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Part I


1. Introduction: The Global Political Economy of Tourism and Local Environment-Society Relations

This book is about power in the global political economy (GPE) and how local and global environment-society relations play out in coastal communities dependent on tourism for economic survival. It brings together several sub-disciplines from global political economy to political ecology, analyzes the consequences of social and economic policies in global institutions and industrialized countries on particular locales outside the center, and makes a case for studying the role of environmental values in global environmental governance. It takes as a starting point an alternative view of the global political economy of the environment, in contrast to the neoliberal institutionalist focus on institutional politics. Rather, it focuses on the underlying structures of the political economy and its social and environmental consequences — in this case, the tourist industry and seaside destinations in marginalized regions of the globalizing economy. These are regions that at first sight seem to have very little connection to the globalizing world, yet the tension between production and consumption, nature-society relations and equity leave their imprint in very particular ways. This book analyzes how these global linkages can have dramatically different results even in supposedly similar situations, thus illustrating the importance of historical and socio-structural factors in analyzing problems but also highlighting how environmental values can actually be more important than environmental law.

2. Environment, Tourism and Levels of Governance

This chapter looks at various institutional levels in order to explore what methods of governance exist to regulate the environmental consequences of tourism and how they connect with other environmental governance layers. This book focuses on global-local linkages and each case highlights different layers of governance and how they do or more likely do not come together to create levels of governance to deal with particular environmental issues. While the nature-society linkages and equity/consumption dimensions are crucial and discussed in later chapters, it is also vital to generate an overview of what governance layers exist or do not exist in bringing together local and global dimensions of tourism and environmental issues. This chapter focuses on formal networks of governance but will also touch upon informal networks and/or the lack of them.

3. Environment and Global Political Economy

The environment in global political economy (GPE) has not been incorporated as a mainstream component of GPE analysis despite awareness of its ever increasing importance both in resource economic and also social-cultural terms as well as ecological importance. There are no direct environmental approaches to GPE which incorporate the environment in a systemic framework (apart from ecological world systems theory approaches discussed below in the nature-society relations section), which illustrates a clear gap in the literature and this book is one attempt to fill this vacuum from the perspective of one particular industry. There are many empirical accounts of the impact of certain aspects of GPE on the environment or on certain actors. However, an actor-centric view of GPE and environment neglects the relationship between nature and society in the 21st century and the relationship between ecology and social constructs, such as society and economy. In other words, it studies forms of social organization to address environmental degradation rather than the relationship between nature and society from a structural as well as actor-driven perspective. This book attempts to combine both these aspects. Global Environmental Politics (GEP) has been more successful in incorporating an understanding of the global political economy into its analysis as can be found in the works of Dauvergne and Clapp (2005), Clapp (2001), Paterson (2001 and 2007) and Kütting (2000 and 2004) as well as from a more historical perspective, Chew (2006 and 2008).

4. Consumption and Equity

In this chapter, I will discuss the dimensions of both consumption and equity in the context of tourism and social and environmental equity. These are the dimensions in global political economy of the environment that are most often neglected by the neoliberal institutionalist literature. Neoliberal institutionalism puts emphasis on political processes and mechanisms based on technical expertise within the parameters of predominant economic values and thus follows the canon of classical economic theory which sees consumption and production as two sides of the same coin. Consumption is the final destination of all that is produced. This means that both production and consumption activities today are more pervasive than at any other time because in the past ten years alone world output grew by 50 per cent and this has obviously led to unprecedented levels of consumption (World Bank, 2008: 193). The academic literature in global political economy has concentrated on analyzing production as the driving vehicle of progress and explanatory variable of social relations, and has seen the activity of consumption as a natural extension of this production structure rather than as a social force or activity in its own right (Boyer and Drache, 1996; Hoogvelt, 1997; Hirst and Thompson, 1996; Dicken, 2007). This means that the study of consumption has been neglected and is one of the least understood of economic activities.

Case Studies


5. Zakynthos

This chapter will look at the case of Zakynthos as an example of nature-society relations on an island whose economic base is predominantly composed of small and medium-sized tourist enterprises and where an overt environmental conflict exists. A brief historical overview will be given followed by a discussion of the position of civil society in Greek politics. These are necessary prerequisites for analyzing the environmental conflict between turtle breeding and touristic development on this island. Zakynthos, unlike the case study on Thassos in this book, has strong civil society involvement in its touristic and environmental dealings, and in many ways this seems atypical for Greece which does not have a political culture of civil society activity. This oddity will be discussed as well before analyzing the details of social relations. Zakynthos has a relatively long history of a perceived conflict between the interests of the turtles and the inhabitants of the island, and this conflict is nowhere near to being resolved. This chapter will discuss the role of civil society in the Zakynthos case in detail as it differs from standard civil society accounts and is quite central to this case. This will be followed by a history of turtle and tourism relations on Zakynthos and a more detailed discussion of the two turtle breeding areas — the Vassilikos peninsula and the Laganas/Kalamaki resorts.

6. Thassos

Thassos lends itself as a detailed case study because it is an island that suffered an environmental disaster but turned its fortune around and still manages to combine the socio-economic advantages of tourism with relative environmental success. The island of Thassos is an extremely green and forested island whose inhabitants live mostly off tourism but the island does not have an extremely high tourist-to-local ratio. It is an example of an island where nature-society relations are not consciously sustainable but there is a consciousness that tourists come to enjoy the clean and unspoilt environment and that therefore it is an asset worth preserving. Thassos can be seen as a case study that comes as close as possible to marrying mainstream tourism with sustainable tourist practices. As the historical overview below shows, this assumption was not always there.

7. Cavo Sidero in Crete

The third case study is one where the social and environmental relations of tourism are not mainly determined by tour operator power. The story of the Cavo Sidero planned eco-golf resort is an important case study because it is perceived as trendsetting for the future of Mediterranean tourism. It is a study of complex power relations between an emergent Greek civil society, the Greek government, an “outside” civil society actor as well as an outside developer with the added complication of a controversial Greek actor, the Greek Church. This has been an ongoing fight for over ten years and it can also be described as a conflict between two different environmental ideologies: the idea of ecological modernization where technology can conquer geographical adversity, which is portrayed as sustainable, as opposed to respecting the environmental or geographical limitations of the land and working around it.

8. Conclusion

The conclusions drawn here can be divided between conceptual and applied issues. The applied conclusions of this book are that small and medium-sized enterprises in tourism can indeed provide a more sustainable and equitable form of social relations between tourists and locals if certain conditions are met. The three cases all tell very different stories of equity, environmental protection and empowerment. These differences are due to historical experiences and the different social structures arising as a result but are also somewhat related to geography. In terms of regard for global environmental governance, such as international wildlife protection law or European Union designated protected sites, the research suggests that implementation of such “global” norms depends heavily on the social and environmental values of the local population, thus suggesting that “top-down” approaches can only work if they are meaningful to those they apply to — or are applied to. In other words, the prior existence of environmental values is paramount for the introduction and successful implementation of environmental law and policy. Overall, small and medium-sized tourist enterprise economies can lead to environmentally acceptable forms of tourism under certain conditions.


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