The Core of Eco-tourism

Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

There is an intriguing cultural paradox mixed in with the conflicted assortment of values and human experience that have evolved from contemporary globalism. How can there be “world” identity and preservation of diverse cultures at the same time? Eating fusion-nationality food, working as an importer of flowers from Ecuador, discussing Saudi Arabian Islamism, wearing running shoes made in China and a shirt from Indonesia, using a Taiwanese cell phone, and driving a Japanese car assembled in Tennessee. 

There is still an actual Viet Nam, Ecuador, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan, and Tennessee. They have distinct ongoing languages and cultures. The megapolitan Los Angeleno, New Yorker, Londoner, Berliner, and Tokyo resident speaks at least one language but it is increasingly polyglot and transitory. The culture of globalism is synthetic and indefinite, based more on the process of change than on solid content.

World culture mixers aren’t just in major cities. From work-seeking immigrants to “world music” enthusiasts, electronics shoppers to television news viewers, the feel of global participation is spreading everywhere. Émigré communities are found in small towns now, and new artistic undergrounds occur overnight in abandoned villages and remote islands. It isn’t a trend but a thoroughly transforming wave. 

The world is subordinating the place. Technology is replacing geography. Authentic place-located cultures are disappearing or changing. This means that any destination where a visitor goes is in rapid transition. What is the central issue of eco-tourism given this accelerated transformation? 

The ecologically minded visitor, guest or whatever euphemism suits the tourist industry has a higher quotient of globalist influences than the local people. Usually the visited areas are lower in income and consumption levels as well. They are also more natural or wild than where the eco-seeker lives. These may in fact be the conditions that underlie the need for eco-tourism in the first place.

But the culture of place that the visitor sees is eroding. It is blowing away along with hillside soils stripped of forests and over-grazed by cattle for export. Native social forms of human reciprocity with natural systems and indigenous wildlife are often collapsing in a quest for commodities and lifestyles such as those portrayed on television.

The eco-tourist comes to see natural features and undertake experiences in wilderness areas that are vanishing through misuse and neglect. The eco-visit inevitably becomes part of the force for their disappearance. Regardless of reassurances from tour operators about the greenness or sustainability features of their stay, the guests are helping to destroy the host places that they came to see.

There is only one alternative that can benefit natural places. It is for visitors to join in the restoration, maintenance and protection of ecosystems and other natural features, whether they be forests or tide pools, deserts or coral reefs, elephants or bower birds. Eco-visitors must act as eco-volunteers and participate in the recovery of places that have been damaged or threatened. They can do this by performing needed work while they are touring: tree-planting, water testing, litter removal…anything that needs more hands and spare energy. When they return home they can undertake other supportive activities based on actual experiences and knowledge about what is being lost.

This is an opportunity for some level of authentic identification with a place that may be otherwise absent in globalist culture.

The City Planning Department of Bahia de Caraquez is including our Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas “wild park” in Maria Auxiliadora barrio as part of a planned natural and scenic trail for residents and eco-visitors (along with the hilltop point of La Cruz barrio and the new mirador in Bella Vista barrio). If successful this plan will upgrade the Bosque with an entranceway visitor’s center, improved paths and bamboo stairways, and plant identification markers. It is a good means for preserving the erosion-controlling trees planted over the last five years and sheltering habitat they create for wildlife (there are now more birds and butterflies in the Bosque than any other place in the city). At a meeting with our staff and a representative of Maria Auxiliadora last week they agreed to maintain and expand the native species planted in the park and to hire local barrio residents as builders, guides and maintenance workers. We are conceiving of ways for visitors to contribute to the overall ecosystem restoration effort there. 

Because of visa difficulties Patrick Wylie is regretfully leaving as Field Projects Manager later this fall. Much of his previous work has been to set up planting plans for the upcoming winter rainy season. The following is a “bill of work” that needs to be accomplished before his replacement arrives. ________________________________________________________________________ Field Project Manager (FPM)– Special Considerations Before Oct 30, 2006 

I. Requirements for relating new planting plans

A. Create trails for all new planting locations 

1) Determine locations for new plantings 
2) Identify species for each location 
3) Create marked metal tags for each plant 
4) Place metal tags at locations for plantings

B. Planting maps for each new site 

1) Show all trails 
2) Number location of each plant 
3) Indicate species for each of numbered locations

II. Hire new FPM

A. Contact former volunteers

B. Advertisements 

1) PDF email lists 
2) PDF web site 
3) Previous & new international lists 
4) SF Bay Area urban planning, sustainability, etc. lists 

III. Create timelines to accomplish tasks before Oct. 30 

A. Plant locations 

1) Trails 
2) Labels 
3) Maps

B. Seed gathering and propagation in greenhouse (with growing instructions)

C. Map-making

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