Evidence for Ecological Modernisation in the Tourism Sector
Course and Code
One of the critical changes to the 21st century life has been how humans are expected to interact with their environment. The carelessness and lack of attention that preceded the current modern era is no longer sustainable. Every sector of the world has had to adjust, factoring in ecological modernization, and finding ways to move forward with environmentalism as the core principle for modern industries and sectors. Ecological modernization is a term used to label the efforts within policy communities aimed at transforming a majority of the basic premises in the capitalist economies to describe activities aimed at transforming liberal theories relating to environmental policies (Langhelle, 2000). In this theory, proponents assume that the ongoing environmental issues can be internalized through social, political, economic institutions and can bring forth sustainability. Andersen & Massa (2000) define ecological modernization as a school of thought that argues for better environmental protection and consideration as a way to benefit the economy more and sustainably so. Therefore, elements such as government regulations and greener technologies or any other move aimed towards benefiting the environment can be said to be an essential part of ecological modernization. The tourism sector is among the industries that have had to do a lot of adjusting. Tourism destinations are now demanded by policy and regulations to improve their sustainability efforts, compete in a way that favours the environment, and use their commercial success for the welfare of the ecological (Hojnik, 2018). As a result, the entire tourism sector has been forced to set up innovative policies and models to usher in a new era of perspectives and interactions between policy instruments and stakeholders intending to bring a balance between the increasing environmental concerns and economic growth. The aim of this paper is to review the ecological modernization theory with reference to the tourism sector. The tourism sector must endeavour to advance ecological modernization introducing new management strategies and new technologies for players and stakeholders to continue restructuring the sector, thus benefit their economic agendas and the environment as well.
Why Focus on the Tourism Sector?
A majority of sectors have received a significant amount of backlash from the scientific and scholarly communities regarding their contribution to environmental pollution and degradation. The tourism sector, however, has somewhat been spared. Literature on this subject suggests that a majority of people view the sector as only involving polite people holidaying and tourists moving from one country to another without any significant negative effects on the environment (Han et al., 2018). Such a viewpoint is flawed and misleading. The tourism industry is very wide, and as noted by Hobson and Lynch (2018), it encompasses several subsectors such as hospitality (restaurants and accommodations), travel information and facilitation (tour companies, information centres, and travel agents), entertainment and attractions (wildlife, national heritage, theme parks and other sites), and transportation (car rental and airlines). Therefore, the sector contributes remarkably to the current environmental problems in the world.
Development in the tourism sector puts a lot of pressure on natural resources. According to De Jong et al. (2018), the tourism sector pushes natural resources whenever there are increments in consumption in places where the resources are already scarce. For example, water resources are depleted, especially fresh water, due to uses in hotels, swimming pools, personal use, gold courses, and so on. There is a larger generation of waste water due to such tourism developments. Other areas that contribute to environmental degradation and depletion of natural resources include local resources, land, and air pollution. In some spaces, the sector has led to the complete change of wildlife behaviour, pollution, societal problems, and economic issues for an entire ecosystem (Terryn, 2010). Environmental resources have suffered in the hands of tourism, yet, studies continue to casually bypass the harmful effects that the sector places on the ecology. As such, the reason for choosing this industry is based on a need to add to the current literature and to instigate a new line of thought regarding tourism ecology and how the sector can change and transform its policies and technologies to better benefit the environment. The ecological modernization theory, therefore, applies very well to a sector that has been understudied, providing an opportunity to offer suggestions for the future of the industry.
Ecological Modernization in the Tourism Sector
The ecological modernization theory posits that society and its people can be environmentally sustainable by developing greener technologies and policies without necessarily making big changes to their lifestyles or challenging their cultural practices. In the tourism sector, scholars such as Al‐Saidi & Elagib (2018) and Spaargaren & Van Vliet (2000) note that some of the negative outcomes include the fact that an area is put under enormous pressure and emergent issues such as increased pollution, soil erosion, heightened vulnerabilities to natural disasters like forest fires, loss of natural habitat, more pressure on the life of endangered species of plants and wildlife, and discharge into large water bodies. On the flipside, Coffey & Marston (2013) found that the tourism sector can actively and positively contribute to the betterment and conservation of the economic, social, and natural environment. Resources attained through tourism are used up in the economy to improve the living standards of the local communities, both directly through salaries and similar outputs and indirectly through social and environmental policies that make it mandatory for companies to give back. Companies operating in the tourism sector have been known to contribute positively by initiating campaigns that benefit the environment (Al‐Saidi & Elagib, 2018). Therefore, the tourism sector is of benefit to the ecological modernization theory because it already has a framework to ensure policies and outcomes that sustain the natural environment while still benefiting the social and economic realms of a society.
Ecological modernization has emerged as one of the most prominent neoliberal perspectives and a leading theory in the field of environmental sociology. The concept has gone through a series of developments, engaging different perspectives in an effort to come up with the best strategies to for societies to deal with the environmental crises. In the tourism sector, ecological modernization helps to identify problems as well as rate of changes in the nature as a result of activities relating to tourism. For example, through ecological modernization, environmental impacts of the tourism sector are identified to include loss of bio diversity, depletion of the ozone layer, climate changes, and natural disasters. Ecological modernization is described by Terryn (2010) to be a critical component of tourism ecology that predicts and models future hazards as well as issues caused by tourism. Relative to the tourism sector, the ecological modernization principle theorizes that the current continued industrial development provides the best option for the world to escape from the ongoing ecological challenge as opposed to continuing to degrade the natural environment. The sector must modify its institutions as a direct reaction to the environmental issues and show how these adaptations result in ecological improvements. Therefore, as a prominent neoliberal perspectives and a leading theory in the field of environmental sociology, ecological modernization in the tourism sector will inform the next generation in terms of policies and choices relating to transformation of consumption and production.
The Tourism-Environment Connection and Policy-Making Processes
At the heart of environmental-related politics lies a tension and an imbalance between environmental protection and economic growth. The tourism centre is squarely in the centre of this situation. Considering the threats and challenges facing the tourism sector, Han et al. (2018) observed that a need to be innovative in creating policies in order to remain competitive is essential. Government policies are important in this regard. Government regulations and policies must include new interactions, and policies to redefine the collaboration between policy instruments and stakeholders in the tourism sector to attain strategic development goals including environmental concerns. Specifically, local stakeholders such as community leaders and local governance in major tourism destinations have a direct influence on the supply side policies and decisions that will impact the way ecological modernization ideas are taken up. Evidence from Coffey & Marston (2013) and Potts (2010) show that the government (local governance included) is not fully able to manage environmental policies advanced through the ecological modernization theory, without devolving a significant portion of this role to the private sector, especially in the tourism sector. Therefore, government policies must incorporate the participation of the civil society and the private sector in order to promote the liberal ideas advanced in ecological modernization principles. The role of political process in decision-making is that it will, at its core, involve local governance, the civil society, and the private sector in the process of changing how the tourism sector interacts with the environment in an effort to maintain profitability while advocating for the welfare of the environment.
A majority of environmental problems identified within the tourism sector are partially addressed because governing authorities find it difficult to transform policies into sustainability practices. Government players also lack political will in terms of imposing restraints on economic actors that collaboratively bring about ecological and economic benefits. Coffey (2012) found that government regulations regarding the tourism sector is not a linear process that includes the enforcing of specific policies within a well-defined and distinctive impact. The success of political policy processes depends on a myriad of factors and especially on the working together of variant groups in the society to bring about change. In countries like Australia and New Zealand, environmental policies lack the much-needed integration between different stakeholders and sectors. The main problem with the government regulations and policies is that they are based on traditional and restrictive regulatory mechanisms that are a part of the environmental problem (Coffey, 2016). Government policies on the tourism sector in relation to better environmental models suggested in the ecological modernization approach are inadequate. For example, New Zealand and Australia have previously instituted policies on tourism destinations with implementation deficits and a clear shortage of mechanisms suited to evaluate effectiveness of the policy in making the positive influence required. As a result, Byrne et al. (2009) advocate for a change in perspective in terms of sustainability in the tourism sector, demanding that for there to be a balance between the economic and the environmental outcomes, regulations must effectively be used as frameworks that encourage change. This ideation is better compared to the previously used approaches that use government policies and regulations as a rigid system of rules. Credible sustainable objectives and flexible policy directions will promote the adoption and development of better and greener technologies in the tourism sector, while ensuring that environmental regulations are implemented, enforced, and evaluated from a collaborative point of view.
Ecological modernization perspective is expected to bridge the gap that exists between government regulations and the betterment of the environment. As a variant concept in sustainability development, the ecological modernization view aims to create an advantage indicating how to attain sound environmental positions without necessary forcing organizations and other players in the tourism sector to pursue certain directions (Lidskog & Elander, 2012). The ecological modernization principle is, therefore, a reconciliation between the constantly opposing objectives of environmental protection and economic progress. Greener industrialization is one of the ways that the ecological modernization view points as a way forward for the tourism sector. As a paradigm for the systemic restructuring of a society in terms of how ecological issues are addressed, the ecological modernization perspective can be used to bridge the gap in economic requirements of a society versus the need to ensure that the environment remains protected. The core themes include a change of the role of scientific technology, an increasing importance for market dynamics and economic entities, transforming the role of the government, altering the discursive policies and practices and the emerging ideologies, and modifying the role of ideology in social movements. Therefore, the ecological modernization theory will change how the tourism sector uses conventional curative or repair solutions and replace them using preventive strategies that incorporate environmental considerations into the entire sector.
Application of Ecological Modernization Themes into the Tourism Sector
Ecological modernization asks players in the tourism sector, governments included, to consider the decentralization of governance, to give more power and resources to entities at the lowest level so that innovation and better policy formulations are achieved. Specifically, ecological modernization, according to Hills (2005), demands for a more flexible, a consensual, and bottom-up style of governance in transforming the tourism sector from the traditional control and command policy-making machine. Increasingly, there is a need to include social players from both the private as well as the public sector regarding the decision-making process about environmental reforms. The ecological modernization standpoint identifies strategies to defeat the deficiencies of traditional bureaucratic position in policy making regarding the environment. First, the ecological modernization calls for transformation of environmental policies such that traditional approaches are replaced with newer best-practices. For example, curative measures that have dominated the tourism sector for the last century should be replaced with newer ideas focusing on preventive solutions for the environment. Additionally, participatory policy formulation process must replace the exclusive measures that currently define the tourism sector, as well as decentralizing policy making and enforcement. The overall idea is to make every stakeholder a contributor towards better environment policies (Warren, Christoff, & Green, 2016). Therefore, the ecological modernization wants to have favorable conditions for environmentally sound policies and practices to replace the over-regulated environmental position. The role of the state in transforming environmental policies will be steering through economic mechanisms and a change of management strategy. The introduction of collective obligations for the tourism sector through discursive interest mediations will be one of the ways to achieve this transformation.
Another application of the ecological modernization view to the tourism sector is the transfer of incentives, tasks, and responsibilities from the government to the tourism market in order to accelerate the processes of transforming ecological policies. As the government is relieved a part of its role in ensuring a regulated tourism sector, the decentralization of power is likely to lead to faster implementation of policies. The transfer of tasks, incentives, and responsibilities will be better managed by the private sector and individual players in the tourism sector (Spaargaren & Van Vliet, 2000). For example, policies on waste management can only be implemented and enforced better if individual players come up with solutions that align to other rules and regulations such as organic solutions and other preventive ideas. With such policies, the solutions proposed will not only be green and better for the environment, but will also ensure meeting of economic objectives and goals and faster implementation of the said practical policies. The market is a more effective and efficient mechanism for dealing with environmental issues compared to the government. The main idea of ecological modernization is not to weaken the power of the government but rather to complement it through faster and more efficient application of policies (De Jong et al., 2018). The process of environmental management is very critical, especially in the tourism sector. Therefore, a transformation relating to the connection between the society and the government is needed in order to ensure that policies are formulated at the basic level where they are needed and are applied accordingly in line with the concerns of every player in the sector. For example, a policy relating to the use of a natural resource including waste disposal will be better if formulated by the local community including environmental experts in the region. This would not mean that the role of government is reduced, but rather decentralized to increase effectiveness and efficiency at the lowest levels. The effect is that better policies will be created and the environment would be considered in every step of the process.
The ecological modernization sees the environmental issues as opportunities instead of a crisis. In the tourism sector, industry-wide innovation coupled with incentives from an enabling government would create a path towards improvement of environmental quality as well as economic growth. Coffey (2016) views this as a win-win situation for the social, political, economic, and ecological objectives and entities. By “ecologizing” an economy and “economizing” the environment, sustainable consumption and production will be achieved at the highest possible levels. Ecologizing the economy in this case refers to the consideration of the effect of economic policies on the environment, doing every economic activity while considering how the same would affect the ecology. Similarly, economizing the environment refers to the idea that every aspect of ensuring the welfare of an ecology must be considerate of the effect on the economy. In this regard, ecological modernization transformation of how policies are made will be the only sure way to ensure that the economy and nature remain as collaborative entities. The tourism industry through the main consumers (local communities and tourists) must account for all environmental aspects in the consumption and production processes, so as to see the ideas of ecological modernization come to fruition. Overall, ecological modernization will likely change how the tourism sector participates in the overall aim of ensuring the best for the environment.
The aim of the above discussion was to review the ecological modernization theory with reference to the tourism sector. Ecological modernization is a term used to label the efforts within policy communities aimed at transforming a majority of the basic premises in the capitalist economies to describe activities aimed at transforming liberal theories relating to environmental policies. Development in the tourism sector puts a lot of pressure on natural resources. The ecological modernization theory posits that society and its people can be environmentally sustainable by developing greener technologies and policies without necessarily making big changes to their lifestyles or challenging their cultural practices. In the tourism sector, some of the negative outcomes include the fact that an area is put under enormous pressure and emergent issues such as increased pollution, soil erosion, heightened vulnerabilities to natural disasters like forest fires, loss of natural habitat, and more pressure on the life of endangered species of plants and wildlife, and discharge into large water bodies. The discussion established that the tourism sector must endeavour to advance ecological modernization introducing new management strategies and new technologies for players and stakeholders to continue restructuring the sector, thus benefit their economic agendas and the environment as well.
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