourism have learnt the hard way that it was a mistake to focus exclusively on international tourists and neglect local (lower-carbon) tourists and other activities. 11/
The pandemic was predicted and scientists are warning that ongoing ecological destruction, farming practices, urbanisation trends and increased international connectivity, among other trends, are only making future pandemics more likely. 12/
In the last 20 years, we've had six significant threats - SARS, MERS, Ebola, avian influenza and swine flu. We were relatively lucky and Covid-19 could have been much worse. What about the eighth and ninth? 13/
The rise of neoliberalism (deregulation, forcing open national markets to trade and capital, shrinking governments via austerity or privatisation) is the context in which ‘conservation-funded-through-market-mechanisms’ in biodiversity-rich areas emerged during the last 4 decades.
Bram Büscher and Robert Fletcher make a convincing critique of this approach and propose an alternative which they call convivial conservation ( https://convivialconservation.com/ ). A key idea of this approach is a ‘conservation basic income’ https://bit.ly/2S4b40S 15/
As I noted at the beginning, I am not against ecotourism. I’m simply arguing that we need to look at the broader picture and ask what could more resilient conservation models look like in the face of future environmental, economic, health and security risks.