Climate Change and Human Security
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Climate Change and Human Security

The Challenge to Local Governance under Rapid Coastal Urbanization

Michael R. Redclift, David Manuel-Navarette and Mark Pelling

The challenge presented by climate change is, by its nature, global. The populations of the Mexican Caribbean, the focus of this book, are faced by everyday decisions not unlike those in the urban North. The difference is that for the people of the Mexican Caribbean evidence of the effects of climate change, including hurricanes, is very familiar to them. This important study documents the choices and risks of people who are powerless to change the economic development model which is itself forcing climate change.
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Chapter 3: Nature and Space in the ‘Discovery’ of the Mexican Caribbean

Michael R. Redclift, David Manuel-Navarette and Mark Pelling


This chapter examines the early development of the Mexican Caribbean coast, a coast that has come to be known as the ‘Mayan Riviera’. It begins by exploring the idea that the coast was once devoid of settlement and at the margins of commerce and trade. A critical examination of this myth suggests several ways in which political relations have helped determine the consumption of space in order to ensure specific patterns of access and exclusion. A historical analysis reveals ways in which the economy has been driven by the need to create spaces of consumption in order to attract capital and monetary flows. The key elements in the discourses supporting the process of economic development are the ideas of discovery and modernity, utilized as antidotes to ‘backwardness’ and ‘neglect’. Both the creation of spaces of consumption and the managing of the consumption of space are supported today by claims and discourses equating progress with tourist development. The next two chapters explore the antecedents of international tourism today, concentrating on the development of Cancún and the Mexican Caribbean coast. This leads to a discussion of the claims that were made for ‘pioneer’ tourism in Mexico as a whole, and in the Mexican Caribbean in particular, and the way that these claims to ‘discovery’ and ‘nature’ have affected the environment. As we shall see, these claims have also assisted commercial interests in gaining control of the development discourse, and disseminating the idea that what is happening is both sustainable and ‘natural’....

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