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Ethics and ecotourism: connections and conflicts

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In this essay the author examines the burgeoning industry of ecotourism, analyzing definitions of "ecotourism" and exploring a number of compelling issues raised by the recent trend in worldwide tourism. She then examines three sample codes of ecotourism: one site-specific (Antarctic Traveller's Code), one from a major environmental group (National Audubon Society), and one developed by a consultant for a travel research firm (Code for Leisure Destination Development). The presuppositions, value, and limitations of these codes are then analyzed. On the basis of this analysis, the author proceeds to a discussion of the frameworks for negotiating discourses about ecotourism. Stark argues that the limitations detected in the sample codes of ethics for ecotourism would be fruitfully addressed by J├╝rgen Habermas's discourse ethics augmented by the feminist ethical and political theories of Seyla Benhabib who draws on the work of Hannah Arendt. While bracketing the debates surrounding the justification of Habermas's principle of universalizability, the author argues that the overemphasis on the rational aspects both of the principle itself and on the notion of "rational trust" stand in need of a corrective if discourse ethics is to be used successfully in negotiating real-life conflicts. Stark argues for a kind of "application discourse" using the feminist ethical and political theories of Benhabib drawn from Arendt's work in which "associational public spaces" are created through relational processes in the acts themselves of meeting and discourse. The author claims that Benhabib and Arendt's works contain fruitful theoretical approaches that also leave room to deal with policies and practical applications as debates about ecotourism increase around the world. Far from exhausting the possibilities, this essay opens up the connections between these theoretical approaches and a new area of environmental concern— ecotourism.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-02-01

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