Marianna Strzelecka Marianna Strzelecka


Polonez 3 Duration: 1 I 2018 – 31 XII 2019

Research is financed through National Science Centre, Poland (Narodowe Centrum Nauki), agreement No. 665778, Reg. No. 2016/23/P/HS6/04017

Does ecotourism have ability to empower residents to overcome environmental discrimination due to Natura 2000 in Poland? An examination through the lens of Weber’s theory of formal and substantive rationality.

About the project

Environmental discrimination occurs where conservation “practices or policies … impact on the living conditions of people in low-income groups” (Dunion, 2003, p. 12). With environmental discrimination taking place worldwide, Natura 2000 Ecological Network is an example of a European environmental policy that has discriminates local communities in two ways. First, it has excluded communities from decision-making concerning conservation practices within Natura 2000. Second, it has denied residents the right to continue traditional local economic activities. Arguably, ecotourism is seen as the best way to compensate for the limitations resulting from Natura 2000, and is promoted as a benefit from Natura 2000 within the rural communities of Poland. Indeed, previous research illustrates ecotourism can profit rural residents because it is an alternative source of income for those residents that feel challenged by Natura 2000 (e.g. Pabian & Jaroszewicz, 2009). Over and above economic benefits from Natura 2000 ecotourism, psychological, social and political benefits such as self-efficacy, community cohesion, or ability to participate in local decision-making (empowerment through tourism) have been shown to be equally important outcomes of sustainable forms of tourism in rural areas of Poland. A holistic framework to consider both economic and non-economic benefits from ecotourism is Max Weber’s theory of formal and substantive rationality. Weber’s conceptualization of substantive rationality corresponds well with the explanations why residents benefiting from ecotourism psychologically, socially or politically will have more positive perceptions of Natura 2000 protecting those local natural assets that attract visitors.

With Poland’s communist past and top-down traditions of nature conservation management, it is of interest to understand which rationality (formal or substantive) is more present within its societies and which one dominates it the context of ecotourism. This broad goal will be achieved through the following research questions:

  1. Which form of empowerment from Natura 2000 ecotourism dominates within post-communist communities? Are formal and substantive rationalities – manifested as economic, psychological, social, political empowerment – coexisting or excluding?
  2. Does ecotourism empower communities challenged by Natura 2000? How does empowerment through ecotourism (economic, psychological, political, social) affect residents’ perceptions of environmental discrimination?
  3. Does individuals’ emotional engagement in nature influence perceptions of environmental discrimination in Nature 2000?

The knowledge gained through this research will help to navigate through the complex relationship between society and nature by reflecting upon the question about the role of ecotourism in the Anthropocene. How can ecotourism shape residents’ perceptions of nature conservation in Poland? Could ecotourism contribute to reconciliation of residents with ‘their’ nature?

Understanding the link between ecotourism and perceived discrimination by Natura 2000, has also broader theoretical implications for social aspects of nature conservation and conservation conflicts.


Project coordinator:
dr. Marianna Strzelecka
Professor dr. hab. Malgorzata Grodzinska-Jurczak
Field work coordinator:
Wojciech Dybek