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Eco Tourism

Eco Tourism

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Natural Capital and the Advocacy of
Ecotourism as Sustainable Development
Jim Butcher
Canterbury Christ Church University, UK

This paper critically considers the role o\ue000 the concept o\ue000 natural capital (a term originat- ing in the feld o\ue000 ecological economics) in the advocacy o\ue000 ecotourism as sustainable tourism in the rural developing world. Natural capital is defned, and the sense in which it is employed to underpin the claim that ecotourism can constitute exemplary sustainable development is examined. In order to achieve the latter, the paper draws upon fve case studies \ue000eaturing NGOs that have been at the \ue000ore\ue000ront o\ue000 developing and commenting upon ecotourism as a strategy \ue000or integrating conservation and devel- opment. The paper concludes that, despite important di\ue000\ue000erences within the advocacy o\ue000 ecotourism as sustainable development, there is a shared \u2018strong sustainability\u2019 approach to the issue \u2013 one that assumes a very limited capacity \ue000or natural capital to be substituted by human created capital. Moreover, it is argued that this approach to sustainability is itsel\ue000 limited and limiting with regard to the prospects \ue000or develop- ment in some o\ue000 the poorest areas on the planet.

doi: 10.2167/jost610.0
Keywords: ecotou\ue004is\ue003, natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent

Ecotou\ue004is\ue003 is o\ue001ten a\ue004gued to have the potentia\ue002 to constitute exe\ue003p\ue002a\ue004y sus- tainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent in the \ue004u\ue004a\ue002 deve\ue002oping wo\ue004\ue002d, notab\ue002y a point \ue003ade in the UN Inte\ue004nationa\ue002 Yea\ue004 o\ue001 Ecotou\ue004is\ue003 docu\ue003entation (UNEP / WTO, 2002). Othe\ue004 \ue001o\ue004\ue003s o\ue001 deve\ue002op\ue003ent a\ue004e typica\ue002\ue002y cont\ue004asted as \ue002ess sustainab\ue002e with \ue004ega\ue004d to thei\ue004 i\ue003pact on the envi\ue004on\ue003ent, as wi\ue002\ue002 be i\ue002\ue002ust\ue004ated in the case studies. As an integ\ue004ated conse\ue004vation and deve\ue002op\ue003ent (ICDP) st\ue004ategy, eco- tou\ue004is\ue003 bases deve\ue002op\ue003ent upon the non-consu\ue003ption o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 \ue004esou\ue004ces, o\ue004 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, \ue004athe\ue004 than th\ue004ough the t\ue004ans\ue001o\ue004\ue003ation o\ue001 natu\ue004e in the cou\ue004se o\ue001 econo\ue003ic deve\ue002op\ue003ent (Boo, 1990; Fenne\ue002\ue002, 2003; Honey, 1999; Zi\ue001\ue001e\ue004, 1989). Hence it advocates as sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent a type o\ue001 deve\ue002op\ue003ent in \ue003a\ue004ked cont\ue004ast to both t\ue004aditiona\ue002 notions o\ue001 \ue003ode\ue004nisation as deve\ue002op\ue003ent, and the expe\ue004ience o\ue001 the deve\ue002oped wo\ue004\ue002d.

This pape\ue004 begins with a discussion o\ue001 \u2018natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002\u2019. Fo\ue002\ue002owing this, the\ue004e is a su\ue003\ue003a\ue004y o\ue001 \ue000ndings \ue001\ue004o\ue003 \ue000ve exe\ue003p\ue002a\ue004y case studies \u2013 case studies that \ue001eatu\ue004e o\ue004ganisations that have, and a\ue004e cu\ue004\ue004ent\ue002y, at the \ue001o\ue004e\ue001\ue004ont o\ue001 deve\ue002op- ing ecotou\ue004is\ue003 as integ\ue004ated conse\ue004vation and deve\ue002op\ue003ent. This docu\ue003enta\ue004y ana\ue002ysis su\ue003\ue003a\ue004ises the way the NGOs exto\ue002 ecotou\ue004is\ue003 \ue001o\ue004 itsnon-use o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, \ue003i\ue004\ue004o\ue004ing the view o\ue001 \ue003ost w\ue004ite\ue004s on the subject, and notes that

0966-9582/06/06 0529-16 $20.00/0
\u00a9 2006 J. Butche\ue004
Vo\ue002. 14, No. 6, 2006
Journal of Sustainable Tourism
his is o\ue001ten done by \ue001avou\ue004ab\ue002e co\ue003pa\ue004ison to othe\ue004 \ue001o\ue004\ue003s o\ue001 deve\ue002op\ue003ent that
consu\ue003e, o\ue004 \u2018use up\u2019, natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 to a g\ue004eate\ue004 deg\ue004ee.

latte\ue004\ue002y it is a\ue004gued that, whi\ue002st di\ue001\ue001e\ue004ent NGOs within the sa\ue003p\ue002e have di\ue001\ue001e\ue004ing e\ue003phases in te\ue004\ue003s o\ue001 how they \ue004ationa\ue002ise ecotou\ue004is\ue003 as sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op- \ue003ent, they sha\ue004e the view that sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent in the \ue004u\ue004a\ue002 deve\ue002oping wo\ue004\ue002d shou\ue002d be deve\ue002op\ue003ent th\ue004ough the non-consu\ue003ption o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002. In doing so, they adopt what has been te\ue004\ue003ed a \u2018st\ue004ong sustainabi\ue002ity\u2019 app\ue004oach to sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent (Becke\ue004\ue003an, 1994, 1995; Ekins et al., 2003: 167), an app\ue004oach in which natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 is viewed as unab\ue002e to be co\ue003pensated \ue001o\ue004 by hu\ue003an c\ue004eated capita\ue002 \u2013 techno\ue002ogy and deve\ue002op\ue003ent. Yet st\ue004ong sustainabi\ue002ity, it is a\ue004gued, is aparticular andcontested ve\ue004sion o\ue001 sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent, and one that cou\ue002d be \ue004ega\ue004ded as st\ue004ong\ue002y ecocent\ue004ic and pessi\ue003istic with \ue004ega\ue004d to the outco\ue003es o\ue001 econo\ue003ic deve\ue002op\ue003ent (Becke\ue004\ue003an, 1994, 1995).

It is \ue001u\ue004the\ue004 a\ue004gued that this \u2018st\ue004ong sustainabi\ue002ity\u2019 assu\ue003ption \u2013 that deve\ue002- op\ue003ent shou\ue002d be, by and \ue002a\ue004ge, on the basis o\ue001 non-consu\ue003ption o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, \ue004athe\ue004 than th\ue004ough its t\ue004ans\ue001o\ue004\ue003ation \u2013 seve\ue004e\ue002y const\ue004ains the discus- sion o\ue001 deve\ue002op\ue003ent possibi\ue002ities in so\ue003e o\ue001 the poo\ue004est p\ue002aces on the p\ue002anet.

What is Natural Capital?

The concept o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 is st\ue004ong\ue002y invoked, both i\ue003p\ue002icit\ue002y and exp\ue002ic- it\ue002y, in the advocacy o\ue001 ecotou\ue004is\ue003 as sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent in the deve\ue002oping wo\ue004\ue002d (e.g. Boo, 1990; Fenne\ue002\ue002, 2003; Goodwin, 2000; Honey, 1999; Zi\ue001\ue001e\ue004, 1989). This section \ue002ooks at the concept in o\ue004de\ue004 to gain a c\ue002ea\ue004 unde\ue004standing o\ue001 it. An exposition o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 is necessa\ue004y he\ue004e, not \ue002east because whi\ue002st the concept unde\ue004pins the advocacy o\ue001 ecotou\ue004is\ue003, it has neve\ue004 been con\ue001\ue004onted di\ue004ect\ue002y in any depth in debates a\ue004ound the \ue002atte\ue004\u2019s \ue004o\ue002e in integ\ue004ating deve\ue002op- \ue003ent and conse\ue004vation.

Conceptions o\ue001 capita\ue002 have gene\ue004a\ue002\ue002y \ue004e\ue001e\ue004\ue004ed to the c\ue004eation o\ue001 va\ue002ue th\ue004ough the t\ue004ans\ue001o\ue004\ue003ation o\ue001 the natu\ue004a\ue002 wo\ue004\ue002d into \ue003eans o\ue001 p\ue004oduction and p\ue004oducts the\ue003se\ue002ves. This is the case in the c\ue002assica\ue002 econo\ue003ic theo\ue004ies o\ue001 S\ue003ith, rica\ue004do and ma\ue004x, and in the subsequent neoc\ue002assica\ue002 va\ue004iations (Ga\ue002b\ue004aith, 1969; maunde\ue004et

al., 1995; rubin, 1979). Natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, on the othe\ue004 hand, \ue004e\ue001e\ue004s to biophysica\ue002 and

geophysica\ue002 p\ue004ocesses and the \ue004esu\ue002ts o\ue001 these p\ue004ocesses \u2013 \ue000sh in the sea, ti\ue003be\ue004 in the \ue001o\ue004ests, oi\ue002 in the g\ue004ound \u2013 and the \ue004e\ue002ationship o\ue001 these to hu\ue003an needs ove\ue004 the \ue002ong te\ue004\ue003 (Be\ue004kes & Fo\ue002ke, 1994; Tacconi, 2000, Ch. 3 and 4). Fo\ue004 exa\ue003p\ue002e, one cou\ue002d a\ue004gue in this vein that cutting down the \ue004ain\ue001o\ue004est shou\ue002d be seen as \ue004unning down stocks o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, even though \ue001\ue004o\ue003 a pu\ue004e\ue002y co\ue003\ue003e\ue004cia\ue002 point o\ue001 view the t\ue004ees \ue003ay have no va\ue002ue outside o\ue001 what they can yie\ue002d once hu\ue003an capita\ue002 and capita\ue002 in the \ue001o\ue004\ue003 o\ue001 \ue003achines \u2013 \ue002abou\ue004 and saw\ue003i\ue002\ue002s \ue004espec- tive\ue002y \u2013 have been app\ue002ied to the\ue003, and they have been so\ue002d on \ue003a\ue004kets.

The natu\ue004a\ue002 wo\ue004\ue002d does \ue001eatu\ue004e in neoc\ue002assica\ue002 econo\ue003ic theo\ue004y, as the catego\ue004y \u2018\ue002and\u2019, a\ue002ongside \u2018\ue002abou\ue004\u2019, \u2018capita\ue002\u2019 and so\ue003eti\ue003es \u2018ent\ue004ep\ue004eneu\ue004ship\u2019. The c\ue004eation o\ue001 va\ue002ue co\ue003es about th\ue004ough the co\ue003bination o\ue001 these \ue001acto\ue004s o\ue001 p\ue004o- duction. Within this, \ue002and att\ue004acts \ue004ent (the\ue004e is a \ue003a\ue004ket \ue001o\ue004 it). Howeve\ue004, this, a\ue004guab\ue002y, takes no account o\ue001 any potentia\ue002 hu\ue003an we\ue002\ue001a\ue004e gains th\ue004ough the

non-use o\ue001 the \ue002and, and the non-distu\ue004bance o\ue001 the natu\ue004a\ue002 p\ue004ocesses \ue004esiding in
it. These wou\ue002d inc\ue002ude, \ue001o\ue004 exa\ue003p\ue002e, the genetic dive\ue004sity within an ecosyste\ue003
Natural Capital and the Advocacy of Ecotourism\ue000
and the potentia\ue002 \ue001o\ue004 this to yie\ue002d up bene\ue000ts to \ue003edicine, o\ue004 the \ue004o\ue002e o\ue001 \ue001o\ue004ests as
\u2018ca\ue004bon sinks\u2019 (Pea\ue004ce & mo\ue004an, 1994) .1

Post Wo\ue004\ue002d Wa\ue004 Two deve\ue002op\ue003ents in econo\ue003ic theo\ue004y we\ue004e \ue002a\ue004ge\ue002y si\ue002ent on the issue o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 \ue004esou\ue004ce conse\ue004vation up unti\ue002 the 1970s (Eng\ue002and, 2000: 425). Fo\ue004 exa\ue003p\ue002e, neithe\ue004 the Ha\ue004\ue004od/Do\ue003a\ue004 mode\ue002 o\ue001 a dyna\ue003ic, uneven \ue004e\ue002a- tionship between capita\ue002 invest\ue003ent and g\ue004owth, no\ue004 So\ue002ow, who \ue004esponded that this unevenness was not inevitab\ue002e, conside\ue004 it (Eng\ue002and, 2000).

In the 1970s, the \u2018\ue002i\ue003its to g\ue004owth\u2019 schoo\ue002 e\ue003e\ue004ged, positing envi\ue004on\ue003enta\ue002 \ue002i\ue003its to econo\ue003ic g\ue004owth, and \ue004efecting a wide\ue004 \ue004ecognition o\ue001 envi\ue004on\ue003enta\ue002 conce\ue004ns (Ada\ue003s, 2001: 46\u20137; Eng\ue002and, 2000: 425\u201331). Opponents o\ue001 this schoo\ue002 accepted that envi\ue004on\ue003enta\ue002 e\ue001\ue001ects o\ue001 econo\ue003ic g\ue004owth we\ue004e an i\ue003po\ue004tant issue, but gene\ue004a\ue002\ue002y e\ue003phasised the abi\ue002ity o\ue001 societies, th\ue004ough techno\ue002ogica\ue002 advance, to o\ue001\ue001set dec\ue002ining \ue004esou\ue004ce stocks (Eng\ue002and, 2000: 425\u201331). Notab\ue002y though, the sense o\ue001 i\ue003pending envi\ue004on\ue003enta\ue002 \ue002i\ue003its infuenced deve\ue002op\ue003ent thinking. Neo-popu\ue002ist, s\ue003a\ue002\ue002 sca\ue002e \ue004u\ue004a\ue002 deve\ue002op\ue003ent, based a\ue004ound a co\ue003- \ue003unity\u2019s p\ue004e-existing way o\ue001 \ue002i\ue001e, beca\ue003e an infuentia\ue002 deve\ue002op\ue003ent agenda, cha\ue003pioned \ue003ost notab\ue002y by Cha\ue003be\ue004s (1983, 1997). Ecotou\ue004is\ue003 e\ue003e\ue004ged in the \ue002ate 1980s as an exe\ue003p\ue002a\ue004 o\ue001 this out\ue002ook (Zi\ue001\ue001e\ue004, 1989).

The idea o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 itse\ue002\ue001 was \ue000\ue004st int\ue004oduced in the 1980s, \ue004efect- ing a \u2018new, \ue003o\ue004e eco\ue002ogica\ue002\ue002y awa\ue004e thinking in econo\ue003ics\u2019 (Ake\ue004\ue003an, 2003: 431; see a\ue002so Tacconi, 2000, Ch. 4). P\ue004evious\ue002y, we\ue002\ue001a\ue004e econo\ue003ics \u2013 a \ue004e\ue002ative\ue002y \ue003ino\ue004 \ue000e\ue002d within econo\ue003ics \u2013 had conside\ue004ed the envi\ue004on\ue003enta\ue002 e\ue001\ue001ects o\ue001 econo\ue003ic g\ue004owth, but e\ue001\ue001ective\ue002y t\ue004eated these e\ue001\ue001ects asexternalities, o\ue004 by- p\ue004oducts o\ue001 econo\ue003ic activity (Ake\ue004\ue003an, 2003: 431). The invocation o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, by cont\ue004ast, was pa\ue004t o\ue001 a new \u2018eco\ue002ogica\ue002 econo\ue003ics\u2019 that e\ue003e\ue004ged in the \ue002ate 1980s, as a distinctive \u2018inte\ue004discip\ue002ina\ue004y b\ue004idge between econo\ue003ics and eco\ue002ogy\u2019 (Ake\ue004\ue003an, 2003: 434; see a\ue002so Tacconi, 2000, Ch. 3). This schoo\ue002 o\ue001 thought sought to add\ue004ess the e\ue003e\ue004ging i\ue003pe\ue004ative o\ue001 sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent th\ue004ough co\ue003bining eco\ue002ogica\ue002 and econo\ue003ic pe\ue004spectives in theo\ue004y. The use o\ue001 the te\ue004\ue003 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 \ue003a\ue004ked an atte\ue003pt to \ue003ake the natu\ue004a\ue002 wo\ue004\ue002d integ\ue004a\ue002 to econo\ue003ic thought and to nationa\ue002 accounting. It a\ue002so has a st\ue004ong no\ue004\ue003ative edge to it \u2013 it is o\ue001ten invoked in the advocacy o\ue001 how thingsshould be. It cha\ue002- \ue002enges t\ue004aditiona\ue002 neoc\ue002assica\ue002 econo\ue003ic thinking, positing natu\ue004e in and o\ue000 itsel\ue000 as a sou\ue004ce o\ue001 we\ue002\ue001a\ue004e, \ue004athe\ue004 than a \ue004e\ue002ative\ue002y passive e\ue002e\ue003ent in the p\ue004oduction p\ue004ocess (Ake\ue004\ue003an, 2003), c\ue002ea\ue004\ue002y a pe\ue004spective cent\ue004a\ue002 to the advocacy o\ue001 eco- tou\ue004is\ue003 as sustainab\ue002e deve\ue002op\ue003ent (Fenne\ue002\ue002, 2003).

The i\ue003po\ue004tance o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 pheno\ue003ena and natu\ue004a\ue002 p\ue004ocesses \ue003ay be \ue004ega\ue004ded as o\ue001 a di\ue001\ue001e\ue004ent o\ue004de\ue004 \ue001\ue004o\ue003 \ue003o\ue004e t\ue004aditiona\ue002 capita\ue002 theo\ue004y, the \ue002atte\ue004 \ue004eadi\ue002y unde\ue004stood in te\ue004\ue003s o\ue001 \ue003oneta\ue004y exchange va\ue002ue \ue004ea\ue002ised th\ue004ough the \ue003a\ue004ket. This \ue003eans that, whi\ue002st natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 \ue003ay be seen as p\ue002aying an i\ue003po\ue004tant \ue004o\ue002e asmetaphor (Ekins et al., 2003: 169), pointing to the i\ue003po\ue004tance o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 p\ue004ocesses, it \ue003ay equa\ue002\ue002y be seen as \u2018ana\ue002ytica\ue002\ue002y weak\u2019 (Ake\ue004\ue003an, 2003: 435). Fo\ue004 this \ue004eason, it has been a\ue004gued that natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002 \ue003ay be best unde\ue004stood as \u2018a \ue002inguistic device, a fuid object\u2019 (Ake\ue004\ue003an, 2003: 439), b\ue004ought into p\ue002ay to push envi\ue004on\ue003enta\ue002 conse\ue004vation on to the econo\ue003ic deve\ue002op\ue003ent agenda. Fo\ue004 exa\ue003p\ue002e, p\ue004o\ue003inent advocate o\ue001 the e\ue001\ue000cacy o\ue001 natu\ue004a\ue002 capita\ue002, robe\ue004t Constanza, sees it ve\ue004y \ue003uch in this way, in the context o\ue001 a c\ue004itique o\ue001 neo- c\ue002assica\ue002 econo\ue003ics and its \ue002i\ue003itations (Constanza, 2003: 19\u201328).

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