ENTREPRENEURSHIP AND SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION

Currently we live a confusing work period, in which the solution to opt for a paid work seems to be through self-employment. In recent times, the words entrepreneur and/or entrepreneurship seem to be trendy; it is the same way to say, to start-up a business project. But recently, this has taken a 180-degree turn, as more and more people choose to undertake an activity but also to generate social benefits and/or environmental improvements in their direct territory. I was recently asked, “How do you see yourself in a future in your work?” My response was overwhelming, and without needing to think too much, perhaps in a utopian way, but convinced of it, I replied: “Transforming the world.”

I was recently asked, “How do you see yourself in a future in your work?” My response was overwhelming, and without needing to think too much, perhaps in a utopian way, but convinced of it, I replied: “Transforming the world.”

There is a growing number of companies that want to be sustainable, and this will only be achieved by working directly with people: customers, society, employees or, suppliers, among others. At the end, companies that are struggling for a social change are sustainable companies, understanding this as the threefold result: economic, social and environmental. What do we want people who are dedicated to the so-called “social or sustainable enterprise?” We want that with our services, products or activities, we achieve a fairer and more equitable environment, where there are opportunities for everyone, integrating all social groups, but also promoting ambitious measures that support an environmental protection and the fight against climate change.

Very nice and very utopian… but is this real or are you an NGDO? Yes, this is real, and nobody working in social entrepreneurship are an ONGD’s. Although we must recognize that it is harder to start this kind of business model, because to start up it, first of all is that every person who makes up the team must have a decent salary, or an equitable distribution of profits. If this premise is not met, then it is not a sustainable company,  and much less wants to promote a social change. On the other hand, I am not going to apologize for wanting to make a  living, that is, I carry out environmental consultancy services, sustainable tourism, technical assistance for rural development, environmental education,… among others. These are services that, for certain individuals or groups, should be made for free. Well, NO. It is my job. The time invested in preparing the activities, in visiting the territories, in investigating strategies that promote the social and economic development of a territory,… All of this involves a great effort and a great knowledge associated, and all people need money to live. That I have decided to put into practice in my work a philosophy of life does not mean that I have to do it for free.

Yes yes! This is beautiful, but put me practical examples! Well, imagine a food company that decides to pay the fair price to its suppliers, bet on the sale of products of Km0 and/or ecological and avoid the use of plastic bags among its customers. Or a company that forms and works women with difficulties to access to the labour market (for whatever reason), or people with disabilities. Let’s take the case of a beekeeping company that only sells the honey produced by their bees (if possible in a nearby area), without pesticides or fertilizers, worrying about the local biodiversity and restoring the cultural heritage associated. Or, on the other hand, companies that take advantage of the collection, cleaning and transformation of waste, used oil, to generate by-products giving a second chance to these remains that would end up buried or incinerated. Finally, a travel agency that promotes responsible and social trips among its clients, with activities committed to the territory visited and paying fair prices to its collaborators. All these examples, and many more, exist, are real and profitable, and could be offered a detailed explanataion on each experience described.

Social or sustainable entrepreneurship is a double opportunity. On the one hand, we are generating an economic benefit, not only for ourselves, but also to our employees, collaborators or suppliers. On the other hand, we strive to improve our territories. We work to change the world. The only thing we ask for is to favor the existence of public policies that help and support this type of organizations, not only with access to sources of funding, but with visibility, with free public counseling centers, with information or with incentives for entities that promote a social and environmental well-being of the population. Simply, do not put us in trouble when someone wants to start up a work activity that involves sustainable purposes.

 

The only thing we ask for is to favor the existence of public policies that help and support this type of organizations, not only with access to sources of funding, but with visibility, with free public counseling centers, with information or with incentives for entities that promote a social and environmental well-being of the population. Simply, do not put us in trouble when someone wants to start up a work activity that involves sustainable purposes.

THE SUSTAINABILITY OF THE "SUSTAINABLE CONCEPT"

Sustainability and Greenwashing

Nowadays, there is no doubt that we are being bombarded with the term “Sustainability“. Everything around us seems more sustainable than ever: our food is sustainable, tourism is also sustainable, the new buildings being built are sustainable, mining is sustainable and many multinational companies are also sustainable. But what does this term mean?

For a large part of the population, sustainable is synonym for ecological, organic or “environmental friendly,” and this is something that I do not think is right. If we look at the definition offered by the the Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary, it says: “especially in ecology and economics that can be maintained for a long time without depleting resources or causing serious damage to the environment Sustainable Economy/Development”. In my point of view, according to this definition, there is a lack of very important issues.

The origin of the sustainable concept arose in the 1980s, analyzing the environmental problems that were being detected at that time, but also what was happening in society, and their relationship and responsibility with them. According to experts, sustainability is “to meet current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, ensuring the balance between economic growth, environmental care and social welfare.” That is, sustainability should not only care for, respect and preserve the environment, but sustainability must be social, environmental and economic. This is known as the Triple Sustainability Theory.

And here comes to my head the word “Greenwashing“, a word I repeat very often lately. Because this is the general view that large corporations want to cause to citizens, but also to the society in general, which is reflected very well in the numbers: amount of tons of CO2 that we compensate, because we are very concerned and worried about climate change; Money we donate for biodiversity conservation campaigns; Kilograms/tons of materials we recycle or reuse. All these examples, of course, are necessary and urgent, but these actions do not make us more sustainable, if we forget and move away from the other pillars of sustainability.

There would be many issues to comment or criticize as well, and possibly this will require several (or many) articles, but I want this to be a first general approach to this concept. Environmental sustainability, as we see, “is dominated”, but what about the other two pillars of sustainability? Economic sustainability and social sustainability. Undoubtedly, we live in a world with high poverty rates where millions of people are dying of hunger; We see great wage and social inequalities every day; Discrimination based on gender, race or sexual status; Populations without access to water and sanitation; and production and consumption are not responsible. Does not this also take part in sustainability?

Just to cite a few of examples, the most mediatic, controversial and bleeding case is the case of “Las Kellys”, the hotel maids. These women are in charge of cleaning up hotels, receiving for this chore an income that rarely exceeds € 2 per room. Many of these hotels belong to large international hotel chains, with a Corporate Social Responsibility department that is responsible for highlighting their social and environmental commitments, praising their economic solvency. In addition, some of these (luxurious) accommodations have some type of seal or distinction as a Responsible or Sustainable Tourism Company. And what happens with “The Kellys”? Do not count for this type of commitments or certifications?

We are more than 7 billion people in the world. It is estimated that by 2050 we will be 9 billion. That’s nothing! Without a doubt, the (whole) environment is our great task, but the people around us: our employees, customers, collaborators or suppliers, are not yet on the to-do list.

Let us be responsible, sustainably responsible!

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017! INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF SUSTAINABLE TOURISM FOR DEVELOPMENT

Feliz 2017

At the end of the year 2015, the UN General Assembly declared the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. This recognition is not only intended to value the importance of this economic activity, but also to involve tourists, touristic companies and public companies, to help them become aware of the need to promote and develop it in a responsible way.

Tourism industry is the main economic engine of many territories. In Spain it represents almost 12% of GDP. This means that urgent studies about the reception capacity of the destinations should be carried out to avoid massive flows of visitors. The natural and cultural heritage is not a renewable resource, and therefore, we may not cause damage to the landscape, nor to cause inconvenience to people who live in these destinatios, as happened in many rural areas.

Another important issue when we practice a Responsible Tourism is to become aware of the identity of the area visited, that is, discover the local culture, history and traditions; taste the local gastronomy; experience everything that makes unique a territory; But, above all, to respect to the maximum the landscape and the inhabitants. This is a way to promote the knowledge of the cultural heritage, but we will also be guarantors of its conservation and protection.

We hope that the declaration of the year 2017 as International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development will be the first step for the Responsible Tourism not to remain in an exceptional practice. We are confident that this recognition will be the basis and the driving force to ensure that all people that work in the tourism sector are involved in the fighting for to be strengthened the three pillars of sustainability (economic, social and environmental). Because if people work for the common good, then, we will change the world.

From Lláscara we wish you a Merry Christmas in the company of your loved ones, a Happy New Year full of happiness, Environmental Education, Ecotourism and authentic experiences.

Thanks for joining us!

Ecoturismo en Asturias

THE GEOLOGICAL HERITAGE AND ITS POTENTIAL AS TOURISTIC RESOURCE

If we make a population survey on how many people have ever done Geological Tourism, surely few people will answer yes. On the other hand, if the question were “Have you ever been to El Teide, Lagos de Covadonga, La Garrotxa, Costa Vasca, Monfragüe,…? Then, millions of people would answer yes. It can be said that you have done Geological Tourism, although nobody has ever explained you it, and for that reason, you did not know it.

 

Geological Tourism, which is not the same as Geotourism, is a way to enjoy the landscape in all its splendor. It is about understanding how relief, rocks and fossils are formed, among other geological resources. It is a way of knowing our history. A history of almost 4.600 million years and the evolution of our landscapes. Undoubtedly, geology is basic for understanding and enriching some concepts and activities on flora and fauna (the soils on which plants are developed and the trees, and the rocks in which some mammals and birds live). But it is also important to discover the ethnographic and monumental heritage. The Geological Heritage is a cross-cutting discipline focused on our history. Why and when do we forget about this resource with such a great interpretative potential?

 

Salto del Gitano. Parque Nacional de Monfragüe

Salto del Gitano. Parque Nacional de Monfragüe

 

Geological Tourism is not the same as Geotourism

 

Spain is an outdoor laboratory. Some destinations have already made a strong commitment by a strategy of Geological Tourism. Throughout our territory, including the islands, we can find a great and diverse variety of geological heritage of all periods of our history. Some of these territories have an international scientific relevance. An example of these destinations are the Geoparks, a figure sponsored by UNESCO in the world. Spain already has 11 geoparks, 2 of them in the Canary Islands. The strategy developed in the Geoparks is Geotourism, although these protected spaces, undoubtedly, are the best place to practice Geological Tourism. They have self-guided itineraries and activities guided by experts to visit and discover the local geological heritage.

 

The Dinosaur Coast (Asturias)

The Dinosaur Coast (Asturias)

 

If the Geological Heritage is so varied and interesting, why does not it have as much notoriety as another type of tourism practiced in the natural environment, such as Ornithological Tourism? From my point of view it is easy to explain: Geological Tourism falls short of good heritage interpreters. Everyone remember at school that incomprehensible explanation about Plate Tectonics. That memory has marked our youth and when we hear talking about “geology” that remembrance comes to our memory. This is summarized in that there are no good disseminators of geology, nor a professionalization of this discipline. Instead, when we are conscious of consuming this tourism, completely sustainable and responsible with our environment, moreover it is about learning to read our landscape, we love it. It is like discovering a new world. It is learning and understanding our surroundings. And that, all people fascinate it.

 

Cataratas de Pulhapanzak (Honduras)

Cataratas de Pulhapanzak (Honduras)

 

The Geological Tourism should be an innovative and sustainable strategy of the territories. This resource, in addition to valuing our heritage, promotes its conservation, and, moreover, has a great potential as a resource in Environmental Education. It is, therefore, a Sustainable Tourism that can promote the creation of employment among the specialists in Heritage Interpretation. In addition, these large disseminators have the ability to transport us to a time completely unknown, in which the landscape, biodiversity, and even the climate, are totally different than today. A journey through a time that awakens our senses, imagination and creativity. This is what tourism sector calls Experiencial Tourism, with great possibilities to grow.

 

The Geological Tourism should be an innovative and sustainable strategy of the territories

 

The Ethnographic Heritage is a great resource for interpret the geology of the environment

The Ethnographic Heritage is a great resource for interpret the geology of the environment

WHAT IS GEOTOURISM?

The concept Geotourism is a relatively new and unknown term in Spain that is commonly linked to Geological Tourism.

Etymologically “Geo” means Earth. It is a prefix that comes from the ancient Greek γεω- (geō), prefix derived from γῆ (gê, “earth”). Therefore, Geotourism is a tourism based on the “characteristics of the earth”.

Jonathan B. Tourtellot, director of the National Geographic for Sustanaible Destination, has been the creator of the concept Geotourism, which defines it as:

“A concept based on the geographical characteristics of a place. It is a tourism that sustains, or even enhances, the geographical character of a place, such as its culture, environment, heritage, and the well-being of its residents”. Geotourism highlights the relationship between tourism and “the sense of place”.

Unlike ecotourism, which only includes Nature Tourism, geotourism deals with everything that encompasses the evolution of a place in a unique and distinct destination. It is about visiting places in a special and authentic way: flora, fauna, geology, ethnography, native breeds, traditional music and dances, archaeological sites, picturesque landscapes, handicrafts and animals, on which traditional food is based, but above all, The people who live there. To do geotourism is to discover a territory in depth.

Embalse de Grandas

Embalse de Grandas

Geotourism carries out the criteria of Sustainable Tourism. According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), sustainable tourism is “tourism that takes full account of current and future economic, social and environmental impacts to meet the needs of visitors, industry, the environment and communities Hostesses. Geotourism must contribute to the development of the communities that are visited: to integrate these people in our trip, to know how they live, how they work and how they contribute to the cultural conservation of the landscape. But these, for their part, should also protect what attracts travelers. It is a mutual commitment, a responsibility to care the territory.

Geotourism can also be considered as a Creative Tourism, as it tries to creatively integrate tourists and destinations, with the aim of developing unique, participative and creative experiences. This new tourism aims to make travelers more committed to the area they visit.

Visiting authentic places, involving in the culture of their territories, we contribute to the maintenance and conservation of landscapes, gastronomy, handicrafts, ecosystems, but above all, the inhabitants. We promote the local development of the people who inhabit these spaces, encouraging them to continue living and fighting for their dreams.

 

Would you like to drink and asturian cider?

Would you like to drink and asturian cider?

BIRDWATCHING IN SPAIN

The Ornithological Tourism or Birdwatching is an activity that involves the observation of birds in their natural environment. This activity has an increasing great number of people interested. Spain has a great potential for growth.

Aves

Spain is the country with the greatest biodiversity of the European Union, with about 600 different species of birds, including rarities and endemic species. This is due to its biogeographical position and the variety of ecosystems that can be found throughout the entire national territory. In Spain there are more than 600 Special Protection Areas (SPAs), representing 20% of the total area of the country, including terrestrial and marine space.

Ornithological tourism attracts more foreign visitors each year to our country, mainly from the UK, Germany and the Netherlands, but also tourists from the United States. It is estimated that in the UK there are more than 7 million people that practice this hobbie. Spain receives about 10 million visitors moved by an interest in observing some bird species.

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Spain receives about 10 million visitors moved by an interest in observing some bird species.

Such visitors are fully aware with the protection and conservation of our nature, but also want to live unique and unforgettable experiences in our territories. They are people who are looking for doing birdwatching, but they also want to discover the authenticity of the territories, taste the local cuisine, to admire its ethnography or culture, and get lost in a magical landscapes. The scenaries are in excellent conditions of conservation, because they have been preserved by the inhabitants of the rural areas, so that birds continue to choose these places as their place of residence or step.

This type of tourism not only promotes the revitalization of the tourism sector, avoiding the seasonality of demand, but also the commitment of local people to continue maintaining this heritage. It is a great honour for local people that international visitors valorize something common for them, and considered as heritage by tourists. This not only promotes defense values ​​of our environment, but also to feel proud of their land, their work and their identity.

Through a heritage resource as are our birds, we can show to our visitors a whole territory worth being discovered, in which there is not only nature, but there are also people living in them. A type of tourism that breaks the seasonal tourist dynamics, and may eventually allow people to live in their territories throughout the year. A tourism that may even boost the Spanish primary sector, as these tourists are earthy people, that want to taste local products, coming from local people that love its territory. Because sustainable tourism and rural development must always go hand in hand, and never separated.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING HOW TO PLANT POTATOES

THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING HOW TO PLANT POTATOES

  • - Do you know what I’m remembering right now?
  • - What are you thinking about, grandma?
  • - I’m thinking about the first time that you planted potatoes.
  • - Why do you remember it rigth now?
  • - Because I’m looking at the orchards, meadows, mountains and chestnut trees and I can only see the abandonment of our rural area. Everything is going to die.
  • - I don’t understand what you are trying to say me.
  • - When you were 3 years old your parents left you with us during a week. We were planting potatoes and you were playing with our cats. Suddenly, you appeared at the orchard and you asked us if you could “play” with us, because you thought it was very fun. We thought you were going to get tired after 5 minutes, because planting potatoes is not a pleasant task. It is very hard. We explain you our mission once and it was not neccessary to explain you the task twice. You were working all day with us and do not get tired at not time. When our neighbors passed along the road while you were working, they looked at you and smiled. We are so proud of you. You were going to be our future.
  • - Why was it so important to you?
  • - Because nobody wants to live here, so far from everything. Because at that moment we could see the abandonment of rural areas were coming. The villages have no life. Nobody knows the importance of knowing how to plant potatoes.

 

Rural landscape endangered

Rural landscape endangered

It is estimated that in Spain 7 out of every 10 people live in urban areas. People prefers to live in places where can enjoy of a comfortable life near their jobs, hospitals, schools, colleges and leisure facilities nearby. All these aspects make these areas more attractive for the majority of the Spanish population. Nobody wants to live in oblivion. No one wants that their children have to travel every day 20 kilometers on a road in a horrible state to go to school or college. And this conditions, at best. Because there are situations where they have to cross mountain passes to get there, with all that this implies. And it is the same problem if they need to go to a health center, or to get to their jobs. Would this be different if we could enjoy of basic services needed for a good and decent quality of life? Would more people go to live to a small village?

This was a real conversation. It reflects how important was the territory for our grandparents. Why it is not for us? Nobody wants to live in the countryside. There is not a generational replacement. Chestnut trees that have been removed so hungry in the toughest times of our history, and how important they were for our ancestors, are sick. They will be lost if nobody heal them at time. Nobody knows our medicinal plants, because they prefer to go to a pharmacy. It is so simple. The fields and mountains are completely abandoned because they do not have any functionality. Most of our traditional houses are already colonized by vegetation. But neither we have wanted to inherit our traditional legacy.

Our cultural and ethnographic heritage and the “indigenous” knowledge has been lost. Yes, it is. We are all Indians, natives of our territory. Because the term indigenous refers to our origin, and all of we have our provenience. What is sadder still is that we have completely disowned our roots. Countrymen and countrywomen are also endangered species.

Orchard in which someone has ripped the potatoes

Orchard in which someone has ripped the potatoes

If everything is abandoned, if there is almost no orchards or livestock, … Have we thought about the origin of food we consume daily? Moreover we do not have any idea neither we eat daily nor its origin, but it is more important the desire to change the world. Take a very simple example. If we buy potatoes to a person who has chosen to live and work in a rural area, in addition to put a name and a surname to our food, we are not only providing an economic benefit to that person, but also a social benefit, because this little action will increase their self-esteem. He will keep fighting and working to bring forward their potatoes and teach other people their skills. More people will settle in this or other territories. Not only that. This will also help to conserve and mantain our landscapes, our nature and our biodiversity, and these aspects are we love to enjoy when we have free time on weekends, right? Is not true that the food tastes different when we have a name and a last name we know? This, together with the smile and the happiness with we eat its food, give it a special and unique flavor to the dish. We can not imagine how important is to consume local products. We help people who want to stay in their territory and avoid that they will not have to leave it, we know what we eat, we keep population in rural areas, we avoid the abandonment of our landscapes, we preserve our cultural heritage,… even we help to tackling climate change, do you need more reasons?

It is no nonsense to know how plant potatoes. People who have this knowledge, have the license to feed a whole territory. They have the will to change the world.

Potato plant in an orchard resisting the loneliness

Potato plant in an orchard that is resisting the loneliness

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY SUSTAINABLE TOURISM?

Summer is now close to end, and thus the tourism season ends. During this period is when travelers, mainly national tourists, may move to another place in search of a deserved rest. During just two months are made millions of journeys within Spain, but, how many of these trips could be considered in which tourists are practicing Sustainable Tourism or Responsible Tourism? Throughout this summer we have seen news about crowded places, including Protected Natural Spaces, or overcrowded tourist cities in which local people can not do “normal life”. There were caravans of cars on the roads or vehicle accesses saturated to access to the most famous tourist territories. On this occasion, we will offer you a reflection about our understanding on Sustainable or Responsible Tourism and what measures we consider that should be taken. We want to contribute our bit to change the world and awareness of the importance of traveling in a responsible manner. In addition, tourism may become a powerful tool for rural development and social and environmental awareness.

Tourism may become a powerful tool for rural development and social and environmental awareness.

Sustainable tourism is not a “new touristic typology”. It is a methodology that could be applied to destinations, organizations and/or companies. This will consist in designating some ethical principles and criteria, as well as a code of good practice in which are regarded environmental and social practices, to contribute to mantain the benefits of tourism directly into the host territory. These benefits can be broken down into several, from our point of view: economic, social, cultural and environmental. Moreover, these benefits may be beneficial to stay in the territory, but also travelers can become aware of the most serious problems in our lives to change it.

Sustainable Tourism has different definitions, but we prefer the definition of the World Tourism Organization (OMT), that in 1993, at the Euromediterranean Conference on Tourism and Sustainable Development, developed in the document entitled “Tourism the year 2000 and beyond qualitative aspects” “Sustainable Tourism assume the needs of present tourists and host regions while protects and promotes opportunities for the future. It is conceived as a way to manage all resources so that they can meet the economic, social and aesthetic needs but also respecting the cultural integrity, ecological processes, biodiversity and systems that sustain life. ”

During the summer of 2016 there were moments when have been exceeded 7,000 visitors in the Lakes of Covadonga

During the summer of 2016 there were moments when have been exceeded 7,000 visitors in the Lakes of Covadonga

“Sustainable Tourism assume the needs of present tourists and host regions while protects and promotes opportunities for the future. It is conceived as a way to manage all resources so that they can meet the economic, social and aesthetic needs but also respecting the cultural integrity, ecological processes, biodiversity and systems that sustain life”.

What criteria and/or principles must develop to promote Sustainable Tourism? Thenwe will develop a little points that we consider basic to do a Sustainable Tourism. These criteria are not ordered according to their importance. We believe that all points are equally important.

  • To promote the consumption of local products. Behind these products there is a person with a wonderful history that worth to know and discover. These people may be increased their income, but also their self-esteem. To consume local products is also part of tourism, and we have to try to taste, discover and learn, about our typical products agrifood and our traditional cuisine, because are part of the tradition of any destination. Thanks to consumption of these products we will help to maintain and preserve our heritage, but also our landscapes. It is possible that we contribute to keep population in these territories.
  • To hire a local guide. On the one hand, hiring local guides help to increase the income of people who lives in a destination. In addition, local guides is the people who best know their territories. We can discover interesting things and places: their stories, traditions or the most beautiful territories, among others. We may learn to love and protect the territory.
  • To hire companies that that are fulfilling their legal obligations. There is too much professional intrusion in tourism. Every company, such as accommodation, travel agency, active tourism company or guides must pay taxes, insurances, and the cost of design and organize each activity or service. In this case, it seems that instead of collaborating between companies, we tend to see our own enemy. There are accommodations that are offering guided tours or transfer services as well as ski resorts that offer wildlife watching. Moreover, rural tourism associations are selling tour packages. We are Responsible Tourism travelers and Responsible Companies, and we should not allow this type of illegal services. If we consent to this, we are allowing that some companies can disappear.
  • To promote the use of public transport. We are aware that there are many places that do not have a network of public transport to get to this destination, but there are alternatives, once we are there. Sustainable Tourism, in the end, is to follow the same philosophy that we have in our daily lives, and this point can be solved in many ways.
  •  To respect the traditional culture and its inhabitants. Whether it is a two-day getaway, a week or more, when we are on holidays in a territory we become inhabitants of that territory for a short period of time. This means that we must respect our neighbors, and treat them with the same respect we would like to be treated. We should try to know and admire their culture and their way of life.
  • People are not the center of the universe. Many tourists behave in a completely irrational way when they leave their hometowns. We should avoid this kind of behavior. We do not want to see garbage on Protected Natural Areas, since our house is not what we will do. We must conduct ourselves in a rational and respectful manner.
  • Decent wage and dignified work. Many companies are considered as ethical projects. They have environmental and social commitments as well as environmental certifications, but they have their workers without a minimum conditions of dignity or hiring as “false self-employed” for their own purposes and benefits. This must not be acceptable or tolerated. We want a decent future, both in environmental and social aspects. I recommend reading this news on decent work in Travindy. http://www.travindy.com/es/2016/07/unicamente-tres-empresas-turisticas-las-100-mejores-trabajar/
  • Reasonable use of natural resources. Touristic companies, accommodations, destinations or entities should promote measures that allow the reusing of resources or recycling. They should have an adequate waste management system, but also protocols on the reduction of water and a rational use of energy, among others.
  • Reception Capacity of a destination. Tourist destinations do not have an unlimited reception capacity that allow the arrival of infinite visitors. Just as when we arrived at a restaurant and we see the typical note of “up to 30 people”, there are areas where should be analysed the limit on the number of people that can stay in the area, because it exists. It is named Reception Capacity of a destination, and its calculation is very simple. We must not be tolerants with the oversaturation of our Protected Natural Areas, because it causes dangerous social and environmental impacts, such as noise, or waste, among others. Is this the kind of tourism model that we are looking for? Because we should consider in this type of model that we are not only making an impact on the natural environment. The local population also is affected with this model. Have you ever analysed if the oversaturated places of tourism contribute to increase the income of these territories? We should analyse it.
  • “Ethical” Companies that have appropriate environmental policies. On the one hand, we may check that the company or entity does not violate any environmental law. In general, European tourists are the major consumers of Sustainable Tourism. When they are deciding the destination they would like to visit or the company, they have some questions. For example, they want to know the environmental commitments they have, their certifications, if the company collaborate with some NGOs, or conservation or social projects, among others.

 

Although it has been a very long post, we did not want to miss this opportunity to speak about Sustainable Tourism, although we are sure it will not be the last time we do.

Activity developed by the Cultural Association La Ponte in Santo Adriano. They carry out sustainable tourism activities and rural revitalization

Activity developed by the Cultural Association La Ponte in Santo Adriano. They carry out sustainable tourism activities and rural revitalization

PLANTS TELL US THE GREATEST LOVE STORIES

There are beautiful love stories related to the flora around us. One example of this is the story associated with Field bindweed (Calystegia sepium). Legend has it that if a couple in love drink an infusion of its leaves mixed with wine, this creates a strong liquor, considered as a love potion. If both lovers drink this concoction, this beverage preserves this love until the end of his days, providing an unshakable harmony and happiness.

Calystegia sepium

Calystegia sepium

Love stories between people have always been very present in our society. It has always existed and will always exist legends, tales and stories which are narrated potions and enchantments by using plants or other natural elements, that help us to find the true love or preserve the love that we already have. I regret to say that no, this is not this type of love that we will talk on this occasion. Because love is not only between people. Since the dawn of humanity there has always been a love, respect and care for our territory, and therefore to our nature. A special and unique relationship of unconditional love that man feels to our flora, although today seems to be undergoing a crisis, everything in life has a solution.

Let’s talk about this love story. Let’s talk about ethnobotany!

As we have discussed, since the dawn of humanity, people has used and preserved natural resources we have around us. Rocks provide us with raw materials for the construction of our houses and tools, but also wood provide us raw materiales for this activities. Water, the most precious asset we have, not only serves to quench our thirst, but is also very present in our life (for cooking and cleaning). It is always present in the livestock and agriculture too, and serves as a driving force, and is even very present in many ancient rituals. Nature provides us with services that are essential for the maintenance of life. But the most authentic and unique relationship is the great relationship that we have with plants, and this goes sometimes unnoticed.

The rural landscape in Europe has been formed by agricultural practices over the centuries and the symbiosis between farmers.

The rural landscape in Europe has been formed by agricultural practices over the centuries and the symbiosis between farmers.

The distribution of many plants and trees is not “totally innocent”. It is true that for its growth have to have optimal conditions of temperature, wind and humidity, but also the type of soil and rocks are essential for their development. For many plants, the most important for their survival and conservation is the figure of the “countryman” as a guarantor of the conservation of many species. Surely many of our grandfathers and grandmothers have prescribed us  “miraculous” natural remedies when we have colds, muscle aches or injuries. We have seen how certain plants are used as exquisite ingredients to elaborate delicious dishes worthy of a Michelin chef. All of us have seen as the countrymen maintain and care for the roads, meadows, trees and forests. This is not an innocent activity. This is an act of unconditional love. It is a covenant that trees and plants have been established with the human being from the beginning of time: “I willl take care you, but you also me. In exchange for my care, You will provide me food and medicine, for me and for my cattle. Everyone wins. “

Ethnobotany is the study of the relationship of plants with humans. Since ancient times have made lists or catalogs of plants (and trees) scoring their uses, as well as ethnographic and symbolic aspects. These knowledge has passed down from generation to generation. This type of ethnobotanical studies also value the role of plants in our own culture.

One of the greatest exponents in Asturias of this is the Yew (Taxus baccata), being the most emblematic specie of the Asturian culture. In many towns and villages a great yew acts as a mediator and guardian of life of its people. The place where these trees are located, is not a place chosen at random. They are primitive places of worship and wisdom that today, still completely unknown. Under its branches are celebrated meetings between its inhabitants where people make decisions and commitments that were agreed and accepted by the common good of the people. There are several reasons why the yew was admired. On the one hand, in addition to its appreciated wood for toolmaking, yew is a “poisonous” specie. Except in the fruit, all parts of the tree contain a poisonous substance highly toxic, deadly to humans. Legend has it that the astures always carried a yew leaves, which in the case of being caught by his enemies, they ate the leaves to commit suicide. Moreover, they also used it to impregnate its arrows or weapons to kill more quickly to their enemies. In times not so old, the high toxicity of yew was used as euthanasia, to avoid the suffering of the sick.

Yew in Teverga

Yew in Teverga

As we have also seen in the article, the relationship between plants and people is a beautiful relationship. A relationship of unconditional love. The most pure and sincere love that has existed throughout history and we must continue to care and working. The most powerful weapon we have is love, and if we work our relationship with nature, we will be able to be optimistic, and see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Keeping in mind the notion that in order to love one must know first, we need more people who knows our history, our origins and our environment.

We promise to make a second part, and perhaps the third also, because this is a neccesary and fascinating issue.

THE ORIGIN OF THE PASTURES OF PICOS DE EUROPA NATIONAL PARK

Any landscape may appear different depending on how you look at it. Some people pay more attention to flowers; trees; rocks or fossils; glaciers; and other people prefer to observe the traces and messages that other humans, who have lived in a territory along of its history, have left to us. The landscape is a book with many chapters, and each chapter has its respective interpretation: a chapter is dedicated to botany, another talks about wildlife, geology also has great importance in this book… Although there are many chapters written in the landscape, with different items, all of them are related to humans. This is the most important and extensive chapter written on the landscape. A chapter that is still being written, that remains alive, and we hope that it will never end.

Cows near The Lakes of Covadonga

Cows near The Lakes of Covadonga

This is the first article devoted to heritage interpretation and the reading of the landscape, with emphasis on the relationship between humans and nature. In this case we will talk about the importance of geology for people; to the shepherds of the Picos de Europa. Because people and nature need each other. We want also to pay a tribute to the shepherds of the Picos de Europa. Maybe some people consider it slightly bizarre, but we will try to explain it.

Have you ever wondered why Picos de Europa National Park are so important and essential to livestock? The geology has a primary and basic role in it. This article, without getting into technical or scientific details, summarizes more than 500 million years of geological history of the National Park, a history that has coexisted with the shepherds of the Picos de Europa, in many cases without realizing it.

The rocks are also very important for birds, as this is the place chosen by many species of birds to nest

The rocks are also very important for birds, as this is the place chosen by many species of birds to nest

There are various processes that result the current shape of the montains of Picos de Europa, in particular, and the Cantabrian Mountains, in general. The geological history of Picos de Europa National Park is long and complex, and dates back more than 500 million years, when there were no elevations. At that time, the territory had a tropical climate, period in which the most ancient rocks of the Park were deposited in a coastal and marine environment. In the course of more than half million of years, as a result of tectonic plates moving, changes in latitude, the processes of deformation suffered in rocks by important orogenies, changes in sea level, among others; the sediments, that subsequently formed the rocks of the Park, were accumulated in very different environments: deep marine environments, shallow marine, deltaic systems and even river systems. Although, undoubtedly, the Carboniferous limestones are the main rocks in the park. These aspects indicate that the National Park had a marine influence for many years.

Picture taken from the top of Cotalba

Picture taken from the top of Cotalba

The geological process that has contributed to provide more “personality” to the National Park has been the Alpine Orogeny. This is the stage in which the rocks that were deposited over more than 500 million years, were rose up to form the current Cantabrian Mountains. This process began about 50 million years ago, and whose result has been the formation of the mountains, with their characteristics elevations and slopes, loved by mountaineers and explorers, and the pastures in which the cattle graze in these mountains, close to their sheperds. They are people who works under extremely harsh conditions.

The geological process that has contributed to provide more “personality” to the National Park has been the Alpine Orogeny. This is the stage in which the rocks that were deposited over more than 500 million years, were rose up to form the current Cantabrian Mountains.

Picture taken from the top of Jultayu

Picture taken from the top of Jultayu

Once the raising of the Cantabrian Mountains concluded, started the configuration and modeling of the current relief, influenced by different factors such as the type of rocks or the variations in the past and present climate, among others. As an example of the climatic influence are the rest of glaciers that we can observe in the National Park. This was a phenomena that began 100,000 years ago approximately. The ice have had a determinant part on the modeling of the landscap. This episode have left us forms like glacial lakes, glacial valleys and glacial cirques, among other forms that form, undoubtedly, a stunning landscape.

Glacier forms close to The Lakes of Covadonga

Glacier forms close to The Lakes of Covadonga

We must not forget the fluvial dynamics, as a result of the erosive power of water on the limestones. The National Park is located within the watersheds of the Sella river, Deva river and Cares river. In fact, the Sella and Deva rivers mark the western and eastern boundaries, respectively, of the National Park. In addition, Cares and Duje Rivers (the last one is a tributary of Cares river) separate the National Park in three parts, that are known by the names of the Eastern Massif or Andara, Central Massif or Urrielles and Western Massif or Cornión. This important fluvial dynamics have created breathtaking forms like gorges and canyons, like the gorge of Los Beyos or Cares Gorge.

Cares river

Cares river

If there is a really important process for cattle, it is the solution of the limestone, known as karstification, and they still continue until the present day. This process, produced by water action on limestone, has become National Park in one of the karst landscapes most important in the world. The karstification process has created forms such as surface cracks on the rocks, depressions or sinkholes, poljes (depressions of considerable size) or blind valleys. The limestones are composed of calcium carbonate, but also contain insoluble materials such as clays. When limestone is dissolve by water action, this process generate decalcification clays which are accumulated on the limestone and it causes the formation of soils. Although this process is also the cause of numerous livestock losses, because the cattle can fall inside the sinkholes that connect with the underground cavities. Asturias, in general, and the Picos de Europa, in particular, is like a big gruyère cheese, because under the soil there are hidden great treasures, which only the most intrepid speleologists have managed to discover, being considered this territory as the Himalayas of cavers. Some of its main sinkholes are considered between the deepest caves in the world.

If there is a really important process for cattle, it is the solution of the limestone, known as karstification, and they still continue until the present day.

Poljé de Comeya

Poljé de Comeya

The Picos de Europa National Park is considered as the Himalayas to speleologists.  Some of its main sinkholes are considered between the deepest caves in the world.

As we have seen, this complex territory is the landscape that our countrymen and countrywomen observe daily, their home, their workplace, a place that they adore, care, admire and respect, and a landscape in which sheperds have written. Geology has had a great importance in this story, in their story. Because the geology is necessary for these people, as well as to generate the pasture where the cattle are fed, the elevations to which they have to face to develop their noble work; the geology also provides them the necessary resources to build their cabins. We must protect this endangered work, the sheperds of Picos de Europa, but we must also protect, preserve and maintain our environment, our home, because the landscapes we see are a process that takes millions of years in nature, and we should not spoil because of our misunderstanding and misconceptions.

Bull and cows graze close to the Lakes of  Covadonga, where we can see the impressive slopes of the highest mountains, the glacier valleys and glacier cirques and the limestone solution process.

Bull and cows graze close to the Lakes of Covadonga, where we can see the impressive slopes of the highest mountains, the glacier valleys and glacier cirques and the limestone solution process.

We must protect this endangered work, the sheperds of Picos de Europa, but we must also protect, preserve and maintain our environment, our home, because the landscapes we see are a process that takes millions of years in nature, and we should not spoil because of our misunderstanding and misconceptions.