“Declassifying the Earth is a challenge, but in politics it looks like science fiction”
The protagonist of the first teaching agenda for the 2021/2022 school year is a sociologist from Lanzarote who has been teaching classes in the Valencian community for 20 years. Specializing in spatial planning, his doctoral thesis focused on the case of Lanzarote, studying the relationship between mass tourism development, social welfare, and island regional planning.
What is your current teaching activity?
The activity of the sociologist at the Polytechnic University is very diverse and varied. We provide the insight and tools of sociology to future professionals who will not be sociologists but who need to incorporate this view into their future profession. I teach in management and public administration degree, as well as in civil engineering, and have collaborations in other degrees, such as tourism. Always delving into the aspects of equality, citizen participation, transparency and sustainability, a principle I have always worked with and can be seen today through the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
What is your best and worst thing as a college teacher?
Reward the teacher to see how the students are progressing, and when someone especially thanks you for the work done. I am lucky to have this experience. Even more painful was attending a process in which the Internet was no longer a means to become an end and students abused all the possibilities opened up. The vast amount of information provided by the Internet makes it possible to copy it. On the other hand, adolescence appears to be a stage that gets longer and longer and can be observed in new students. Added to this is also the sheer volume of students per teacher, especially in the first and second years.
What aspects of university education in Spain would you like to highlight positively and which should be improved?
– The Spanish State University has been provided with a lot of equipment, has great professionals and students have left and gone ready, although it is known that there are universities that deal with more budgets than others. UPV has great equipment for teaching and for advancing research. One aspect that is under discussion and ongoing conflict is the staffing and salary model, which must be improved. It must be kept in mind that a university teacher is not just a teacher. We have three missions: teaching, research and administration. It is also unfortunate that Spain has abandoned its scientists, there is a lot of work and results, but so little support and funding. Sadly, public money funds teaching in private universities.
– How did the topic of your thesis arise about the need to place limits on the growth of tourism so as not to compromise on social welfare in a small area like Lanzarote?
– The limits of growth are not a new idea: It was published in 1972. Since the late 1990s, I have been doing readings regarding the effects of tourism on the island’s rural areas. My knowledge of spatial planning brought me closer to a very powerful tool for working on the relationship between territory and society, it was light. All this was added to my observation regarding the continuous real estate growth, the occupation of more and more land. My concern was: Why all this? Is it necessary? Will there be a better quality of life? The directive of my thesis has always been clear to me: to show how tourism activity under a mega model reflects the primary benefits of the host community, deteriorating the welfare of these communities. Each territory has the carrying capacity, a concept different from the receiving capacity.
From the perspective of the years that have passed, how would you rate the content of your thesis?
– My thesis is a retrospective study analyzing about 35 years of development of tourism activity, regional politics, and the dynamics of social and economic transformation. The conclusions are still valid. why? Because retrospective analysis allows us to learn from the past, so as not to make the same mistakes. Now, from my vision, it appears that it has not been learned. It should be remembered that the 1991 Insular plan declassified the land, eliminating 135,000 tourist accommodations, roughly 79 percent less than what was allowed in the 1973 land classification. How brave at the time. The economic crises that have occurred since the 1980s should be used as opportunities to rethink and transform the paradigm. The moratorium was attempted in 2000, but failed miserably.
What can be expected in urban policy after the current crisis?
– The data shows that it aims to overcome the crisis by searching for solutions through the same processes that created or deepened it. We have a new opportunity, the one generated by the current health crisis, but there will be no paradigm changes. The question remains: to whom do you command the area? When this question is answered, with transparency, we will know why the growth threshold of the 1991 plan has been maintained. Is there an awareness of limits? Fernando Prats published an article in 2002 stating that Lanzarote is an “island of depleted cargo capacity”. There will be much to comment on, such as the conclusions of the analyzes made for the Lanzarote Biosphere Strategy under the LIFE Programme, in 1998, where this last idea is very clear.
– How do you explain the continuation of Lanzarote without renewing its regional planning?
– The review of the work was completed in 2010, but it maintains the growth threshold of the 1991 plan. I believe that the land and society have been abandoned to the will of the existing powers. What is important is a revision to adapt the standards to current problems and to reduce the growth threshold for tourist and residential places. Declassifying the lands is a challenge, but in current politics it sounds like science fiction. Pity they talk about sustainability. I repeat, solutions cannot be foreseen by the same processes or models that led us to the present situation. Let’s change the model. There is concern about the sustainability of the island from the Cabildo presidency, and they have a huge challenge ahead, and I hope and wish that progress will be made.
– How can a radical transformation of the tourism product in Lanzarote today?
Abolishing the classification of land allocated for more real estate growth and abandoning the idea that increasing the quantity is better, and ending the progress of the mass tourism model. Socio-regional, economic and environmental balance is achieved with less tourism and better quality. Much has been said about all of this. Now, you have to be very brave to stop the forces out there, love our society on profit. Re-transformation is not achieved in a period of four years, there must be a high political consensus, and a period of intense conflict will open, with economic repercussions also on the public treasury. Who dares?
What awaits Lanzarote if the number of beds continues to increase?
– Constant suffocation and collapse of equipment and infrastructure, increased pollution, a noticeable and noticeable rise in poverty due to poverty of employment, cracking of the social fabric, inflation, a significant deterioration in the quality of tourist services … The conclusions of my thesis are clear regarding the questioning of the success of the regional and tourism policy of the island: Although Although it is supposed to continue to be a biosphere reserve, it is not clear to me that we deserve it.