Sustainability, Vol. 10, Pages 3643: Online and Offline Representations of Biocultural Diversity: A Political Ecology Perspective on Nature-Based Tourism and Indigenous Communities in the Brazilian Pantanal (Sustainability)
The concept of biocultural diversity is confronted with contemporary changes that impact on local communities, such as globalization and digital transformations. Engaging the conceptual flexibility of ‘biocultural diversity’, we studied nature-based tourism at the intersection of indigenous communities and the digital realm. We employed a political ecology perspective to examine online and offline representations of biocultural diversity in the Brazilian Pantanal, one of the biggest wetlands in the world, and home to groups of peoples known as the Pantaneiros. Data from interviews with 48 stakeholders in the tourist sector were structured along three ‘myths’—the Uncivilised, Unrestrained, and Unchanged—for which we have also constructed counter narratives. Each myth denoted the primacy of biodiversity, and ignored broader dimensions of the Pantanal as a bioculturally diverse landscape. The relationships of the Pantaneiros with their environment were found to be intricate and had clear repercussions for tourism, but ironically, reference to the Pantaneiro culture in nature-based tourism was superficial. Moreover, thriving on the myths, this form of tourism perpetuates skewed power structures and social inequalities. Lower-class Pantaneiros likely suffer most from this. We recommend stakeholder engagement with a biocultural design that facilitates the integration of other-than-biodiversity values, and that thereby promotes sustainability of the entire social-ecological system.