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Benevolent and Benign? Using Environmental Justice to Investigate Waste-related Impacts of Ecotourism in Destination Communities

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Abstract:

Abstract: 

We contribute to the diversification of environmental justice (EJ) by using it to frame ecotourism-related solid waste management problems. Ecotourism is a service industry portrayed as benevolent (providing benefits), and benign (reducing negative impacts). We propose four characteristics shared by ecotourism-based communities in the Global South and communities struggling with more conventional EJ conflicts. We apply these characteristics to the solid waste crisis in Tortuguero, Costa Rica, a renowned ecotourism destination. First, we show that, despite their general absences from the EJ literature, service industries such as tourism and hospitality can create environmental injustices that disproportionately impact certain types of communities. Second, we highlight the roles of location and socio-economic marginality in siting ecotourism development, in complicating related environmental impact management, and in limiting local abilities to respond to environmental management shortcomings. Third, we provide an example of opportunities to introduce EJ concepts and theory into the study of tourism.

Keywords: Costa Rica; Tortuguero; ecotourism; environmental justice; marginality; tourism impacts

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8330.2009.00696.x

Affiliations: 1: University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, BC Canada; , meletis@unbc.ca, Email: zoemeletis@gmail.com 2: Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke Marine Laboratory, 135 Duke Marine Lab Rd, Beaufort, NC, USA;, Email: lcampbe@duke.edu

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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