Environmental Exploitation and Sustainability
Human interaction with the environment takes many forms, including extraction of natural resources available in the physical environment and the modification of the physical environment to meet human needs. These interactions with the environment come about from the pressing population and industrial needs and demonstrate man’s attempts to harness resources to manufacture products, to prepare land for habitation or cultivation, and to exterminate what may be conceived as a threat to his existence. The environmental article under scrutiny, “Bulldozers Hit the Beaches of Los Cabos” speaks of the clearing of a Mexican natural reserve which serves as a natural sanctuary to forests, estuaries, a local township, and a haven and nesting area to leatherback turtles. The changed and changing face of the landscape has not only raised eyebrows but also complaints and resistance. In the coastal area, land will be reclaimed as architects and land surveyors plan to transform the quiet, rural area to an $850 million top-class tourist city, similar to Cancun complete with golf courses, luxurious homes, commercial centers, and hotels. This article explains human interaction with the environment since it observes the symbiotic relationship between man and nature. Particularly, this relation is parasitic since only one host-entity profits (man) while the other suffers and possibly dies (the environment). Hundreds of years ago, man interacted with the environment clearing land for planting seed and building homes. Just enough of the natural resources where used to support daily existence. Nevertheless, modernized lifestyle has bent under the weight of money-making tourist ventures where in the end, both man and the environment are losers.
(Holden 2008) argues that since environmental tourism is a new force to be reckoned with, societies and government have to set boundaries to this booming industry and to mediate financial interest versus societal and environmentally friendly practices. (Ellwood 2001) views the expansion of plush tourist destinations as a sign of globalization which responds to the capitalistic and consumerist societies that figure predominantly in the West where often owners do not care about impact on the environment. (Batta 2000), (Ooi 2002), and (Lovelock 2008) agree that wildlife, natural resources, and healthy environment are at stake with tourists often marring the destination with pollution and where the tourist society encourages overextended use in gaming, overfishing, overhunting etc. To counteract this contamination and removal of natural resources, (Williams 2004) and (Nag 1997) propose alternative tourism where tourists learn to appreciate the pristine, natural environment, rather than spoiling it to accommodate tourists.
Economic development has taken place to the detriment of the welfare of the environment whereby “the tendency to monopoly combined with decreasing rates of profit drives and structures corporate decision-making without regard for the social, environment, or economic consequences of those decisions” (Ellwood 2000). Although mainstream economists push that capitalism and laissez-faire economics will benefit the people it is far from the truth since “tourism can range from benign indifference to deliberate economic and political exploitation” (Leonard 2006). The reckless exploitation of natural resources benefit mostly the rich and it is the poor who have to deal with the long-term consequences of scarcity versus the rich who are shielded from such horrific experiences. The Los Cabos tourist destination is an escape for the wealthy and upper middle classes thus “the viability of (tourism) is thus tied to the reproduction of global inequalities” (Robinson 2003). The whole idea is to promote consumerism for the well-to-do. The named activities such as sport fishing, golfing, shopping centers, deluxe hotels and resorts testify that the venture goes to primarily support the rich who own these institutions. Ooi reports that “tourism and its economic motivations may not only decentralise the culture from the product but may also destroy the original culture” (Ooi 2002).
The gradual destruction of the environment has gendered the decline and extinction of animals who need to enjoy these environmental benefits just as humans do. However, since man is at the top of the food pyramid, ultimately it is he who is responsible “to protect the natural heritage of ecosystems and biodiversity and to preserve endangered species of wildlife” (Goeldner 2006). The Los Cabos tourist resort will hamper the growth of the already endangered leatherback turtles as nesting grounds will soon be invaded by heedless tourists. Also, the nearby lakes have teams of fish and shark which promise gaming activities which threaten their productivity and existence.
The environmental factors cannot go unnoticed as thousands of natural habitats are cleared without any plans for reforestation or sustainable development practices which stipulate the recovery and renewal of used reserves. A better alternative is ecotourism or alternative tourism where tourists can better appreciate and interact with the environment without tainting it. These options stand as sustainable tourism which “does not undermine and physical and human environment” (Harris 2002).