LIFELONG PLANNING FOR TOURIST SITES
Dr. Dalia Shachaf
“See the land, for we were very wasteful” is the opening of a poem by Saul Chernichovsky that describes most of the human development of the world in moving terms. It is very easy for us to identify with such damage when we are talking about smoky and polluted industrial areas, comfortable to identify with the waste in cutting down forests. It is harder to detect the horrendous waste when we talk about beautiful tourist sites, built in pristine natural areas with the purpose of making our spare time, steadily increasing in our industrialized world, pleasurable.
Man dominates nature
In the Book of Genesis (1:28), G-d grants all of the creation of His world to man: “G-d blessed them and G-d said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.”
This Divine commandment, which presented man with our entire world with no conditions and no limits, assumed that eating from the tree of knowledge would aid man to conquer the world wisely -- and indeed, on this wisdom our world will stand or fall.
Our luck has been good in that for most of the time that man has been on earth, his conquest of the planet was used for the necessities of life and survival; however the past 500 years have been exceptional, in that man has armed himself with vast technological powers of which only a part have been used for the purposes of existence. Most of this power has been used to destroy the world and its resources, either directly or indirectly.
Fashion: a tool for continued wasteful mass production
It is easy to lay the blame for all the waste on the man of the modern era, but one must really admit that modern man is simply captive in the hands of the machine, the same monster that has turned on its creator. “Wise” man, lacking physical strength, created a machine that produced food and clothing for the hungry masses. But the machine that feeds and clothes did not stop producing when all the hungry were satisfied and the naked were dressed. The almost magical power of the machine enchanted human beings, who began to “worship” it with the same zeal and lack of critical thinking as idol worshippers in the ancient world.
Fear of want was exchanged for the fear of the fall of the huge and well-oiled apparatus created around the machine. Thus it happened, and still happens, that when the raw material at hand that “feeds” the machine is used up, countries go to war over areas rich in quarries in order to continue to “feed” the machine (like the area of Alsace-Lorraine, bringing about a World War). Also, when the machine produces more than is required, it is not stopped. Instead, a well-oiled communications system is activated that “educates” the public to throw away products before they have become used up, as fashion dictates. Thus room is made for a new product that shoots out of the innards of the machine (because no one has the courage to stop the process).
We have moved from a world of shoes produced for walking to a world that produces shoes for beauty; the use of shoes for walking is almost incidental. All this would be less distressing if shoes were not made from the hides of animals, slaughtered en masse in the name of fashion.
“See the land, for we were very wasteful…”
Every attempt to fight fashion is crowned with failure at the outset. Mass communication by the giants of industry makes it its business to create an image of “the new poor” who are “unfashionable” -- and who wants to be considered poor? Or unfashionable?
It can be said that the machine and the “slaves” of the machine have become victorious over the system at this stage, and so in the name of fashion, every hour millions of products are thrown away whose color is out of fashion, the machine will continue to produce, and man will continue to be enslaved to the purchasing of its products.
Industry, the enemy of nature
The idea that industry is the enemy of nature is not new; in the era of the Industrial Revolution it was clear that the machine was not friendly to people, and was not friendly to the natural environment. Over the years those injured by industry organized, creating a system of laws which began to limit the influences of industry on air pollution and the physical infrastructure. Thousands of laws were passed limiting the throwing of polluting waste into the ocean or into rivers. Factories were commanded to maintain standards of air and noise pollution, but very few laws dealt with the root of the problem: the wasting of precious natural resources which are not required for survival.
The immediate destruction of the world of wildlife brought about legislation preventing the hunting of whales, unlimited fishing, and the mining of sand from beaches for building purposes. But there is still no-one who is concerned with unsupervised mining of coal and iron, or the unnecessary use of oil, whose damage is not immediately apparent.
The powerlessness of the intelligent human being facing the power of the machine has brought it about that in some countries in the world people are educated toward recycling products that have fallen out of fashion, a means of transforming some of the waste into raw material for the next fashion. And indeed, there is something in recycling to reduce the damage, and it helps to save a bit of the forests from being cut down and some iron from being mined.
The fact that one cannot ignore the damage from industry has caused people to begin to understand that the raw materials in our world are not unlimited, and that there has to be interaction between production and recycling.
But what about those beautiful scenic natural areas that have become mass tourist sites?
Can they be recycled?
Tourism is a dangerous industry in a friendly wrapper.
As stated at the beginning of this article, it is easy for us to repel evil whose signs are clear, but hard to repel trouble that is presented in an attractive package.
Tourist sites are an industry like any other industry whose products by their very nature are hard to connect with air pollution, the destruction of the infrastructure, etc.
But the fact that tourism sells beauty, quiet, and free time, which are meant to create pleasure for people, is not enough to ensure that under the cover of beauty it is not plagued with the same liabilities as any other polluting industry.
Unfortunately the damage caused by tourism is apt to be greater than the damage caused by industry because in most cases, industry is centered in urban areas, since that is where it is possible to obtain the services of the infrastructure and the required manpower. Urban areas are usually in places which have not been part of nature for hundreds of years. (Only in socialist policy and in the Third World, under the cloak of assistance to the weakened periphery, has heavy industry penetrated areas that are still natural).
In most capitalist countries there is no subsidization for the additional costs of establishing industrial enterprises in, and the transfer of skilled manpower to, the periphery. Therefore the costs of mass production leave most factories in the urban, industrialized area of the world.
The urban areas are sections of land that even the most persistent fighters for environmental quality do not think it is possible to return to their pristine natural state. As opposed to traditional industry (light and heavy), the tourism industry uses natural and unspoiled places in order to provide masses of people, who live in urban closeness, the space for recreation – vacation and renewal. However this vacation in nature does not end with what nature alone supplies, but demands the relocation of all the pleasures of industrial life to the wilderness. Thus primeval nature changes its face according to the comfort and convenience of the tourist. The more the masses reach the site, the more extensive the damage is. In order to reach the splendid lodges in the center of Africa or the luxury hotels in distant places in India or Thailand, roads must be paved, and bridges, electrical networks and sewer systems built (Mathieson, 1982. Murphy, 1985). This change in nature, or at least part of it, would be accepted with understanding by conservationists also, were it not for the fact that the building of the site is accompanied by the same destructive and wasteful process of the dictates of fashion in tourism as well.
Tourist sites: a Passing Fad
At the beginning of this article the fashion in whose name animals are slaughtered for shoes, coats and wallets, which are thrown away in a short time in favor of a new fashion also made of the skins of slaughtered animals, only for a different color or shape, was described at length. Fish are destroyed, and oceanic food chains are severed, every time seafood becomes popular.
Unfortunately, the same problem exists with tourism. If, once upon a time, families or individuals would return each year during their annual vacations to the same vacation home in the mountains or on the lakeshore, today the demand is to feel something new, in a new location, each time. Thus malls have taken the place of visits to the theater, and museums in which millions were invested have become empty of visitors. Those which succeed in becoming popular can do this only for a short time, and only by means of a large investment, until the next attraction is found that will put the first out of fashion, and so on and on. The fashion of the “trip/ tour” that penetrated every natural site and created campgrounds like mushrooms after the rain, has given over its place to the “active vacation”, which presents the tourist with every luxury in a hotel built in the center of a wild jungle. “Healing tourism” does not include only healing, and one must build a complex for active vacationing for those being healed. It is hard to see where the mad race to satisfy the changing tastes of the dictates of fashion will lead.
If today in part of the process of mass production it is possible to recycle raw material, in tourism -- when sites flourish in their thousands and are abandoned in a short time -- the damage is vast, going beyond the damage of the production industry. The abandoned site remains like a terrible scar in nature that reminds one of the ghost towns in the mining sites of Europe, or the communities of the gold miners in America. Reality gallops forward, but someone who looks back cannot remain indifferent to the horrendous waste by tourism of our natural treasures, which are gradually being eradicated -- since technological means enable entrepreneurs to “build”, or more precisely to destroy, almost every place -- even those previously imagined to be inaccessible.
Recycling of tourist sites as part of initial planning
If in industry it was necessary for man to have about 300 years to understand that there was no escape, and that one must recycle raw materials and return the abandoned quarries to nature by reforesting, tourism does not get such a long time to understand this, because damage is being caused according to the tempo of the 20th century, not that of the 17th century.
Tourism must adopt the idea of recycling now, before it cuts off the branch upon which it sits.
The problem is that recycling in tourism is different from the simple recycling of raw materials in industry. Recycling in tourism must begin with the building, and for this, public discipline is necessary, as well as legislation that will obligate the entrepreneur to draw up and define the full life process of a site, from the point of view of its physical development.
The classic plan in academic literature concentrates on three stages of the development of the site: In the first stage as an out-of-the-way site, in the second stage as a developed site on the basis of the natural attraction, and stage three as a mass tourist site with artificial additions (Miossec 1977, Krakover 1984). But here the planning stops in most cases, because the entrepreneur is interested only in the life period of the site. The public must also know how the site will look in the stage of abandonment (which is an unavoidable stage, and comes rather quickly). Therefore it is obligatory for the architect to describe the site in the abandonment stage, which is a natural part of the life cycle of the site -- though to this day it is totally ignored.
The planning, with the aid of special legislation, will require of the entrepreneur a plan for all the stages of the life of the site. Many entrepreneurs know in advance that the site that they have developed is not immortal; this fact is taken into account during the planning stage, and is expressed in the choice of the quality of the materials to be used for building and decoration. The building of a tourist site is implemented with the most fashionable materials, but the least expensive (second or third class and sometimes even less), since the life of a tourist site succeeds in bringing a return on outlays within 3-5 years, and that is only on condition that the investment be for building materials of low quality. The average life of a site is between 5 -10 years, and only during the first portion is it possible to demand high prices. Afterward the price goes down (in spite of the fact that only then has the investment been returned), and the profits begin. The entrepreneur knows that even if the life of the site extends beyond the first 10 years, it will be necessary to renovate it to make it fashionable again -- with a considerable financial investment.
The public must know that it is its responsibility to demand a plan for all the stages of the life of the site from the entrepreneur so that we will not find ourselves, in a very few years, witness to abandoned sites that once were “pearls of nature” transformed into public and environmental nuisances. The cost of removing them is apt to fall on the public which, with no appropriate legislation, will be powerless -- in the case of a natural site “owned” by the public -- to force the entrepreneur to recycle it.
The entrepreneur presently has many ways of escaping from the responsibility of dealing with a site whose profitability has ended. Instead, there is every reason to abandon such a site, and to search for another site in which to invest.
The quality of life in the environment of the abandoned site, and the anxiety concerning wasted “nature”, must bring about a halt to the destruction and ugliness that comes in the wake of taking intense, short-term advantage of a site.
It is necessary to see to it that the building take into account the day of abandonment, and necessary to demand a plan that will describe how the site will look when it concludes a complete life cycle.
In this way the site will return to the domination of nature on the day it is abandoned, and the artificial building will be such as to enable a renewed merging with nature.
The “life cycle” of a region is a well-known concept in urban areas: Residential areas age; the population with financial means leaves, and its place is taken by a poor population. The area is planned anew, the poor population is evicted for a modern project that returns the rich population to the center of the city, and the cycle starts again (Efrat 1979).
The advantage in the case of the “life cycle” in a city area is that the land is always used for building; only the form of construction changes. This situation is almost impossible in tourism, because a tourist attraction is built on a natural site whose natural assets themselves are the attraction. All the artificial building and destruction are implemented in order to make it more convenient for man; and if this isn’t done with consideration for the complete “life cycle” (i.e. does not take into account from the outset how the site will look when it is abandoned), there will be a loss of a natural treasure that cannot be returned. If we go back to the subject of the tempo of change, which depends on the fashions of leisure time and touring – i.e., quick and short -- we will find ourselves very quickly in an era in which all the lovely natural sites will have become piles of ugly ruins. The situation of tourist sites will be like that of raw materials being decimated.
The understanding that pleasure spots around the world -- and in our country in particular -- can be expected to be destroyed, can move the wise planner to take steps to prevent this occurring. “First think, then act”, is the motto that tourism must adopt if it wants to continue to exist. In tourism it is cheaper to prevent than to recycle. Just like industrialists, though hungry for raw material, understood in the end that there was no choice and that it was necessary to recycle the waste, so tourism and those in charge of public treasures must understand that it is crucial to pass legislation that will obligate the planner to present a plan for the site from the primary stage of development to the stage of abandonment. The detailing of the stage of abandonment is no less important than the detailing of the building project, so that the site will merge again with nature at the end of the road.
Basic conditions for planned recycling
Is it complicated?
The aperture into which the planner/ entrepreneur must enter is no narrower than that for the laws obligating the Jerusalem contractor to build houses in Jerusalem with Jerusalem stone, or the architect in the classic cities in Europe who must use a particular façade.
The demands for building a site to be recycled (the emphasis is on a site in nature, not a site in an urban area):
1. Artificial building will be implemented only with local materials. Use of foreign materials will be limited to cases in which there are no other means available.
2. The artificial building will leave natural “islands” in which artificial gardening can be developed. These same islands will be a source of renewal for natural flora when the site is left.
3. Preference will be given to the hewing of buildings over artificial building, because of the relatively quick return to nature of buildings hewn from the environment.
4. The cutting of trees that cannot return to their former state will be absolutely forbidden. It will be obligatory to integrate them architecturally into the project wherever they exist.
5. The plan will be obligated to preserve the skyline. Any essential artificial heightening will be approved on condition that the heightening be congruent with the form of the natural structure, not opposed to it.
6. Preference will be given to tunnels over roads that damage the scenery.
7. The entrepreneur will be required to pave roads using local materials (chalk, sand or basalt) and not black asphalt, which is an esthetic blight on nature on the one hand, and on the other hand does not enable plants to grow again when the site is abandoned.
8. The building style will reflect the connection between the historical and archeological past of the area, with modern bathrooms that do not stand out.
A. Efrat (1979), “The Foundations of Urban Geography”, Tel Aviv, Ahiasaf.
Mathieson, A. & Wall, G. (1982) “Tourism: Economic, Physical and Social Impact”, London: Longan. pp. 93-116.
Murphy, P.E. (1985). “Tourism: Community Approach”, New York: Methuen. pp. 60-70.
Krakover, S. (1985). Development of tourism resort areas in arid regions. In Gradus, Y. (Ed.), “Desert Development”.
Miossec, J.M. (1977). Un modele de l’éspace touristique, L’Espace Géographique, 6(1), 41-8.