THIS WEEK'S FEATURE BOOK:
Rypkema, Donovan. The Economics of Historic Preservation: A Community Leader’s Guide. Washington, D.C.: The National Trust for Historic Preservation, 1994 (131 pp.). Rypkema provides a wonderfully readable and practical guide for historic preservation activists who need ammunition to keep city councils and developers from ripping down old structures. He notes in the beginning of the book that most activists get involved because they love old buildings, admire their beauty, and care about the sense of community they provide, but that people who make the decisions (elected officials, city staffs) usually could care less about these issues. They operate in the world of money and economics, and so Rypkema offers a response to them, i.e., there are economic incentives to saving historic properties. He offers 100 reasons, from it being more expensive to tear down a building than rehabilitate it, to the fact that historic neighborhoods attract businesses and well-paid residents, to the ways in which historic buildings contribute to property values. The book is filled with quotes from other preservationists, elected officials, scholars, and city employees who have studied the economics of historic preservation, and there are many case studies supporting each of Rypkema’s 100 points. At the end of the book, he also offers useful arguments that activists can use in any of 24 different scenarios, such as when the city council is deciding whether to tear down a historic structure to create a parking lot that will generate funds. He shows in this and other examples how the short-term fix (demolition) is usually more costly than preservation, and in most cases he also offers political strategies. His is not just a guide about buildings, however, because Rypkema also touches on issues like public participation, creating a community conscience and sense of place, combating sprawl, and using a region’s distinctive character to spur tourism. The book is divided into 11 chapters that examine the economic benefits of preserving and using old buildings for different reasons – such as for tourism, downtown revitalization, and public policy. There is much repetition throughout the book, and many of the arguments start to sound very much alike, but some of the points do fit within more than one strategy. One wishes that most city council members and other elected officials would read this book before deciding that "it’s too expensive" to maintain that old building downtown. Rypkema’s book belongs on the bookshelf of anyone concerned about community.
PREVIOUS BOOKS OF THE WEEK:
Honey, Martha. Ecotourism and Sustainable Development: Who Owns Paradise? Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1999 (405 pp.) Martha Honey probably does not win too many awards from the tourism industry. This well-written and extremely comprehensive study of ecotourism lays a good deal of the blame for the unmet promise of ecotourism squarely on the shoulders of the major players in the travel industry, in particular airlines, cruise lines, and hotel chains. She suggests that they have adopted "green" language because the traveling public (mostly the Boomers) wants to hear it, and also because the industry knows, rightly so, that tourism depends on the conservation of attractions – and more and more those attractions are natural. Thus, it’s in their own economic interests to conserve parks and wildlife, for example. However, as Honey argues, most corporate approaches amount to little more than "eco-lite" tourism, and in the worst cases they do more harm than good. This is a valuable cautionary note for practitioners of heritage tourism as well; even though her focus is ecotourism in Third World nations, many of the principles and problems Honey explores, especially those dealing with sustainability and cultural preservation, could just as well be adapted to heritage experiments anywhere. The book is valuable, even if the reader does not agree with Honey. As someone who has worked around the world promoting ecotourism before it even had a name, she knows the origins of this niche market well, and the opening chapters provide a worthwhile overview of ecotourism’s beginnings, the people involved, and the ways in which it differs from other forms of nature tourism. Most significantly, unlike adventure tourism, wildlife tourism, and other models, at its core ecotourism endorses a political and social agenda to empower local people, build environmental awareness, and contribute to human rights. On the matter of whether ecotourism is passe, she notes that the word has been appropriated by so many interests that it is nearly meaningless, but that the principles are still worth pursuing. An early chapter on the tourism industry demonstrates how basic ecotourism principles are generally at odds with corporate tourism, even when major tourism organizations (WTO, TIA, WTTC, ASTA) profess allegiance to the preservation of natural resources. The book can be a little heavy-handed; part of its problem is that in Honey’s world everyone in the tourism industry wears a black hat and locals are victims – always an us-and-them presentation. The bulk of the book examines ecotourism in seven sites, from the Galápagos Islands and Costa Rica to Kenya and Cuba. At the conclusion of each chapter, she provides an ecotourism scorecard, rating each place on its adherence to the original principles. There are many practices dissected in these chapters, and the operative standards of ecotourism begin to emerge, including involvement of local people (which heritage tourism benefits from as well). Although some sites are doing a better job than others, Honey says that no place has yet realized the potential of ecotourism, and what is needed are clearer standards and better monitoring procedures.
Forbes, Peter. The Great Remembering: Further Thoughts on Land, Soul, and Society. San Francisco: The Trust for Public Land, 2001 (95 pp.). The former vice president of the Trust for Public Lands, Forbes suggests that instead of treating the symptoms of our misuse of land (chronicled in detail here), we need to transform “the root of the problem” – our relationship with nature. “The ecological solution,” he writes, “is to rethink land conservation as the conservation of culture.” He suggests land agencies focus too much on “how” to save land (a technical solution) and not enough on “why” they do what they do (the human side of the question). He asks, “Can we grow from a technical movement to a social movement?” The new “radical center” Forbes proposes is a blend of science and human values. This short but helpful text includes a recipe for success, and includes many examples of people and organizations working to enhance the land and human culture simultaneously.
Weaver, David. Sustainable Tourism: Theory and Practice. Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006 (240 pp.). Although written for university courses, this book represents one of the best historical and philosophical overviews of the sustainable tourism concept; it should be consulted by any scholar or practitioner interested in a more responsible approach to tourism. Weaver does an excellent job of putting the sustainability movement in its tourism context, tracing its emergence through various other developments such as ecotourism (Weaver's earlier publications mostly treat this approach) and other contemporary schools of thought that are not specific to tourism. Weaver provides numerous helpful examples of the principles that underpin sustainable tourism, connects these principles to case studies worldwide, and constantly tests the principles. That, perhaps, is the book's most beneficial feature – the author's willingness to show how the principles can be misappropriated or hijacked by programs that “use” the approach as a tool for profit, rather than a technique for sustainable development. He constantly puts tourism programs under the microscope to examine their economic, environmental, and social commitments to sustainability. The book is filled with tables, charts, stories, and graphs that help to measure a given program on the sustainability scale. Weaver compares the new trends in alternative tourism with the mass hospitality sector, and describes in detail the people, organizations, and methods that contribute to appropriate sustainable tourism. One hopes that every student of tourism and hospitality is exposed to this text. It is a good introduction, not only to sustainable tourism, but to the overall travel and tourism industry.
Goeldner, Charles R. and J.R. Brent Ritchie. Tourism: Principles, Practices, Philosophies, 9th ed. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003 (606 pp.). This massive textbook is fairly typical of the publications used in university classrooms to teach travel and tourism. At more than 600 pages, the book is extremely comprehensive, demonstrating that tourism is not a separate industry, but instead a business that connects to nearly every economic, social, environmental, or cultural sector in most communities. The introductory chapters, putting tourism into a larger economic, geographic, and cultural context, are particularly helpful. Much of the book is aimed at students wishing to make a career in tourism, either as travel agents, hotel managers, or related professions; and it almost reads like a recruiting tool. While newer editions do cover issues like sustainable tourism and ecotourism, the authors' references to the social or environmental damage that the industry might foist on a region feel tokenistic. Goeldner and Ritchie are clearly industry supporters, and that comes through in their prose. When they mention something like the community's role in setting tourism standards, which they do more than once, there's next to no information about how to involve the public or who dictates what the acceptable standards are. One hopes future editions will include more research from the sustainable tourism movement. Still, anyone working in the tourism business should consult this work, if only because it's a typical classroom textbook – perhaps one of the most used – and it's helpful to know how tourism is being taught.
Beatley, Timothy and Kristy Manning. The Ecology of Place: Planning for Environment, Economy, and Community. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1997 (265 pp.). Beatley is one of the most perceptive and knowledgeable scholars writing on the themes of place and sustainability, and this book is one of the best publications for communities that wish to move in a more sustainable direction. Of particular help here is the way the authors define "sense of place," as it relates to development schemes such as tourism.
Holliday, Charles O., Stephan Schmidheiny and Philip Watts. Walking the Talk: The Business Case for Sustainable Development. Sheffield, UK: Greenleaf Publishing Unlimited, 2002 (288 pp.). For anyone who still maintains that community development has to be either "jobs or the environment," they should consult this book, written by CEOs of three of the world's largest corporations, including Shell Oil and DuPont. Walking the Talk introduces the concepts of “Eco-efficiency,” Corporate Social Responsibility, and other socially and environmentally sustainable forms of development. The authors have been involved with these and related movements since the 1980s. Complete with more than 60 best practices from around the world, the book demonstrates that sustainable development is not only possible, but imperative, given our environment's precarious decline during the last half century. Far from “tree huggers,” the three authors argue that the market can and should partner social and environmental NGOs to better understand and connect to the communities in which they do their work, at the same time the NGOs can use market forces to help build healthier places. From our perspective, the book still argues for too much “growth” (the authors seldom suggest consumers should simply do with less, for example), but the cases presented here may persuade those who believe absolutely in Adam Smith's free-market approach to consider a broader triple bottom line – market, environment, society. The book is helpful for individual businesses that want to operate in a more responsible manner, as well as entire communities trying to build healthier and more sustainable places for their residents.
Bosselman, Fred P., Craig A. Peterson, and Claire McCarthy. Managing Tourism Growth: Issues and Applications. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1999 (304 pp.). This book was written by three lawyers (as the book jacket notes) – not recreation scholars, park managers, or anyone in the tourism business. After the first chapter, it’s clear why: the approach is technical and legal. A museum director looking for methods to manage visitor flow will find little here that’s helpful. (Although some advice could be extended to an individual museum; see, for example, the discussion of "carrying capacity.") Here, however, the authors examine how entire communities – neighborhoods, towns, cities, regions, countries – approach tourism. They acknowledge that tourism can provide benefits, mostly economic, to host communities, but they’re also clear from the start (and they reinforce this message repeatedly) that tourism can have a downside (in fact, many downsides) if it’s not managed according to local customs, capacities, and values. They include many examples where the revenue generated by tourism does not counterbalance its negative impacts – threats to the natural and cultural environment, being the most obvious. In effect, the authors argue that tourism itself is not an innately rapacious industry, but left unchecked, the free hand of the market will likely diminish the very assets that drew residents, and then tourists, in the first place. To that end, their approaches for managing tourism growth are intended to: 1) minimize negative impacts on destinations, 2) maximize benefits to tourists, 3) allocate benefits and burdens appropriately, and 4) remain adaptable to future trends. Their formula for achieving these ends focuses on three elements: quality, quantity, and location (these often overlap). Within each element, they provide different tactics for realizing the goal, and this is where the legalese creeps in: zoning, districting, etc. (This discussion is appropriate for any community experiencing growth problems, not just growth created by tourism.) There are valuable lessons for heritage managers who sit on the chamber of commerce or tourism authority; the book provides dozens of case studies of communities that have successfully (and sometimes not) responded to tourism’s challenges. About half of the 40 or so cases are in North America. One thing that emerges in every discussion is that no approach will work if the community (in the broadest sense) is not involved in the planning; and partnerships that include the private sector, the public, and government are essential. Reading this book, one marvels at the forward-thinking approaches that many towns, some quite small, have developed to preserve their historic character and natural environment, at the same time they are increasing tourism revenue. Dozens of places – towns, regions, countries – realize that a long-term, sustainable approach is the best way to guarantee that their tourism products (whether natural, historical, social) will be preserved and that the visitor experience will continue to be a quality one – thus, ensuring repeat customers. Towns just getting into tourism should consider the cautionary tales in this book – not to dissuade them from building upon tourism, but to suggest tools to manage it. One disappointment is that the book does not discuss ecotourism or heritage tourism, even though most of the case studies mention the goal of preserving the community’s heritage and environment. Still, this is a balanced look at the risks and rewards of tourism, with a focus on helping communities minimize the negative impacts. Any community that includes tourism in its economic development plan should consult this book.
Chambers, Erve (ed.). Tourism and Culture: An Applied Perspective. Albany: State University Press of New York, 1997 (221 pp.). The "Applied" in the title here is an attempt to connect the discipline of anthropology to the tourism industry by examining the underlying cultural contexts within which tourism operates – and to look at the effects of tourism on different communities’ social markers. Not a few of the eleven essays also deal with the troubling political questions tourism presents concerning the inequities of wealth between the traveler and the host communities, especially in so-called "developing" nations just discovering the economic benefits of tourism. Most of the writers, all but one of them anthropologists, condemn tourism-related activities that exacerbate economic disparities, blur cultural identity, and lead to tourism-dependent economies; but most of the authors do not argue that such hegemonic consequences are inevitable. The essays offer several examples where tourism works for the local community (a Cherokee arts and crafts project in North Carolina), as well as others where tourism has served only international corporations or the local elite, at the same time it has demeaned and threatened the very lifestyles of poorer, indigenous peoples (Kalahari Bushmen). The common message throughout these examples is that tourism creates more sustainable economies, cultural maintenance, and local acceptance in those places where residents are involved in the planning, design, and implementation of the tourism product (to the point they also share equally in the benefits). The editor’s introduction provides a solid rationale for an anthropological approach to tourism, in that it is one of the few industries where people of so many backgrounds come together, as well as the fact that tourism can bring about extreme cultural changes. Also, the editor's penultimate chapter makes a strong case for teaching the social and environmental consequences of tourism – as well as sustainable tourism itself – to students of the travel industry, who often receive little more than vocational training so they can work in large-scale service industries. What is particularly helpful in this volume is that each essay focuses on its own case study (about half from the U.S.), providing examples, good and bad, of how the tourism industry and locals do or do not rise to the challenge of presenting their culture in a way that benefits residents, as well as travelers and the industry that brought them.
MacCannell, Dean. The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class, 3rd Ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999 (231 pp.). "Wow!" is about all one can say after reading this book. MacCannell’s is one of the first and still most relevant sociological studies of the tourist, whom he sees as the exemplar for the postmodern figure: "alienated but seeking subjectivity in his alienation." The thesis of this expansive, insightful, and still applicable book is that modern society ("complicated, competitive, rat racy, dog-eat-dog, racist, exploitative, slick, superficial and corrupt") is linked to and in many ways is most represented by tourism, especially mass leisure, through the tourist’s quest to experience authenticity, which he or she finds absent from everyday life. But, says MacCannell, sociologists, who purport to study underlying social structures, have, for the most part, ignored tourism as a benchmark for modernity. MacCannell sets out to fill that gap and succeeds remarkably, providing what Claude Levi-Strauss said was unrealizable: an ethnography of the modern, one that pulls disparate disciplines of social inquiry – sociology, semiotics, linguistics, history, religion, philosophy – into a coherent substructure that has "museumized" the postindustrial experience. Readers who are not familiar with the ideas of Marx, Hegel, and in particular the sociologist Erving Goffman may find themselves somewhat lost in the dizzying array of theories – and application of those theories – that MacCannell tosses around in the early chapters. Stay with him, though, and you’ll be rewarded as he builds upon these concepts and draws clear and profound connections to contemporary lifestyles, especially as they relate to tourism (applying Marxist thought on the value of commodities, for example, to our relationship with tourism products and the experience — or "value" – they afford). His comments on differentiation, "staged authenticity," and the different levels of reality tourists confront are still debated and often cited in the literature. The Tourist is filled with specific examples of the "touristic" experience, i.e., the ways in which travelers relate to different attractions (MacCannell coined the word touristic); and from these examples he draws a wealth of conclusions about the nature of attractions (why they are, who says so, what they mean) and how these leisure experiences define modern man – replacing work as the principle activity that provides one’s identity. Unlike other contemporary studies that criticize tourism as shallow and superficial (usually written by scholars who are themselves tourists), MacCannell’s book takes a more inquisitive view (not blaming the tourist), and ultimately sees most travelers as people who do want the authentic – who, more than most, are moving beyond "the frontiers of existing society" through inquiry into cultural otherness. This review used the third edition, which includes a recent (1999) epilogue by the author. He (and most other readers) still find the basic message of The Tourist intact; what he adds is a valuable chapter on the modern tourism "industry," which has effectively been appropriated by corporations. To combat this rapid and homogenizing development, MacCannell sees hope in the newer and more localized forms of cultural tourism. This is a special, prophetic book that deserves more than one read.
Daily, Gretchen C. and Katherine Ellison. The New Economy of Nature: The Quest To Make Conservation Profitable. Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 2002 (260 pp.). Just as ecotourism and heritage tourism use the natural and cultural environments for economic benefits, a new breed of ecological entrepreneurs is experimenting with programs and approaches that will help save disappearing nature and make money at the same time. The idea behind many of these programs is that the century-long appeals to people and governments to preserve the environment because it’s "the right thing to do" clearly are not working, as devastation of flora and fauna continues unchecked around the world. These visionaries believe that tapping into the economic benefits of the land will go further toward convincing governments, corporations, and people to conserve nature, if for no other reason than it’s good for the bottom line. The premise that underpins most of these approaches is that nature has been providing benefits to societies for generations, such as the stand of trees that absorbs poisonous carbon dioxide or the family of bees pollinating plants that become our food, but nature or the people who manage that slice of nature have generally not been compensated for these benefits. For the most part, trees only become economic assets when they are cut town for wood or paper, or animals only assume some economic status when they, their eggs, or their pelts, for example, are "used" in some way. This "new economy for nature" argues, however, that forests, rivers, insects, and nearly every other part of the ecosystem holds economic worth, if they can only be recognized, quantified, and explained in clear terms. The actors in this venture all begin with strong environmental credentials, and many of them have worked in the usual nonprofit or national park arena for years; most are frustrated with the habitat destruction that continues unabated, and so they have turned to think tanks, foundations, governments, and even corporations to re-imagine our approach to conservation. It’s no surprise that many of their suggestions – the principal one being that nature has "market" value – do not have universal support among the typical environmental lobby. Their argument would be, though, that current policies are not working, and the market, which is not going away, might be part of the answer. Aside from this unique if controversial premise, the interesting thing about the book is the manner in which it’s written. Rather than the typical "study" of environmental issues and possible solutions, the writers (one a scientist, one a journalist) follow several of these entrepreneurs through years of meetings, visioning sessions, and program start-ups, including more failures than successes. Each chapter focuses on one of the central figures in the saga, describing how he or she is tapping into nature for both preservation and economic incentives, which provides the reader with an interesting variety of approaches to the topic. Sporadically, the principals meet at annual conferences to update one another on their progress, or lack of it, and in that sense, the book reads like a story, covering about four years of theory, philosophizing, research, and field work. As an example, New York City was ordered by the EPA to build a water filtration plant that would cost billions of dollars. Instead, the city purchased all of the land around the reservoirs and streams, removed what development there was and prohibited new building (which was the cause of the contaminants). Trees and plants now filter the water naturally, open space that would have been subdivisions was preserved, and the strategy cost a fraction of a new plant. Another common tactic is trading CO2 rights to businesses that pollute, if they help preserve forests that remove the gas; while controversial and still difficult to quantify, the trading and selling of these and other rights may someday take place on the stock exchange, allowing investors to earn a profit while supporting conservation. Creative approaches like this fill the book’s pages, and although all of the approaches do not live up to their dreamer’s dreams, Daily and Ellison highlight the fact that a growing number of people outside the usual environmental spheres, including corporations and economists, understand that current levels of resource extraction and use are not sustainable, and that new solutions demand out-of-the-box thinking. The debate will continue as to whether these conservationists are using the market to save nature, or whether corporations are using the environment to turn a profit. Some would probably argue that the end justifies the means, while others would no doubt say that the emphasis on profit has the potential to compromise conservation efforts. The jury is still out.
Edgell, David L. Managing Sustainable Tourism: A Legacy for the Future. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press, 2006 (144 pp.). This slim volume by a seasoned tourism scholar is less about “managing” sustainable tourism programs, as the title suggests, than it is about the evolution of the sustainability niche. Edgell succinctly recounts the developments, reports, and research in the hospitality sector that have led to the sustainability movement, an analysis that argues more or less that a responsible approach to tourism – economically, environmentally, socially – is not only preferred but necessary, given the industry's reliance on and connection to environmental and social contexts. The book would be a good introduction to the tourism developments that have led to and continue to frame the sustainability debate within travel industry circles, i.e., ecotourism, cultural tourism, heritage tourism. Edgell also describes many sustainable tourism programs, and from these examples he extracts several seminal principles that underpin the movement, such as authenticity, local participation, and environmental protection. However, he says less about how these and other topics are dealt with, especially when controversy erupts – the “managing” element that the title promises. The book makes a good argument for sustainable tourism, and it includes some fine case studies; but there could be more about how these programs operate. Weaver's study, Sustainable Tourism, while a textbook, tackles the issues in a more complete and helpful manner.
Harris, Rob, Tony Griffin and Peter Williams (eds.). Sustainable Tourism: A Global Perspective. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2002 (311 pp.). Sustainable tourism is one of the growth markets within the travel and tourism industry. One reason is that there is no clear definition of what the term actually means, so a lot of the discussion in books and articles is about exactly that: What is sustainable tourism? This collection of nearly 20 essays could spend a little more time with that very question. There are a few introductory chapters that hint at the difficulties associated with the malleable and often controversial nature of "sustainable tourism," but more theoretical essays along those lines would be helpful to anyone coming to the topic for the first time. Sustainable Tourism is divided into four parts: the first and shortest, as noted, considers some of the historical, definitional, and theoretical dimensions of sustainable tourism. The second section examines issues of accreditation and interpretation; many suggestions here would be helpful to heritage tourism programs as well. The final two sections, by far the largest part of the book, present case studies from sustainable tourism projects around the world. Actually, it’s not accurate to call the book a "global perspective," since most of the writers are from the U.K. or Australia, and that is where the majority of their case studies occur (there are no U.S. studies). Unfortunately, these essays begin to feel like final evaluation reports to a foundation from scholars who worked on the projects (and, in fact, some did participate in the projects they report on). The last two chapters, as interesting as some of the specific case studies might be, also start to sound extremely repetitive, as the processes and the lessons learned could almost be repeated from one study to the next. That is, the goals and objects for each project read very much the same: balance economic impact with conservation, involve the local community, etc. While there is clearly recognition throughout the book that tourism can have deleterious effects in any community, especially when the ecology is fragile to begin with, the bulk of the writers here believe that tourism can aid the preservation of lands and species, and most of the case studies demonstrate how this is working. Clearly, some projects are too recent for a final evaluation to be made, and they are included, one supposes, because they are unique or because the process is different (such as with Earth Sanctuaries Limited in Australia, which is the first large-scale private company to attempt a conservation-tourism initiative). This book focuses almost totally on the ecological implications of sustainability, with only a passing nod to cultural issues. If that is the publication’s purpose, it’s not hinted at in the title. A bit more from the culture and heritage perspective would be welcome, as would a few more essays that are more critical of developments in sustainable tourism. There are many travel enterprises that fly the green flag for economic reasons, but their activities are less than environmentally friendly, and, in fact, they’re outright destructive to lands and cultures. That’s alluded to here but not discussed at any length. It’s encouraging to read about so many committed and resourceful people and organizations, who are often working at odds with an uncaring tourism sector, a local community that would rather exploit than preserve the natural resources, a nation that doesn’t have two dimes to rub together for conservation and marketing, or, even worse, a place like Burma that’s governed by militaristic human rights violators. Many of the earth’s majestic natural wonders are in nations that are only now beginning to realize the value of tourism, and so a good deal of the work is simply devising a plan where none existed. Because the book documents the development and implementation of many different plans, managers of wildlife centers, state and national parks, and other environmental attractions will find useful and practical pieces of advice here for creating a more sustainable approach to handling tourists.
Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place: Cafes, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day. New York: Paragon House, 1989 (338 pp.). Oldenburg’s interesting and lively look at what he terms "third places" has become one of the classics of place-based literature, and with good reason. It’s nearly impossible to pick up a sociological study today about the nature of community and not find a reference to the "Great Good Place." Oldenburg’s book appeared at about the same time as works like Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart were investigating the disappearance of civil society in America. It is a bit curious that The Great Good Place does not reference Bellah, Christopher Lasch, and some of the other communitarian classics of the day; but whereas Bellah and others approach the issues primarily from a sociological perspective, Oldenburg’s focus is more tangible and specific, in that he suggests the diminution of publicness is largely connected to the disappearance of "third places" – those neutral community spots, such as taverns or cafes, where people historically could meet in informal ways. It’s not totally clear whether Oldenburg sees their eradication from the public sphere as a cause or effect; that is, does the elimination of bars, for example, from most suburban neighborhoods lead to a further reduction in civic life, or has society’s general movement toward a more individualistic and less associational way of life caused the disappearance of third places? We imagine the author would say it’s a chicken-and-egg question, a little of both; but regardless, the vicious circle continues to feed on itself to the point that we have legally outlawed – through zoning and other policies – many of the meeting places that traditionally helped maintain a sense of community. What’s amazingly prescient about The Great Good Place is Oldenburg’s characterization of modern urban development, particularly the suburbs, and the ways in which the design of these faux communities effects civic life. This is a theme that’s been taken up by architects, city planners, social critics, and others who now recognize that the typical suburban sprawl is not healthy for civil society, but it was Oldenburg who popularized the critique. (That’s not to discount the work of Jane Jacobs, Patrick Goldring, or others who are a generation prior to Oldenburg, but The Great Good Place is one of the first that links design and sociology in such commonsense ways.) Because the author is a sociologist, much of the book reads like a report of people’s activities in certain situations – in the tavern, the beauty parlor, etc. – and these observations are less interesting than the conclusions drawn from them. In fact, the beginning and conclusion of the book, where he sets up his argument and then offers his final observations, are the most interesting parts. The middle third is a report of different kinds of third places around the world – the English pub, French café, German beer garden, American tavern, Italian coffee house. Oldenburg provides a history and social structure of each institution, and discusses how the third place contributed to the community’s well-being. His point is that America seldom adopted such associational habits, and even if we did (such as in the tavern or historic Main Street), most of these meeting centers have been eliminated – either by zoning them out of existence or as a result of a rapacious commercialism of everything that simply doesn’t allow for them. For example, pubs in England are mostly owned by corporations now, who are more interested in the bottom line than providing a neighborhood hangout for locals; consequently, they’ve consolidated many of the pubs, building fewer large ones that don’t have the same atmosphere or serve the same community function. Oldenburg traces the beginnings and evolution of many similar third places – his point being that they seldom exist anymore, especially in the U.S., and community suffers as a result. He connects their disappearance to the declining levels of association in general, along with the rise of a more individualistic, consumerist lifestyle that’s evident in our suburbs, car-oriented culture, and shopping malls; and while some have argued that malls are the new community, Oldenburg maintains they cannot substitute for third places since their purpose is strictly commercial – unlike the typical "Cheers" bar where camaraderie is as important as the purchase of beer. At the book’s end, the author offers an optimistic assessment, writing that "The days of the ‘private citizen’ … will give way to the publicly-concerned or civic-minded individual with whom our hope lies." Fifteen years after Oldenburg’s comment, circumstances have not improved and, in fact, the alienation, compartmentalization, insensitivity, and corporatization of American life that he documents have intensified – and there are even fewer third places.
Roseland, Mark. Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments. Gabriola Island, B.C.: New Society Publishers, 1998 (240 pp.). This newly revised edition of Roseland’s previous volume of nearly the same title provides many more resources for communities, especially since the advent of the Internet and the wealth of information one can find there. Toward Sustainable Communities would be an excellent beginner’s tool, since it clearly spells out the problems, both environmental and social, that communities are facing; provides ample case studies, mostly from North America; and lists hundreds of organizational and published resources (the bibliographies and resource sections alone are worth the price). The book provides direction, then, but it does not really follow through in step-by-step fashion, and that’s to be expected; this is a resource tool, not a detailed how-to guide. Roseland’s principle argument is that sustainability – which is not just "preserving" but enhancing natural and social capital – is a local issue as much as it is a global one. The environmental challenges we face, for example (and he surveys them in detail) are as much a consequence of what individuals and local governments do, as they are the result of national policy. Essentially, what Roseland proposes is that we think about development differently – that we imagine success and happiness not in materialistic terms (which is the primary cause for North America’s rapacious use of resources), but it terms of social well-being. Many arguments and dozens of solutions for affecting this paradigm shift are presented here. For example, Roseland reviews in detail the ways communities are not sustainable – waste and pollution, traffic patterns, poor energy use, despoiling open space, and much more; and then he provides alternatives to each problem, most taken from case studies, not just theory. Most importantly, he describes our unsustainable lifestyle as not merely an environmental challenge, but a social problem as well. Beyond that, what Roseland does very well is explain his alternatives in the language that elected officials and town managers understand – the language of economics. That is, he describes how shifting to a more sustainable approach to waste management, for example, results in savings for the town and its taxpayers. Almost all of his appeals highlight the economic argument, which is perhaps the only way they will receive an airing in some communities. Sometimes the book feels a bit disjointed or lopsided, as Roseland moves back and forth between philosophical and social theory and the nuts and bolts of building an effective disposal treatment plant, for example (some of that may be due to the multiple authors who assisted, whom he acknowledges upfront). Another positive is that throughout the book, and in entire chapters, he stresses the need for community involvement – civic engagement. Roseland knows the reason we continue to pursue less sustainable policies, like little or no recycling, is because the waste disposal lobby is strong, well-funded, and a major player at most local and state levels. And that’s the case with many of his proposals. One might ask, if indeed the sustainable approach is also the economic approach, why do we continue along the more destructive course? Here’s where the book is less useful; although Roseland understands that a social and political shift is required, simply saying citizens should get involve will not, by itself, involve them, and without citizen pressure it’s doubtful policies will change. That’s the "Bowling Alone" problem many places face; for example, nearly everyone knows big-box retailers are not good for the overall local economy, yet city councils continue to invite them into town and people continue to shop there. The "facts" are on the side of a more sustainable approach, as Roseland’s book demonstrates, so why don’t cities heed them? Why aren’t citizens convinced by the arguments? Here Toward Sustainable Communities falls a little short, because it fails to present a compelling argument as to why citizens should care; and without that commitment, without that public concern, progress will be slow, if at all. The facts, the numbers, and the verifiable proof, all of which this book presents clearly, by themselves don’t seem to move people, since few of us connect our individual actions to the larger picture. Of course, this is true of much sustainability literature, which often presents a compelling and fact-based argument, but which has done little to alter policies or change the public’s habits. At the conclusion of his book, published in 1998, Roseland expresses some doubt that the good sustainable projects that have taken root have had any real influence; one can only imagine what he would say today! Still, if your community knows it must change course, knows you need new tools to face the future and arguments to support your cause, knows you could be operating both more economically and more justly, then this book is an excellent place to start.
Smith, Melanie K. Issues
in Cultural Tourism Studies. London: Routledge, 2003 (195 pp.). Smith
has provided one of the best recent surveys of the cultural tourism industry,
from both a cultural and tourism perspective. Too often books on this topic
are written by tourism practitioners who know little of the complexity ingrained
in cultural issues, or scholars of cultural theory who write in postmodern mumbo-jumbo
and do not understand the workings of the tourism industry. Smith, who is director
of the Cultural Tourism program at the University of Greenwich in the UK (Routledge
is one of the best publishers of books on tourism theory) adroitly spans both
cultural and tourism worlds. Any museum director or community leader considering
a cultural or cultural heritage tourism program should consult this helpful
review, as should people in the tourism business. Her chief aim, as the title
suggests, is to introduce the major "issues" implicit in the implementation
of a cultural tourism initiative, and hence throughout the text she introduces
both the advantages and possible problems inherent in this undertaking. Smith
begins her overview by discussing the nature and definition of "culture"
itself, noting that in its broadest sense culture is just about any form of
artistic, intellectual, religious, or social activity. She spends a considerable
amount of time discussing cultural theory, which is helpful because more recent
developments like postmodernism, for example, have greatly influenced the cultural
tourism product (in that it is more pluralistic and less hegemonic than previous
notions of "high culture"). She then provides a brief history of cultural
tourism itself, and here she discusses the various sub-categories that make
up cultural tourism, such as heritage tourism, arts tourism, industrial tourism,
certain aspects of ecotourism, and so on. This is helpful because it shows how
the genre has evolved, and how it continues to be one of the fastest growing
segments of the travel industry. Most of the book, however, and by far the most
interesting parts, are given over to the difficult "issues" –
many of them political – that surface when a community, a nation, or a
people jump into the cultural tourism arena. These issues are well-documented
in other literature, but the benefit of Smith’s book is that she provides
a helpful review of the literature, weaving together other scholars’ points
of view on any given issue. Some of these issues include, for example, whether
tourism merely continues the West’s hegemonic imperialistic relationship
with poorer nations, the notion of authenticity in representing culture, the
challenges implicit in interpretation, and the very notion of museums as arbiters
of culture. In these and other areas, Smith provides voices on both sides of
the issue – those who think cultural tourism provides educational and
preservationist opportunities, as well as those who see it as just another package
of commercial exploitation. Another motif that shows up in nearly every chapter
is Smith’s belief that communities should gain more control of tourism
enterprises, whether they are African Bushmen or people who live near a historic
attraction like the Taj Mahal. Smith and others object to exploitative and over-commercialized
tourism approaches – many of which only benefit international corporations,
not the local community – and she offers remedies for some of these problems.
Another theme is globalization and the impacts it may have on culture, tourism,
and societies worldwide. Like many of these issues, globalization is a double-edged
sword: on one hand it can lead to further Western imperialism and the increasing
homogenization of cultures; on the other hand, as more people travel they are
becoming more interested in exotic and indigenous peoples, and this may serve
as an impetus for greater protectionism of these cultures. Smith includes an
entire section on tourism and indigenous people. She notes that tourism holds
out some hope not only for economic development but also for cultural preservation;
however, she also points out that many touristic activities with native people
have been fraught with problems, the most troubling of which are that cultures
are "fossilized," not permitted to evolve, and natives are often little
more than "human zoos" (this, of course, is true of any community,
not just native ones). Smith includes chapters on festivals, carnivals, and
cultural tourism’s role in regenerating urban areas, especially towns
that were once industrial centers whose economy has gone south. While Smith
is aware of the troublesome aspects related to tourism in general and cultural
tourism specifically – and she cites these cautionary voices repeatedly
– she clearly comes down on the side of cultural tourism. That is, if
it’s practiced right, if the community is involved, if the stories represent
all peoples, if the cultural attraction is not just another theme park –
then cultural tourism might be able to fulfill its promises of economic impact,
education, pride in one’s heritage, and cultural preservation. She certainly
understands the pit-falls associated with the tourism industry, and it’s
helpful that she lays them out so clearly; anyone attempting a cultural or cultural
heritage tourism program should be aware of them too, and Smith’s book
is a thought-provoking reminder. Although most examples and case studies are
from Europe or Asia, the issues are no less applicable to tourism in the U.S.
Finally, Issues in Cultural Tourism Studies includes an extensive and
important bibliography that any student of cultural tourism will want to consult.