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.”

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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….

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The Dangers of Tourism Development

Despite the fact that social justice has been an important issue for decades, many inequalities still exist in the world today. In many countries, the gap between rich is poor continues to grow larger every day. In allowing these issues to persist, First World leaders are failing to take effective action to combat social injustices that are occurring throughout the world. In many cases, our actions are directly responsible for the perpetuation of these injustices. Our emphasis on economic growth as a means of positively impacting Third World citizens is a narrow-minded approach to improving overall quality of life. In fact, putting the blinders on and taking an approach based on solely economic development will undoubtedly have just the opposite of the desired effect.

Improving overall quality of life requires much more than simply improving the economic status of a region. Improving quality of life must include equal considerations of all social, cultural, economic and environmental factors impacting the region. First and foremost, we must ask the people in developing regions if they truly desire significant improvements to their lifestyles. From here, we need to help local communities and developing regions understand the many challenges and changes that arise when converting from a subsistence-based economy to a service-oriented economy.

In many cases, actions that we are quick to label as ‘humanitarian aid’ can be a guise that masks our neocolonial intentions of spreading democracy, and other First World ideals, to an expanding number of Third World nations. Many of these countries have rich social, cultural, and environmental heritage that cannot survive the adoption of Western systems and ideals. They also provide access to some of the most important and profitable natural resources in the world. In extending our reach to these developing nations, we are simply hoping to secure access to these resources. The well being of the local population is often an afterthought, despite our efforts to promote a commitment to ‘sustainable development’ throughout the world.

We often refer to the time of colonial imperialism in the past tense. Indeed, it wouldn’t be surprising if surveys revealed that the general consensus amongst First World citizens is that we have moved past this type of ‘Conquistador’ mentality. In fact, evidence suggests we have simply become more adept at masking our imperialistic endeavors. For years, our government and corporations have been leveraging their power and influence to maintain access to vast reserves of foreign resources, including oil, water, electricity, natural gas, and many others. In the last few decades, a new giant has emerged in the perpetuation of global development efforts led by the First World.

Tourism is quickly becoming one of the world’s largest industries. Tourism is also one of the main avenues through which First World countries are able to control their Third World counterparts. Developing nations are repeatedly assured that increased economic activity will result in increased economic status for their entire country. Western governments, as well as the plethora of multinational corporations involved in tourism development, are directly, or indirectly, engaging in this type of imperial activity.

The free market, capitalistic attitudes embodied in most Western cultures are mainly responsible for the exploitation and ‘Americanization’ of Third World regions. Free market enterprises have been allowed to expand and move freely throughout the world, with little regard for differences in economic, environmental, and cultural systems. The proliferation of First World capitalism has turned many happy and self-sufficient Third World economies into countries that are entirely reliant on catering to rude, insensitive First World tourists. Essentially, these people become ‘slaves’ to the dollar.

In the First World, we continue to promote the positive effects of tourism and increased travel to struggling, Third World nations. However, when this tourism is mainly organized by a handful of multinational corporations, a great percentage of economic gain from tourism effectively ‘leaks’ out of the host community. Often, this places the local community in a more precarious state than they were in prior to the arrival of tourism. In some of the worst scenarios, foreign corporations retain more than 80 percent of income from tourism-based activity, while local residents receive less than 20 percent of the profits, despite their vast contributions.

Increasingly, these situations result in negative perceptions amongst Third World citizens towards First World tourists. In turn, tourists will inevitably sense the negativity directed towards them and, over time, the health of a destination may be compromised if rumors of unfriendly locals spread like wildfire. In some instances, these negative host-visitor relationships have even resulted in physical violence. These differences can severely impact the profitability of destinations and leave entire regions of people in poverty.

Changing the focus of an economic system is not an overnight process. With First World support, it’s much easier to move from a subsistence-based economy to a service-based economy than it is to make the change in the opposite direction. However, when the health of a service-based economy fails, vast populations are left without any reasonable means of sustaining themselves. While we are quick to promote the positive potential of tourism, we are also clever in masking the negative consequences of failed tourism development. If a destination fails to create a profitable tourism sector, it often takes decades for the region to recover from their immense financial, educational, and cultural investment in tourism.

Tourism, more than any other global force, has the potential to break down cultural barriers and create a healthy ‘global community’. Unfortunately, it’s increasingly clear that the current model being pursued by tourism developers and planners, who are largely native to First World countries, only serves to perpetuate negative perceptions between cultures and expand gaps between economic classes throughout the world.

We need to move past our acceptance of mass tourism and our willingness to trample on other cultures in the name of controlling and exploiting their natural resources. As travellers, we need to realize the many injustices that have been committed for us to be able to be pampered and catered to at our favorite island mega-resorts. We need to demand tourism policies that are more respectful to the social and environmental resources in every tourist-friendly nation, and it needs to happen soon.

Spreading the benefits of tourism equally will require an investment in education. It will require an emphasis on preserving cultural heritage and environmental quality. It will require smaller, more eco-friendly destinations, in contrast to all-inclusive resorts that are polluting the environment and destroying centuries of social heritage and cultural knowledge. Our first step, moving forward, is to solve the transportation issue. The manner in which modern tourists are transported from destination to destination is wildly inefficient and certainly not sustainable. Until we improve the efficiency of the travel industry and reduce its overall carbon footprint, we cannot claim that tourism, in any stretch of the imagination, is sustainable.

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I AM Featured Image


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.

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Karmic Work

Written by Joseph Eberhardt

In the midst of a vast blue ocean sits the beautiful and majestic Hawaiian Islands, a powerful female energy that has always felt like home. I am pulled back to the valley isle for another winter of learning, loving, and experiencing all that Mother Maui has to offer.
The towering Haleakala Crater rises to 10,000 feet in the east, as the Maui Mountains impress with their steep peaks, deep gorges, and unique landmarks in the west.
I find myself on the north shore, just about a mile from where the crater and the sleek silver-blue Pacific Ocean meet. I am drawn back to the island by a freshly created migration pattern that flows with the constellations. Orion, the hunter, calls and offers a great opportunity to help with the base plan of a newly developing sustainable homestead.
“We come together to share gifts, to practice our talents, to nurture and inspire and to take care of one another; we come together to build what we could not make separately.” -Scott Russell Sanders
Major projects include: the dismantling of an existing 20 year old rusted barb-wire fence and the re-working of a property line fence to house grazing animals, the building of a loafing shed to house the sheep that will someday graze the 1-1/2 acre grassy meadow, the first implementations of permaculture techniques for soil building naturally with ideas like hugelkulture and compost making, while setting up a nursery for the propagation of seeds, cuttings and transplants.
This blessed piece of land is prime for restoration work of a higher order to bring it back into the balance and equilibrium that befits a living system that is connected and built upon the powerful vibrations of Mother Maui.
Living as an emissary of love, working and thriving in the abundance that Mother Earth provides for all. There is great wisdom in the simplicity of Nature. Finding a place to live your dream that is worthy of love and quality work, where humans, animals, plants, and all life do their part to create and enhance the great circle of life, taking advantage of every opportunity to create a series of experiences that guide and teach you as your path unfolds beneath your bare feet.
“Work has a tremendous evolutionary value because in doing any kind of work the mind, attention, and vitality have to be used. These faculties are trained, developed and organized. Experience can only be achieved through work. Work is the very nature of existence. All existence is in motion and work is the activity of motion. Love is work. Happiness is work with awareness.” -Viktoras Kulvinskas
Feeling the sunlight upon the world and spreading your love in the same manner.  One can’t help but feel blessed, for this is a beautiful schoolroom with many powerful lessons to teach before you are dismissed.
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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.”
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