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  1. Ecotourism
  2. Karen Stocker - Google Scholar Citations
  3. Site Index

Regional climate models predict that the area will become warmer and drier as climate change accelerates. While melting Arctic sea ice and glaciers have become a symbol of climate change, new research from the University of Massachusetts Amherst indicates that highland forests in Costa Rica could also be seriously affected by future changes in climate, reducing the number of species in a region famous for its biodiversity. He recently attended the first conference organized in Costa Rica to study this issue. According to Karmalkar, Costa Rica has a unique geography that supports a stunning array of plants, animals and insects.

The land begins at sea level on both the western Pacific coast and the eastern Caribbean coast, rising to over 3, meters above sea level in the central mountain range. As the land rises, differences in temperature and precipitation caused by elevation create an array of distinct ecosystems stacked on top of each other, each one housing a unique biological community.

Above 1, meters, rising air creates a continual cloud layer that constantly bathes the vegetation in horizontal precipitation, allowing plants and animals to survive the dry season from December to April. These cloud forests are essential to maintaining freshwater resources in Costa Rica, and the height at which the clouds develop is a critical factor for these ecosystems.

Since they are highly dependant on temperature and precipitation, these ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change.


To predict the effects of climate change, a regional modeling system capable of accommodating the complex topography of Central America was chosen. After validating the computer model using rainfall and temperature data collected in Central America between and , the team looked at what would happen if carbon dioxide in the atmosphere doubled. The results of this medium-to-high scenario, called the A2 scenario in reports issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, were striking.

Simulations also indicate an overall increase in the height of the cloud base of up to meters. According to Karmalkar, as temperatures rise, various ecosystems will try to migrate to where they are comfortable, moving in an upslope direction in this case. As they migrate, plants and animals will disturb other species, and eventually run out of space as they reach the top of the mountains.

Based upon these criteria, the company is evaluated for the strength of its sustainability. The measurement index goes from 0 to 5, with 0 being the worst and 5 being the best. An environmental protection strategy must address the issue of ecotourists removed from the cause-and-effect of their actions on the environment. More initiatives should be carried out to improve their awareness, sensitize them to environmental issues, and care about the places they visit. Tour guides are an obvious and direct medium to communicate awareness.

With the confidence of ecotourists and intimate knowledge of the environment, tour guides can actively discuss conservation issues. Informing ecotourists about how their actions on the trip can negatively impact their environment and the local people. A tour guide training program in Costa Rica's Tortuguero National Park has helped mitigate negative environmental impacts by providing information and regulating tourists on the parks' beaches used by nesting endangered sea turtles.

The underdevelopment theory of tourism describes a new form of imperialism by multinational corporations that control ecotourism resources. These corporations finance and profit from the development of large scale ecotourism that causes excessive environmental degradation, loss of traditional culture and way of life, and exploitation of local labor. In Zimbabwe and Nepal's Annapurna region, where underdevelopment is taking place, more than 90 percent of ecotourism revenues are expatriated to the parent countries, and less than 5 percent go into local communities.

The lack of sustainability highlights the need for small scale, slow growth, and locally based ecotourism. Local peoples have a vested interest in the well-being of their community, and are therefore more accountable to environmental protection than multinational corporations, though they receive very little of the profits. The lack of control, westernization, adverse impacts to the environment, loss of culture and traditions outweigh the benefits of establishing large scale ecotourism. Additionally, culture loss can be attributed to cultural commodification, in which local cultures are commodified in order to make a profit [22].

The increased contributions of communities to locally managed ecotourism create viable economic opportunities, including high-level management positions, and reduce environmental issues associated with poverty and unemployment. Because the ecotourism experience is marketed to a different lifestyle from large scale ecotourism, the development of facilities and infrastructure does not need to conform to corporate Western tourism standards, and can be much simpler and less expensive.

Profits accrue locally and import leakages are reduced. When such investments are required, it is crucial for communities to find a company or non-governmental organization that reflects the philosophy of ecotourism; sensitive to their concerns and willing to cooperate at the expense of profit.

The basic assumption of the multiplier effect is that the economy starts off with unused resources, for example, that many workers are cyclically unemployed and much of industrial capacity is sitting idle or incompletely utilized.

By increasing demand in the economy, it is then possible to boost production. If the economy was already at full employment, with only structural, frictional, or other supply-side types of unemployment, any attempt to boost demand would only lead to inflation. For various laissez-faire schools of economics which embrace Say's Law and deny the possibility of Keynesian inefficiency and under-employment of resources, therefore, the multiplier concept is irrelevant or wrong-headed.

This sum would go to the road builders, who would hire more workers and distribute the money as wages and profits. The households receiving these incomes will save part of the money and spend the rest on consumer goods. These expenditures, in turn, will generate more jobs, wages, and profits, and so on with the income and spending circulating around the economy. The multiplier effect arises because of the induced increases in consumer spending which occur due to the increased incomes — and because of the feedback into increasing business revenues, jobs, and income again.

This process does not lead to an economic explosion not only because of the supply-side barriers at potential output full employment but because at each "round", the increase in consumer spending is less than the increase in consumer incomes. That is, the marginal propensity to consume MPC is less than one, so that each round some extra income goes into saving, leaking out of the cumulative process.

Each increase in spending is thus smaller than that of the previous round, preventing an explosion. Some of the world's most exceptional biodiversity is located in the Galapagos Islands. IGTOA is a non-profit dedicated to preserving this unique living laboratory against the challenges of invasive species, human impact, and tourism. Natural resource management can be utilized as a specialized tool for the development of ecotourism. There are several places throughout the world where a number of natural resources are abundant. But, with human encroachment and habitats, these resources are depleting.

Without the sustainable use of certain resources, they are destroyed, and floral and faunal species are becoming extinct.

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Ecotourism programs can be introduced for the conservation of these resources. Several plans and proper management programs can be introduced so that these resources remain untouched. Several organizations, NGO's, and scientists are working on this field. Natural resources of hill areas like Kurseong in West Bengal are plenty in number with various flora and fauna, but tourism for business purpose poised the situation. Researchers' from Jadavpur University are presently working in this area for the development of ecotourism to be used as a tool for natural resource management.

In Southeast Asia government and nongovernmental organizations are working together with academics and industry operators to spread the economic benefits of tourism into the kampungs and villages of the region. A summit held in Quebec led to the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, a collaborative effort between the UN Foundation and other advocacy groups. The criteria, which are voluntary, involve the following standards: "effective sustainability planning, maximum social and economic benefits for local communities, minimum negative impacts on cultural heritage, and minimum negative impacts on the environment.

In the continuum of tourism activities that stretch from conventional tourism to ecotourism, there has been a lot of contention to the limit at which biodiversity preservation, local social-economic benefits, and environmental impact can be considered "ecotourism".

Karen Stocker - Google Scholar Citations

For this reason, environmentalists, special interest groups, and governments define ecotourism differently. Environmental organizations have generally insisted that ecotourism is nature-based, sustainably managed, conservation supporting, and environmentally educated. The problems associated with defining ecotourism have often led to confusion among tourists and academics. Many problems are also subject of considerable public controversy and concern because of green washing , a trend towards the commercialization of tourism schemes disguised as sustainable, nature based, and environmentally friendly ecotourism.

They are also morally disconcerting because they mislead tourists and manipulate their concerns for the environment.

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Even if some of the guidelines are being executed, the local communities are still facing many of the negative impacts. South Africa is one of the countries that is reaping significant economic benefits from ecotourism, but the negative effects far outweigh the positive—including forcing people to leave their homes, gross violations of fundamental rights, and environmental hazards —far outweigh the medium-term economic benefits.

Ecotourism channels resources away from other projects that could contribute more sustainable and realistic solutions to pressing social and environmental problems. Indeed, many argue repeatedly that ecotourism is neither ecologically nor socially beneficial, yet it persists as a strategy for conservation and development, [32] due to the large profits.

While several studies are being done on ways to improve the ecotourism structure, some argue that these examples provide a rationale for stopping it altogether. The ecotourism system exercises tremendous financial and political influence. The evidence above shows that a strong case exists for restraining such activities in certain locations. Funding could be used for field studies aimed at finding alternative solutions to tourism and the diverse problems Africa faces in result of urbanization, industrialization, and the overexploitation of agriculture.

In this case, ecotourism has harmed the environment and local people and has led to conflicts over profit distribution. In a perfect world, more efforts would be made towards educating tourists of the environmental and social effects of their travels. Very few regulations or laws stand in place as boundaries for the investors in ecotourism. These should be implemented to prohibit the promotion of unsustainable ecotourism projects and materials which project false images of destinations, demeaning local and indigenous culture.

Though conservation efforts in East Africa are indisputably serving the interests of tourism in the region it is important to make the distinction between conservation acts and the tourism industry. Conservation in the Northwest Yunnan Region of China has similarly brought drastic changes to traditional land use in the region. Prior to logging restrictions imposed by the Chinese Government the industry made up 80 percent of the regions revenue.

Following a complete ban on commercial logging the indigenous people of the Yunnan region now see little opportunity for economic development. As stated, the ecotourism structure must be improved to direct more money into host communities by reducing leakages for the industry to be successful in alleviating poverty in developing regions, but it provides a promising opportunity. Ecotourism operations occasionally fail to live up to conservation ideals. It is sometimes overlooked that ecotourism is a highly consumer-centered activity, and that environmental conservation is a means to further economic growth.

Although ecotourism is intended for small groups, even a modest increase in population, however temporary, puts extra pressure on the local environment and necessitates the development of additional infrastructure and amenities. The construction of water treatment plants , sanitation facilities, and lodges come with the exploitation of non-renewable energy sources and the utilization of already limited local resources. The lack of adequate sanitation facilities in many East African parks results in the disposal of campsite sewage in rivers, contaminating the wildlife, livestock, and people who draw drinking water from it.

Aside from environmental degradation with tourist infrastructure, population pressures from ecotourism also leaves behind garbage and pollution associated with the Western lifestyle. As one scientist observes, they "rarely acknowledge how the meals they eat, the toilets they flush, the water they drink, and so on, are all part of broader regional economic and ecological systems they are helping to reconfigure with their very activities.

For instance, an exotic journey to a place 10, kilometers away consumes about liters of fuel per person. Ecotourism activities are, in and of themselves, issues in environmental impact because they may disturb fauna and flora.

Ecotourists believe that because they are only taking pictures and leaving footprints, they keep ecotourism sites pristine, but even harmless-sounding activities such as nature hikes can be ecologically destructive. In the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, ecotourists have worn down the marked trails and created alternate routes, contributing to soil impaction , erosion, and plant damage.

The industrialization , urbanization and agricultural practices of human society are having a serious impact on the environment. Ecotourism is now also considered to be playing a role in environmental depletion including deforestation , disruption of ecological life systems and various forms of pollution , all of which contribute to environmental degradation. For example, the number of motor vehicles crossing a park increases as tour drivers search for rare species.

The number of roads disrupts the grass cover, which has serious consequences on plant and animal species. These areas also have a higher rate of disturbances and invasive species due to increasing traffic off of the beaten path into new, undiscovered areas. The commodification of plants may erase their social value and lead to overproduction within protected areas.

Local people and their images can also be turned into commodities". Most forms of ecotourism are owned by foreign investors and corporations that provide few benefits to the local people. An overwhelming majority of profits are put into the pockets of investors instead of reinvestment into the local economy or environmental protection leading to further environmental degradation. The limited numbers of local people who are employed in the economy enter at its lowest level and are unable to live in tourist areas because of meager wages and a two-market system.

In some cases, the resentment by local people results in environmental degradation. As a highly publicized case, the Maasai nomads in Kenya killed wildlife in national parks but are now helping the national park to save the wildlife to show aversion to unfair compensation terms and displacement from traditional lands. In Suriname , sea turtle reserves use a very large portion of their budget to guard against these destructive activities.

One of the worst examples of communities being moved in order to create a park is the story of the Maasai. In Kenya, the Maasai also have not gained any economic benefits. Despite the loss of their land, employment favors better-educated workers. Furthermore, the investors in this area are not local and have not put any profits back into the local economy. In some cases, game reserves can be created without informing or consulting the local people.

The only find out when an eviction notice is delivered. Through the lens of these simplified images, officials direct policies and projects towards the local people and the local people are blamed if the projects fail" West, Clearly, tourism as a trade is not empowering the local people who make it rich and satisfying. Instead, ecotourism exploits and depletes, particularly in African Maasai tribes.

It has to be reoriented if it is to be useful to local communities and to become sustainable. Ecotourism often claims that it preserves and "enhances" local cultures. Evidence shows that with the establishment of protected areas local people have illegally lost their homes, and mostly with no compensation. The establishment of parks can create harsh survival realities and deprive the people of their traditional use of land and natural resources. Ethnic groups are increasingly being seen as a "backdrop" to the scenery and wildlife.

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The local people struggle for cultural survival and freedom of cultural expression while being "observed" by tourists. Local indigenous people also have a strong resentment towards the change, "Tourism has been allowed to develop with virtually no controls. Too many lodges have been built, too much firewood is being used and no limits are being placed on tourism vehicles. They regularly drive off-track and harass the wildlife.

Their vehicle tracks criss-cross the entire Masai Mara. Inevitably the bush is becoming eroded and degraded ". While governments are typically entrusted with the administration and enforcement of environmental protection, they often lack the commitment or capability to manage ecotourism sites. The regulations for environmental protection may be vaguely defined, costly to implement, hard to enforce, and uncertain in effectiveness. Because of prestige and conspicuousness, the construction of an attractive visitor's center at an ecotourism site may take precedence over more pressing environmental concerns like acquiring habitat, protecting endemic species, and removing invasive ones.

The government and its regulators can become vested in the benefits of the ecotourism industry which they are supposed to regulate, causing restrictive environmental regulations and enforcement to become more lenient. Management of ecotourism sites by private ecotourism companies offers an alternative to the cost of regulation and deficiency of government agencies. It is believed that these companies have a self-interest in limited environmental degradation because tourists will pay more for pristine environments, which translates to higher profit. However, theory indicates that this practice is not economically feasible and will fail to manage the environment.

The model of monopolistic competition states that distinctiveness will entail profits, but profits will promote imitation. A company that protects its ecotourism sites is able to charge a premium for the novel experience and pristine environment. But when other companies view the success of this approach, they also enter the market with similar practices, increasing competition and reducing demand.

Eventually, the demand will be reduced until the economic profit is zero.