Academic Minute
5:00 am
Wed March 26, 2014

Dr. Veronica Davidov, Monmouth University – Ecotourism and the Extraction Nexus

Tourism and industry, in some locations, have a tangled and complicated relationship

Dr. Veronica Davidov, assistant professor of anthropology at Monmouth University, observes the interesting symbiosis these two unrelated fields can sometimes have.

Dr. Veronica Davidov is an assistant professor of anthropology at Monmouth University's Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences. Her research focuses on human-nature relations and the cultural, political, and economic processes involved in their formation and negotiation. She earned a PhD from New York University in 2008.

About Dr. Davidov

VeronicaDavidov.com

Dr. Veronica Davidov - Ecotourism-Extraction Nexus

An eco-lodge down the road from an oil pipe, or an open-pit mine next to a national park sounds like a strange paradox.  But in reality it is not. I study how ecotourism and resource extraction—so, oil production, mining, logging-- coexist in the same landscapes.

My colleague Bram Büscher and I edited a volume of ethnographic studies, showing how such situations arise. Academic research has usually focused on ecotourism and resource extraction as opposite and incompatible.  Instances where they converged are imagined to be temporary tense situations, where eventually one type of industry will prevail.  But reality is more complicated. 

First of all, increasingly ecotourism and extraction projects are funded by the same institutions; often oil companies themselves create ecotourism or other conservation projects around their concessions, to comply with environmental offset policies, or to maintain an image of a green corporation. 

Secondly, the idea of ecotourism at odds with extraction may only be in our minds—all around the world, locals participate in both industries, often at the same time—for them it’s all a part of making a living.  For example, Kichwa Indians in the Ecuadorian Amazon, a popular ecotourism destinations, have worked for oil companies since the 1930s.  It is oil roads that bring tourists into the rainforest today, and many Kichwa have labored both in the oil fields, and in the forest as eco-guides.  Some Kichwa communities use computer centers built by oil companies to create websites for their ecotourism business. 

At the same time, many villages in the area were motivated by unfair labor practices and oil spills to become politically active, and to choose ecotourism as their primary pursuit.  Similarly, in Intag, in the Ecuadorian Andes, it is precisely the threat of mining that inspired a flourishing ecotourism project, on the same land.

The relationship between ecotourism and resource extraction in Ecuador, and beyond, is not simple. But it demonstrates that that these industries do coexist, and how their convergence—or nexus as we call it—affects local people, can vary dramatically.

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