Sustainable Development

Sustainable Development is widely accepted to mean the “ability to make development sustainable—to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”

- The Brundtland Commission, 1987

This definition, however, is ambiguous and fails to illuminate the critical factors necessary to achieve development that sustains an entire social ecological and economic system.

At CTR, we practice a holistic, systems-based approach to sustainable development and sustainable tourism. We believe sustainable development in the coastal zone requires research and consulting toward a complete understanding of three essential questions surrounding a tourism project:

What is to be sustained?

What is to be developed?

Over what time period should development be sustained?

Sustainable tourism in the coastal zone also requires consideration of the how the social, environmental, and economic developments alter a system’s resilience, adaptability, transformability and ultimately how human perceptions and culture affect decision-making capacity.

In marine and coastal domains in particular, oceanic and environmental systems add a unique and complex element to the already challenging sustainable development initiative. At CTR we offer the expertise necessary to integrate the human and natural dimensions of the marine environment with the economic and social aspects inherent to coastal marine tourism ventures.

The definition of sustainable development remains broad but takes shape through diverse stakeholder perspectives and the reconciliation of differing values to create the grand compromise necessary for sustainability.

Ultimately, sustainable development hinges upon the actions of people to merge the social, cultural, economic, and environmental needs required to enact a positive vision of the world in which basic human needs are met and essential natural systems are sustained for future generations.


Resilience Thinking and Social Ecological Systems


“Constant change, maintenance of stability and the capacity to remain in the face of unexpected transformation: these are the paradoxical principals required to understand the whole living system on our planet, individual or collective, from a single cell to an entire culture.”

- Ruiz-Ballesteros 2010

Resilience thinking provides a method for examining complex and coupled social-ecological systems (SES) from a holistic perspective.

This concept–that the natural and social systems are inextricably connected–provides a lens through which  practitioners can evaluate and adaptively manage system components toward the goal of sustainable development and the maintenance of adaptive capacity and system resilience.


How does CTR connect academic thought to real world applications?


CTR considers the impacts of tourism on the key components of any social ecological system:

Resilience- “The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure and feedbacks, and therefore identity, that is, the capacity to change in order to maintain the same identity.”

(Folke et al. 2010)

Adaptability- “Adaptability captures the capacity of a SES to learn, combine experience and knowledge, adjust its responses to changing external drivers and internal processes, and continue developing within the current stability domain or basin of attraction.”

(Berkes et al. 2003)

Transformability- “The capacity to transform the stability landscape itself in order to become a different kind of system, to create a fundamentally new system when ecological, economic, or social structures make the existing system untenable.”

(Folke et al. 2010)

CTR helps communities and tourism operators adaptively manage the role of tourism in their community with the goal of sustainable development

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