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Sustainability

This is an excerpt from Introduction to Recreation and Leisure 3rd Edition eBook With Web Study Guide by Tyler Tapps & Mary Sara Wells.

Sustainability is a word that is often used but is poorly understood. Too often it is simply used as a synonym for being green or advanced environmentalism. In fact, it is a new vision of how we live within the world and how we connect with the natural world. A simple, yet all encompassing, definition is to live within the limits of nature's ecosystem services and to live together in communities that are equitable, regenerative, resilient, and adaptive. To do that, we must live mindfully and consciously and think systemically - that is, about the whole system. The other major misnomer about sustainability is that it is somehow about giving things up or, worse, about sacrificing lifestyle. In fact, it is about enhancing our lives to make us happier, healthier, and more prosperous and improving our overall well-being through rebuilding community and using resources from our ecosystems that are renewable and in harmony with the natural world. It is a positive vision, but it is one we have to consciously choose. By not actively choosing this new vision, you complacently choose to accept the current, increasingly detrimental, business-as-usual model (Jurin, 2012). Sustainability means changing our worldview about ourselves and how we fit within the natural world.


The term nature-deficit disorder (NDD) was coined as a way of describing the apparent disconnect of modern thinking from the natural world (Louv, 2008). While it is true that natural systems are not front and center in most people's thinking, it is probably more accurate to say we are highly distracted by modern technology and lifestyles.To emphasize how people are really connected to the natural world, consider some of the obvious indications.If you find yourself stopped in a line of cars within a national park, it is inevitably because some large elk, moose, bison, or bears are close to the road, and people cannot help but stop to admire these magnificent animals. If you find a parking area with a spectacular view, it will inevitably be full of people who want to take in the grandeur from a perfectly situated, people-only viewing spot. This seems true worldwide. As renowned biologist E.O. Wilson points out in his book Biophilia (1984), people have an innate love of living things and a natural affinity with nature. Whenever we consider nature and scenic environments, we inevitably find that our feelings and emotions are much deeper than mere curiosity. We often use the words awe and reverence for what we are observing. This spiritual component is inherent in much of our interactions with the natural world, and it doesn't necessarily have to do with religion. When we are in a location in which we feel a deep connection (often referred to as a sense of place), research shows that things outside straight knowledge drive the feeling of being in place. The components that guide our responses to a sense of place in a location are attachment (emotion-related), aesthetics (senses-related), and ethics (mind-related). Spirituality (soul-related) is now accepted as an essential fourth component to the idea of being in place (Porteous, 1991). Notably, sense of place is often linked to communities where we grew up, places we have lived, or anywhere that we have had profound experiences that indicate that the place is special and even sacred - these prior experiences of place are transferable to new locations.


Teaching children about nature will provide them with lifelong benefits.
Teaching children about nature will provide them with lifelong benefits.
Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images


For most of human history, humans are reputed to have lived with a profound reverence and sense of place to those areas they inhabited. Jared Diamond (2012) comments on how tribal societies that have not yet been changed by modern living offer insights into how people can live together in relative peace and harmony with one another and the natural world. He contrasts that with modern technological systems of living, and he says that both have good and bad traits. He ultimately concludes that the way humans used to live coupled with some of the modern attributes of globalized living and traveling offer us a way to live for the future. It is when we understand the global system as both a human system and a natural system that we can begin to understand how a sustainable human future can exist harmoniously with the natural world (Jurin, 2012).


In many less-developed countries (LDCs), community social and cultural systems are still relatively intact. In more-developed countries (MDCs), technological development has exceeded the ecosystem's limits with high amounts of pollution. In addition, community living has been decimated by a hyper-individualized consumer mind-set that simply treats nature as a commodity to be used. The good news is that LDCs can find balance as they raise their standard of living while still living harmoniously within nature. Meanwhile, MDCs are finding out about different ways of living (often through travel) that are appealing (especially holistic community), and they are becoming aware of how the consumer mentality is eroding the joy of living. Typical of this is a growing understanding of the immense benefits of organic farming, small-scale agriculture, and slow food compared to the detrimental fast food system and its accompanying industrialized agriculture.


In many European countries, sustainability is being slowly implemented in terms of greener technology and also a return to family-based gardens. This is creating a shift in community-based living where the food is now a responsibility of the whole community and not just farmers. In Switzerland, many homeowners grow food in their gardens and maintain some animals. Homeowners will then barter with others to obtain various foods. Todmorden, England, has created an Incredible Edible project in which the whole community grows food all over the village to boost healthy eating and community building and to educate others about how urban gardening should be the way of the future. Tourists come from far and wide to see how this has transformed this quiet town nestled within the Pennine hills of Britain. In northeastern Scotland, Findhorn Ecovillage, with its renewable energy generation and world-class food gardens, is a destination for people from all over the world who come to see a sustainable community project come to life in which the human built environment is as close to harmonious with the natural world as can be at this time, yet the inhabitants enjoy a modern, community-based lifestyle. Almost weekly, people from all over the world come to Findhorn Ecovillage to attend various conferences and to explore the uniqueness of this intentional community.


There is now increased interest in Cuba as a tourist destination. When the Soviet Union dissolved and Cuba found itself embargoed and without any outside support, the people were immediately forced into finding ways to be self-sufficient and sustainable. Cuba is also home to the Caribbean's largest and best-preserved wetland area, the Cienaga de Zapata Biosphere Reserve, and overall its protected natural areas have grown more than 43 percent since 1986.


Projects do not have to be big to attract people. Everywhere in the world there are agricultural and ecosystem-sensitive projects that have spawned whole industries with a responsible travel ethic: ecotourism, agricultural tourism,and natural tourism and travel.


Recreation, tourism, and leisure (RTL) is big business in the global economy, and it is continuously expanding. One of the fastest growing sectors of tourism is that of sustainable tourism and nature-based tourism specifically. It was in 1995 that the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Travel and Tourism Council joined forces with the Earth Council to promote an action plan to improve the environment and make the tourism industry more sustainable. Then, 20 years later, in September 2015, 154 heads of state gathered at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit to formally adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (United Nations, n.d.) along with 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The tourism industry was included in the plan for the first time as a means to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change. The definition of sustainable tourism that we use is "achieving growth in a manner that does not deplete the natural and built environment and preserves the culture, history, heritage, and the arts of the local community" (Edgell, 2006, pg. 4). The relationship between tourists, the host community, local businesses and recreational activities, and the environment is interactive, complex, and very interdependent. As mentioned earlier, maintaining sustainable systems now attracts tourists worldwide. Communities that are using sustainable food systems are now destinations in themselves whether they are in exotic locations or simply in tourists' own backyards. A future with localized sustainable systems of food and energy production is now becoming a focus for people hopeful about new ways of living sustainably (Jurin, 2012).