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A Geoethical Approach to Unlock a Social-Ecological Governance Problem: The Case of the Tordera River (Catalonia, Spain)


  • Francesc Bellaubi

    (Institute for Environmental Research Xabier Gorostiaga SJ, Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla, San Andrés Cholula, Puebla 72820, Mexico)

  • Josep Maria Mallarach

    (Silene Association, 17800 Olot, Catalonia, Spain)

  • Rafael Sardá

    (Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes (CEAB-CSIC), 17300 Blanes-Girona, Spain)


This paper introduces a geoethical dilemma in the coastal zone of the Tordera Delta as a case study with the objective of showing the contribution of geoethics to the governance of coastal social-ecological systems. The Tordera Delta, located in Costa Brava, Catalonia, constitutes a social-ecological system that suffers from intense anthropization mainly due to tourist pressures causing a cascade of different environmental problems impacting the Delta functions. The massive sun and beach tourism brought human well-being and economic development to the region, but has caused an intense urbanization of the coastline that altered the coastal dynamics, eroded its beaches, and degraded many ecosystem services, a process that is being worsened today by the climate change events such as the rising sea level or the magnitude of the storms (“llevantades”), typical of the Western Mediterranean coast. Posing the problem of governance in terms of a geoethical dilemma enables discerning among the values connected to the intrinsic meaning of coastal landscapes and the instrumental values that see beaches as goods (commodities) for tourism uses. Finally, the paper reflects on options to overcome this dichotomy of values by considering meaning values as elements that forge cultural identities, contributing to highlighting this societal challenge in the Tordera Delta area, as a case study that can be useful for similar ecosystems.

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  • Francesc Bellaubi & Josep Maria Mallarach & Rafael Sardá, 2021. "A Geoethical Approach to Unlock a Social-Ecological Governance Problem: The Case of the Tordera River (Catalonia, Spain)," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(8), pages 1-14, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:13:y:2021:i:8:p:4253-:d:534301

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