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The politics of a sustainable future

A surplus of wishful thinking and a lack of realism and pragmatism in the sustainable tourism debate (Swarbrooke, 1999) has led to critical questions failing to be addressed, such as those posed by Luke (1995, p. 21-22), Sustainable for how long: a generation, one century, a millennium, ten millennia? Sustainable as what level of human appropriation: individual households, local villages, major cities, entire nations, global economies? Sustainable for whom: all humans alive now, all humans that will ever live, all human beings living at this time, all living beings that will ever live? Sustainable under what conditions: for transnational contemporary capitalism, for low impact Neolithic hunters and gatherers, for some future space-faring global empire? Sustainable development of what: personal income, social complexity, gross national product; GNP frugality, individual consumption, ecological biodiversity? Although a very commendable ideal, sustainable tourism is fraught with other challenges, both in terms of definition and operationalization. Tourism is a complex and fragmented phenomenon that despite its critical role in the global economy does not conform to classical definitions of industry and product. Its organization and administration is complex and the needs of different stakeholder groups are conflicting. Given this context, how can tourism be sustainable, and what is it that should be sustained? Wall (1997, p. 45) extends the questions posed by Luke (1995) by considering the application to tourism in particular