Economic Development and Environmental Protection

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This paper argues on both theoretical and empirical grounds that, beyond a certain point, there is an unavoidable conflictbetween economic development (generally taken to mean 'materialeconomic growth') and environmental protection. Think for a moment of natural forests, grasslands, marine estuaries, salt marshes, and coral reefs; and of arable soils, aquifers, mineraldeposits, petroleum, and coal. These are all forms of 'natural capital' that represent highly-ordered self-producing ecosystemsor rich accumulations of energy/matter with high use potential (low entropy). Now contemplate despoiled landscapes, eroding farmlands, depleted fisheries, anthropogenic greenhouse gases,acid rain, poisonous mine tailings and toxic synthetic compounds.These all represent disordered systems or degraded forms of energy and matter with little use potential (high entropy). The main thing connecting these two states is human economic activity. Ecological economics interprets the environment-economyrelationship in terms of the second law of thermodynamics. The second law sees economic activity as a dissipative process. Fromthis perspective, the production of economic goods andservices invariably requires the consumption of available energy and matter. To grow and develop, the economynecessarily 'feeds' on sources of high-quality energy/matter first produced by nature. This tends to disorder and homogenizethe ecosphere, The ascendance of humankind has consistently been accompanied by an accelerating rate of ecological degradation, particularly biodiversity loss, the simplificationof natural systems and pollution. In short, contemporary political rhetoric to the contrary, the prevailing growth-oriented global development paradigm is fundamentally incompatible with long-term ecological and social sustainability. Unsustainability is not a technical nor economic problem as usually conceived, but rather a state of systemic incompatibilitybetween a economy that is a fully-contained, growing, dependent sub-system of a non-growing ecosphere. Potential solutions fly inthe face of contemporary development trends and cultural values Ecological disturbance and nature tourism.

THE purpose of this article is to consider the role of disturbance as a crucial ecological consideration in landuse planning for nature tourism. Incorporation of ecological insights into the environmental-planning process offers hope for rational and sustainable development. Nature tourism has been proposed in recent years as a solution to the dilemma that developing countries face in conserving their biological heritage and concurrently improving the economies of local human settlements. In Mexico, nature tourism has become a favored mechanism for development, especially on the Yucatan peninsula. Recognizing the immense value of its coastal natural communities, Mexico has recently established several large biosphere reserves to preserve natural resources and to accommodate and support human settlements. The experience of sprawling, high-impact Cancun, with more than one million visitors annually, has encouraged the government to reassess its development goals. One example of Mexican openness to sustainable conservation-development projects is the innovative, cooperative effort of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras to establish Ruta Maya, a low-impact design to promote tourism based on natural and archaeological treasures (Garrett 1989). In the Yucatan, two long, relatively pristine barrier peninsulas, Rio Lagartos and Celestun, are being identified as opportune sites for nature tourism. Both have high conservation value and were designated special biosphere reserves by the government in 1979 because of their floral and faunal diversity. Both have small human settlements based on fishing and salt extraction. The protection concept known as the Mexican modality, in which local villages can coexist with both conservation and tourism, is an ambitious...
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