A new book, Loreto, Mexico: Challenges for a Sustainable Future by Paul Ganster, Oscar Arizpe Arizpe C., and Vinod Sasidharan features essays by leading researchers on the history, natural environment, society, tourism, economy, and related challenges that Loreto faces for sustainable development. The threat of mass tourism is heightened by the specter of enormous mining operations that would compromise the view shed, pollute the land and water, and destroy the region as a destination for sustainable tourism. Freshwater is scarce and poorly managed. Climate change will increase sea levels and cause flooding of urban areas, raise ambient temperatures, and reduce rain while increasing drought. Adaptive measures can offset these challenges, but require community engagement and greatly improved public administration at local, state, and federal levels. We asked Paul Ganster to answer a few questions about the book, Loreto, and the future of the region.
What’s your tie to the Loreto region? How did the idea for the book come about?
I first visited Loreto in 1967 with my friend Harry Crosby at the start of a mule trip that followed the route of the 1769 Portolá expedition that founded San Diego. Since, I have returned periodically as part of my research interests in Baja California Sur in cooperation with colleagues from the Autonomous University of Baja California Sur, especially Dr. Oscar Arizpe, director of the Coastal Systems Ecology Laboratory. Oscar and I worked on two earlier projects examining questions of sustainability in Loreto: 1) the multi-university study led by Harvard University on Alternative Futures for the Region of Loreto, Baja California Sur, Mexico, 2005 and 2) Loreto: The Future of the First Capital of the Californias, (SDSU Press,2007), a collaboration of San Diego State University and UABC researchers. Both studies, available in English and Spanish, were designed to provide accurate information to decision makers and the Loreto community that faced challenges of uncontrolled growth and other problems. Both are available on-line at no cost.
Loreto, Mexico: Challenges for a Sustainable Future (2020, SDSU Press) continues the research collaboration of UABC and SDSU and includes joint student research projects in Loreto led by SDSU’s Dr. Vinod Sasidharan on quality of life and tourism. The volume is designed to illuminate key issues faced by Loreto and to provide accurate information and analysis to support sound decision making for the future of the region.
What makes Loreto such an important area to protect?
Loreto has singular natural and cultural resources that are unusual in Baja California Sur. The natural ecosystems of the Loreto Bay National Park and adjacent Sierra de la Giganta have immense natural beauty with important ecosystems and species and are an important part of Loreto’s heritage. Loreto’s cultural patrimony includes not only historical elements relating to the missions but also the nearby ranch culture and the social cohesiveness of the Loreto community that dates back to the colonial period. Loreto’s traditional society is unique in Baja California Sur.
What are the biggest threats to the region?
Uncontrolled development is perhaps the biggest threat to the region and could easily destroy Loreto’s natural beauty and overwhelm and marginalize traditional society, as has happened in other government planned tourism developments in Mexico such as Los Cabos and Cancún. Unsustainable fresh water supply, large mining developments, and effects of sea level rise and changing climate all present existential threats to Loreto. These threats can only be dealt with through community engagement and reform of the very short sighted, non-transparent, and dysfunctional local government.
How do you hope the book will help bring about change?
The book provides current information and analysis on key aspects of Loreto’s challenges that hopefully will enable engaged community members and elected officials to make better decisions for the long-term sustainability of the region.
What can tourists do to travel responsibly?
Most important is for tourists to be sensitive to and respectful of the traditions of local communities and to pay attention to impacts to the environment they might have. For Loreto, tourists can help by patronizing local businesses, especially those involved in sustainable alternative tourism, including cultural and natural tourism. Those businesses are most often locally owned and hire local people, so that more profits remain in the region to the benefit of the local community.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Both visitors and locals need to be more proactive and engaged to make sound decisions to preserve the attractiveness and quality of life of Loreto for visitors and local residents.
“Loreto, Mexico: Challenges for a Sustainable Future” is available on Amazon in both Kindle and Paperback formats.