Friday, December 08, 2017

Agenda 2030: The Different Mass

Do you know what Agenda 2030 is? And no, this isn't Més and their ambitions for Balearic independence by 2030. They haven't monikered it agenda as such. Or not yet at any rate. Més are, however, and in a different sense, part of Agenda 2030. Are you getting warmer?

I'm guessing that you don't know what Agenda 2030 is. If my guess is correct, then it has failed - thus far - to make the impression its sponsors would wish, these sponsors being the United Nations. Ah yes, the UN, you're now surely getting warmer. If not, then let me give you a gentle reminder. You'll remember of course what 2017 is. Won't you? You don't remember? Shame on you. This soon-to-finish year has been the International Year of Sustainable Tourism. There, you must remember now.

Who knows about these things? Who cares about these things? The ordinary man, woman and child in the street, be they tourist or not-tourist, do they know or care? The International Year of Sustainable Tourism; it's as if it has never been. For the great majority, it may as well not have been. As tourists we just get on with being tourists, whether we are sustainable, whether destinations are sustainable, whether tourism is sustainable. Or not.

So, given the fact that this year will have passed mostly everyone by, Agenda 2030 - just over twelve years off - will have failed totally in having captured the public's imagination. But what might seem to be another initiative with lofty principles, littered with platitudes and supporting reports, diagrams and conferences is intended as the latest attempt to save us all from ourselves, whether tourists or not. Agenda 2030 is shorthand for Transforming our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Inherent to the agenda are sustainable development goals - seventeen of them with 169 targets. Blimey.

What are these goals to do with? Well, there are issues such as health and education, energy, the environment, water, social justice. The UN and its sustainable agendas can appear (and often are) to be directed at the so-called Third World, but they cross over into the previous worlds, ones such as the Balearics.

The problem is the lack of connection: one between them (the UN, governments, institutions) and us. Yes, they do of course attempt to make the connection, and in the Balearics they try and do little else. But as observed previously, the more the sustainable drum is beaten, the greater the likelihood that we all switch off, assuming we had switched on in the first place.

All of this stuff is meant to be global, by which I don't just mean the globe of the world. It is global in infiltrating the minds of every man jack (and woman jill) of us. It doesn't because you only have to appreciate the reactions to the Balearic take on the sustainable development year in order to realise why not. Armed with a sustainable tourism tax and a manual of platitudes (such as those to do with the environment, water and social justice), and there are the many who decry the tax before moving on to slam other tourism policy. Rentals? The government's devil's work. What is to become of the property market? What is to become of "my" business (not mine - I don't have one - but others)? Whither tourism, full stop?

Inherent to such reactions is self-interest. Yes, that stubborn human trait of looking after number one. Initiatives such as Agenda 2030 presuppose a subordinating of self-interest to a common good (however this might be defined). This is just one reason why they are difficult if not impossible to pull off.

In order to try and get them to work, at least in part, demands a reshaping of perceptions. God knows it's a mountainous task, but within the framework of a perceptual shift, tourism plays a very key role, whether this is tourism to obscure corners of the globe, to grand cities or to Mallorca. Sustainability, despite my frequently voiced scepticism, is actually pretty important.

Capturing the public's imagination. Herein lies a clue. Capturing the imagination and re-imagining. In Mallorca there is a highly resistant, in-built opposition to alternatives. This is because of the self-interest and of how things have always been (since the 1960s anyway). But is it impossible to re-imagine Mallorca's tourism? Why does it have to be as it has been? Where's the rulebook which insists that it must be.

This government strains every last drop from the sustainable well. Some of it, such as Better in Winter, is arrant or at least semantic nonsense, though you can't blame the government for trying. But other parts? Fundamentally, the concept of mass tourism in Mallorca needs re-imagining, and it will mean reduced mass. Agenda 2030? By then, things will be very different.

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