Reaching Consensus on Antarctic Tourism Regulation - Calibrating the Human-Nature Relationship?

Bastmeijer, C.J.; Lamers, M.A.J.


The states that jointly manage Antarctica were not yet able to reach consensus on a number of specific Antarctic tourism management issues. While recognizing that many factors influence the international decision-making process, this chapter aims to explore one rarely discussed philosophical factor that may be of great significance for understanding the difficulties in reaching consensus: the possible differences in the human-nature relationship among the Consultative Parties (CPs) and expert organizations. Based on an explorative analysis of relevant documents, it is concluded that CPs and expert organizations consistently reject the “mastery” attitude, both in general Antarctic policy instruments and in tourism-specific documents. The relevant documents relating to two subthemes (the acceptability of permanent land-based tourism facilities and large-scale adventure or sporting events) show that there is a strong tendency to use “rational arguments” that do not reflect human-nature relationships; however, a closer look reveals that underneath these relatively neutral positions, substantially different human-nature attitudes appear to be hidden. These differences may not block consensus regarding general policy statements on Antarctic tourism, as these statements leave sufficient space for different interpretations; however, different attitudes towards nature may well constitute a hurdle in reaching consensus on concrete management issues. It is most likely that CPs with different human-nature relationships have different views on what the specific “values” of Antarctica are and how these values could best be protected, and, consequently, it is also most likely that these CPs have different opinions on what norms should be set in respect of specific tourism developments. This makes it understandable that the approach of the ATCM to focus strongly on (the desirability of) norm setting is not always successful. Underlining the explorative nature of this study, the authors would recommend further research on human-nature relationships in the Antarctic tourism context. More knowledge and consciousness of differences in human-nature attitudes might invite stakeholders to search for management solutions based on a greater understanding of each other’s convictions.