NATURE PRESERVES: CAN LAND ETHICS WORK?
Russell Conner and Deborah Heglund
The purpose of this case study is to help students consider the various purposes and often conflicting issues surrounding the existence and management of a nature preserve. The specific issues under consideration are rights of access versus preservation and appropriate use of income from nature preserves in less developed countries.
Intended Audience: First year biology students
Scarcity of resources, inadequate employment, foreign debt, and burgeoning populations put nature preservation in a tenuous position in developing countries. Conservationists tend to use cost/benefit arguments to convince governments to protect their nature, and tourism is touted as an economic boon. In recent years the World Bank has been a strong force in this area with debt for nature agreements. It is the goal of this module to familiarize students with these positions, but also to allow students to generate discussion on whether there is intrinsic value in nature for its own sake. According to the Ecotourism Society research, the essential ingredient for success in Third World nature initiatives is for the local population to be able to realize direct benefit from the reserve. This may or may not be demonstrable in the case used in this study; it remains open for the students to reach a conclusion and consider appropriate policy.
The discussion can be explored during the evolution unit when Darwin's observations on the Galapagos are discussed. To begin, the teacher could ask where the students might go locally to make nature observations like the ones Darwin worked from. Or, he or she might ask if any of the students has ever had the opportunity to visit a National Park and to see unusual aspects of nature. Then a brainstorming session could be initiated as to why these parks exist.
Hopefully, a number of the following points would come up:
A follow-up reading for this discussion would be the article in Travel and Leisure Jan. 92 on ecotourism.
At this point the students would be asked to consider the Galapagos National Park, mentioned in the article and established by the Ecuadorian government in 1936. Perhaps they could be asked to imagine what it looks like today and what they would like to do there if they won a trip to the Galapagos in a contest. What kind of accommodations would they expect and how do people get there? In some classes there will be some familiarity and in others there will not be any.
Here the National Geographic article, Managing another Galapagos Species, Man, National Geographic, Jerry Emory, Jan 88, p. 146-9. on tourism to the Galapagos should be read and a brief fact sheet on Ecuador distributed. By now all of the students should have access to enough information to begin to see that in the operation of the park some competing interests might come into conflict.
After all three articles have been read the students should be asked to first work individually and list a variety of impressions. Student Sheets follow.
The format that we envision would be to have students respond to the issues individually and then to discuss them as a class or in small groups.
Examples of potential problems are:
Waste from cruise ships polluting the Marine Reserve Park.
Increased walking traffic creating disturbance to seals and nesting birds.
Examples of anticipated benefits are:
Increasing tourism and park revenues.
Increasing number of guides and tourist related jobs.
Taxes on the tours are used to monitor the water quality in the reserve.
Additional money used to develop island phone communications.
For the second stage of the module we will take a look at the potential decisions which would need to be made if increased use resulted in environmental degradation. Students will be told to imagine that they are a policy making team asked to look at the situation and determine an appropriate man-agement policy.
Note to Teachers: A management issue that may come up after students have read the articles is the eradication program being used by park officials to control introduced species. It has not been dealt with in this model because it does not directly relate to the primary objective of human use and preservation but it may provide material for additional ethical discussion in your class.
Total Land Area - 104,505 square miles
Population in 1990 - 10,782,000
1986-88 The GNP/person - $1080.
From 1980-88 The GNP increased 1.7% annually. On a per person basis this represents a 1.1% decline per year.
Agriculture employs 31.1% of the labor force and represents 17.2% of the GDP (gross domestic product).
Services employs 43% of the labor force and represents 48.4% of GDP.
Restaurants and hotels employ 3.4% of the labor force.
Inflation for 1989 was 75.9%.
Population percentage in absolute poverty 40% urban & 65% rural.
Public education is free and compulsory for ages 6-14 years. 56% of secondary school age children are enrolled in school.
Average family size - 5.0
In 1990, 50,000 people visited the park. This increase in tourism was carefully watched and it was decided that, that number of people could be handled. Tour companies were allowed to expand their facilities and book the visitors. New guides from the area were hired and trained. Park management has continued as before and the island population and government have enjoyed the increase in tourist revenues.
It is now 1995. The annual environmental assessment group from the research station has become alarmed. Seal mating patterns seem to be changing and birds are nesting farther from the walking paths. This places them in greater danger of predation. A gradual degradation of the environment seems to be occurring. Your commission is charged with making a report. In your initial discussions you see three possible alternatives:
Assign some members of the class to support each of these choices.
Things they should try to resolve are:
TO THE CLASS
The process of ethical discussion and decision making can result in a feeling of commitment to a position. If this activity has increased your interest in nature preservation and its functioning in park management, you might want to go further by familiarizing yourself with these conservation issues.
Things You Can Do:
Managing Another Galapagos Species, Man, National Geographic, Jerry Emory, January 1988, pp. 146-149
Pack Your Parka for an Ecotrip, Travel & Leisure, Bern Keating, January 1992, pp. 53-55
Can Ecotourism Save Natural Areas?, National Parks, Ruth Norris, January/February 1992
Encyclopedia of the 3rd World, Vol. I, Kuricin, George Thomas, Facts on File Inc., New York, NY, 1987
The Europa World Yearbook, 1991, Europa Publications Ltd. London, 1991