Field environmental philosophy and ecotourism in high latitude and altitude remote zones of Chile and Nepal
Global socio-environmental change erodes biological and cultural diversity, even in remote high latitude and high altitude zones, such as Cape Horn in South America’s and the Himalayan plateau in Nepal. To confront this trend, in Cape Horn at the Omora Ethnobotanical Park (OEP, 55°S), coordinated by the University of North Texas (UNT)-US, the Universidad de Magallanes (UMAG) & Institute of Ecology and Biodiversity (IEB)-Chile, we have developed the Field Environmental Philosophy (FEP) methodology that integrates ecology and ethics into biocultural research, education and conservation. FEP involves a four step cycle of (1) interdisciplinary ecological and philosophical research, (2) poetic communication through composition of metaphors and simple narratives, (3) design of guided field experiences with an ecological and ethical orientation, and (4) implementation of in situconservation areas. With FEP’s methodology we developed Ecotourism with Hand-Lens (EHL), an innovative biocultural cultural conservation and ecotourism activity that guides participants to observe (a) little perceived biodiversity of small organisms, and (b) little perceived ethical and other values of biodiversity. In this work we assess OEP visitors’ attitudes and preferences towards EHL, through 250 questionnaires, rating perspectives in 1-10 scale, and we explore its potential for biocultural conservation and ecotourism programs in mountainous Nepal.
To better guide students, tourists, and visitors in the perception of biodiversity of little organisms and their multiple values, we designed activities on the basis of four “conceptual Hand-Lenses”: economic hand-lens, ethical hand-lens, aesthetic hand-lens, and biocultural hand-lens. The ludic and interactive character of these activities assisted with the integration of ecological understanding and ethical valuation. Visitors ranked environmental ethics, ecology, and cultural diversity as the three most preferred topics and photography, learning about culture, and learning about flora and fauna as their preferred activities. FEP offers a methodology to educate graduate students and train tourist operators for guiding visitors to discover the broad array of biodiversity and its values with minimal environmental impact. Sustainable ecotourism is being implemented at the UNESCO Cape Horn Biosphere Reserve. With Katmandu University we are exploring forms of adapting FEP methodology. Mountainous Himalayan region of Nepal is subject to increasing unsustainable tourism creating adverse consequences in the environmental settings FEP provides transdisciplinary methods of ecological research that facilitates inter-institutional cooperation while preserving ecologically rich areas. FEP could provide sustainable low impact alternatives that raises awareness of the fragility and ecological roles of the high altitude biotic components and promote a sustainable habit amongst tourists.