Month: February 2016

Land Ethic and Tourism Development

Leopold’s Land Ethic pertains to global or universal values inherent to cultures in different regions, states, and communities all over the world. I might say that we are relatively immature here in the United States in developing and realizing this ethic towards the environment. As is exemplified by Chinese, Indian, and Maasai speakers, many cultures have a more inherent value placed on land and the environment. This has existed for centuries in most Eastern cultures and is exemplified much more powerfully in Eastern religions than in the many forms of Christianity.

All of these speakers understand the importance of land/sea ethics and, thus, we can see that these values transcend race, religion, gender, and any other categorical division me might create. While both Eastern and Western cultures certainly value land, the motivations behind this value placement can be very different. For example, most Western cultures have historically valued land for its extrinsic properties that individuals can use and exploit for their own shallow benefits. On the other hand, most Eastern cultures have historically placed more intrinsic value on land, accepting the complexities of natural systems rather than attempting to place numerical values on environmental entities and processes.

From these broad conceptualizations of East versus West, we can begin to grasp the complexity of visitor motivations inherent to the tourism industry. While tourism has the potential to break down cultural stereotypes and barriers, we can see its antithetical potential to reinforce these stereotypes and create breeding grounds for conflict between tourists who seek very different experiences in their travels. We can also see the potential for conflict between tourists and tourism providers. In his article, Leslie comments extensively on the difficulty in changing individual behaviors related to tourism and touches on the role that media plays in being counterproductive to these efforts.

“However, the primary concern of the enterprises involved in tourism is sustaining the company concerned. So in an increasingly competitive marketplace, coupled with the ongoing recession in northern hemisphere countries and the potentially small profit margins, any perception that being more responsible will increase costs for a company is likely to negatively influence the expansion of RT [Responsible Tourism] opportunities.” (Leslie)

This quote speaks to my own reservations regarding global tourism development, as I have expressed in many different contexts throughout this program so far. Because of the huge economic gains to be had from tourism (exemplified in the UNWTO Tourism Statistics), we often overlook its associated negative environmental and cultural impacts. The Maasai in Africa are a disturbing example of the displacement and relocation that can be associated with tourism development. Although, the actual development of physical infrastructure in the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti Plains may be minimal, it was determined that the presence of the Maasai was unsuitable in an environment with so much ‘natural’ potential for tourism visitation. Thus, the Maasai were forced to relocate and companies like ‘On the Go Tours’ moved in. It is hard to imagine the creation of safaris and the operation of gas-powered vehicles on the Serengeti Plains being more sustainable than the pastoral shepherding practiced by the Maasai for thousands of years. This is just another example of the misplaced economic priorities and inequitable distribution of benefits often associated with tourism.

““Community conservancies only benefit the committee members who are paid hefty allowances” lamented Sydney Quantai, the Chairman of the Kenya Coalition for Wildlife Conservation and Management (KCWCM).” (Ouma) Exemplified here is the issue of local elites benefitting from tourism activities in developing countries, withholding economic benefits from less fortunate citizens. A recent trend is seeing these local elites partnering with multinational tourism operators to engage in community-based projects meant to enhance local well-being. “Usually, such projects are in the form of public infrastructure such as schools and dispensaries. But though they are useful and necessary, they do not provide subsistence, income neither do they secure livelihoods to community members.” (Ouma) I believe this statement could be extrapolated to many outreach and mitigation projects currently being undertaken by the tourism industry. “The lopsided situation is set to continue as the high and increasing level of market power exercised by large, vertically-integrated tour operators gets entrenched.” (Ouma)

This brings me back to the need for tourism suppliers to more comprehensively evaluate their positive and negative impacts to avoid exploiting local populations. The primary barriers to more responsible tourism in my mind are twofold. First, the ‘western hegemony’ of tourism demand, as discussed by Milne and Ateljevic, must move towards a more responsible environmental ethic. This presents a substantial difficulty given the competitive and exploitative attitudes that are entrenched in much of Western culture. We are raised to believe that competition is essentially human nature and, thus, most of us spend our lives trying to differentiate ourselves from others. This competitive barrier must be breached in favor of a culture predicated more strongly on cooperation.

Second, our primary view of the world in Western culture is from an economic perspective that constantly seeks to place numerical value on goods and services. This perspective is inherently opposed to the valuation of the environment as well as cultural heritage. As long as we continue to operate within these constraints we will never be able to place enough value on environment and culture to essentially ‘de-value’ the shortsighted claims of the need for constant and consistent economic growth. While we are certainly making small steps in the right direction in considering our environmental, social, and cultural impacts, our current operational model may not be flexible enough to allow us to move past the “daily struggle between conflicting values and directives,” to hammer out new holistic frameworks that truly allow us to “plan and manage tourism resources for the good of all.”

Turning Focus Inward Featured Image

Turning Focus Inward

I can’t wait for spring and summer. Springs means graduation. Spring means freedom. Summer means exploration. Self-exploration. Nature exploration. Exploration of the people and world around me, both near and far. I really don’t think I could be much more jazzed about it. I also couldn’t be much more scared. Spring means the end of using school as an excuse not to have a real job. Spring means the onset of student loan payments and more societal pressure to find a ‘career’. Summer is my opportunity to decompress and think about what I truly want to do. Not with the entire rest of my life. That would be a silly and illogical choice to attempt to make right now. I can’t predict tomorrow. Hell, I can’t even predict the next hour. But what I can predict is my commitment to myself, to my health and to my happiness.

Wow, I’ve been writing a lot about health and happiness lately. It really interests me right now. It interests me how much we neglect our basic physiological needs in pursuit of higher achievements. It interests me how we became so ingrained to always want and need to produce. It interests me to explore avenues that allow me to shuck that enculturation enough to find what I truly need at my absolute core. It isn’t easy. And I can certainly be considered no more than an inexperienced novice in the arena. But the question is not about who is winning the race. The question is about who is taking the time to understand their inner drive throughout the entirety of that race. Truly knowing yourself takes practice and dedication, just like any other area in which so many of us strive to become masters. Shouldn’t mastering yourself be your first priority?

Even athletes, who are held up as the pinnacle of our society, often lack the commitment to themselves that brings true happiness. It could be a large reason that we have such a high percentage of professional athletes with multiple legal charges and convictions on their record. We often act out when we feel uncomfortable with something within. This is a lesson that many of us learned from a young age if we were every bullied or picked on. “So and so is only lashing out at you because he feels uncomfortable with himself.” But, what do we turn around and do to that kid who we perceive as having an inner dissonance? We punish. We use the eye for an eye technique, regardless of the fact that we know exactly where that will end up leaving us.

Gandhi told us so elegantly. It will only end with a world full of blind fools, stumbling over, around, and on top of each other. I don’t know about you but I enjoy my vision. I enjoy colors. But I often marvel at the skills and uplifting spirit of those who have lost their sight when I come into contact with them. I can’t even begin to imagine what the world looks like to them. It’s fascinating! Sensory perceptions are possibly the most important components that contribute directly to our survival and enjoyment of life. Funny that we so often allow them to be overridden by our overdeveloped and domineering brains. Hmmm….

I AM Featured Image

I AM

I am human.

Flawed and awkward, but beautiful.

I am an ape.

My needs for survival are basic.

I am a thinker,

Constantly lost in thought.

I am a fighter,

Never wanting to quit.

I am a dreamer,

Floating on dreams.

I am a writer,

Piecing together words and sentences.

I am an adventurer,

Always looking for opportunities to explore.

I am a scientist,

Searching for new discoveries.

I am a rebel,

Seeking conscious, compassionate change.

I am a time traveler,

But my past can never be forgotten.

I am young.

The world is at my fingertips.

I am fit.

The luck of good health is at my side.

I am fortunate.

My family is loving and caring.

I am lucky.

My friends are amazingly talented and intelligent.

I am blessed.

The world is beautiful.

I am accomplished.

I’ve finished challenges that I’ve begun.

I am a novice.

My experience is relatively minimal.

I am hungry.

I want to create long-term, positive change in the world.

I am not satisfied.

My potential is far from realized.

I am a lover,

Always open to love.

I must move,

On a path all my own.

I must not simply piggyback,

On the exploits of those that have come before me.

I am unique.

I have something to contribute.

I am human.

Health Before Productivity

Health before productivity.
This sentiment has been lost in the corporate shuffle that is our modern world. We are witness to the workaholic Fortune 500 CEO that says, “I would work 30 hours a day if I could if it were possible.” Whoa! Really! I would work ZERO hours a day if I could if it were possible. But, isn’t it?
We all dream of finding that perfect ‘job’ that fits with our passions and doesn’t feel like work when we show up every day. My reality and I wouldn’t doubt that others share this feeling, is that my ideal, dream job might not currently exist anywhere. So, it is up to me to create it. Just because what I want to spend my time doing is not readily available certainly does not mean that I should alter my passions, dreams, and goals to fit into a corporate job that leaves me feeling overstressed and under-satisfied.
We are the creators of our own destinies. And the prospect of creating my own job, developing my own ‘work’, and feeding my desire to do something groundbreaking is extremely exciting. After all, what is exciting about fitting into a previously defined box, circle, rectangle, or whatever shape they want you to fit? For me, there’s not much excitement associated with that idea. Sure, some jobs sound cool or fun to try out. But, my experience tells me that I will not find that true level of satisfaction that I am searching for until I figure out how to create the work that I want to do.
As we get older, our world slowly kills or stymies our creativity and forces us to place our passions on the back burner in the pursuit of financial security and a healthy social standing. Some of us are forced into these responsibilities as a result of poor past decisions. Relationships, kids, peer pressure to move up in the workplace and many other factors cause us to reduce the number of chances they take, to play it safe in the hopes of finally finding relaxation and happiness upon retirement.
Sweet, when I’m 60 I’ll finally be able to do what I’ve actually wanted to do for my entire life. When my body is breaking down, I’m not as physically fit or able as I was when I was in my 20s and 30s, then I’ll do all the crazy, fun, adventurous things that I’ve always wanted to do. Unfortunately, this doesn’t end up working out for many. By the time we get to retirement, we are beaten up and broken down from doing passionless work our entire lives and all we want to do is sit at home, or on the beach, and do absolutely nothing!
But we should be able to spend time doing nothing whenever we want. After all, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. You don’t have to do anything! And, yes, doing nothing involves a certain unfounded and unnecessary level of societal judgment or, rather, perceived societal judgment. We stop ourselves from doing what we truly want to do because of a perceived judgment from other people. I want to travel, live frugally, find employment when and where it’s possible, and write as much as I can about life, love, happiness, travel, tourism, and whatever else sparks my fancy.
But, sometimes, I feel bad about this. Sometimes I tell myself that my dream lifestyle is not possible because of the societal pressures that I’ve been exposed to all my life that tell me I need to get a good, steady job with solid benefits, put in my time, slowly move up the ladder, and, by the time I’m 40 or 50, maybe I’ll finally be doing a job that I want to do. I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like a great plan to me. It sounds like a waste of the next 25-30 years of my life is what that sounds like. And, ultimately, we never know how much time we are given here on this beautiful Earth. Wasting any of that precious time is one of the worst things that we can do in life.
Do what you want, be who you want to be, have confidence in yourself to make it where you are trying to go, and, most of all, love yourself and everyone around you throughout the entire process. Living with love and hope is much more satisfying in the long-term than living in fear and seeking comfortable, safe spaces. Take risks, experiment with your passions, and live unhindered. You will find ways to make money through your passions.
Money does not rule our universe. We rule our universe. We have the power and control to make the changes that we wish to make. It just takes dedication to ourselves, our health, and our happiness. It takes a relentless unwillingness to succumb to the societal pressures that are all around us every day. It takes strength and perseverance. It takes a commitment to going against the grain and finding our own path. And, if we can do this, it will bring about a deep sense of satisfaction and gratitude. Something that I was told playing high school football comes back to me here. I won’t be able to directly quote it so I’ll paraphrase:
“Always give it 110%, even if you’re unsure about your choice, commit to your decision with all you’ve got. Even if you make a mistake, make that mistake at 110% because, if you do so, you will always be able to find satisfaction and learning from that experience. Even if you fail, you gave it your absolute best shot and, most likely, you learned something incredibly useful from that experience. At the end of the day, giving your best effort, either in success or failure, is something that you should always be able to be proud of.”