Ecological Enterprises. A Model for Economic and Territorial Interaction in Protected Natural Areas in Spain and Mexico, Javier Delgadillo Macías and Francisco Alburquerque Llorens, 1st ed., Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Universidad de Sevilla, Colegio de Tlaxcala, Mexico, 2010, 123 pp.

This work is the result of an collective effort that reveals the advantages of agreements between researchers from different countries to carry out studies aimed to foster innovation and improve competitiveness in rural areas. The agreement for its publication arose thanks to Dr. Javier Delgadillo Macías, an investigator at the IIEC-UNAM who carried out research as a visiting scholar at the Institute for Regional Development (IDR by its acronym in Spanish) at the Fundación Universitara Sevilla from 2006 to 2007, during a reasearch sabbatical from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). During this period, Dr. Delgadillo participated in different investigations and collaborated in networking activities carried out by the IDR in the Andalucia region. As part of this experience, it is important to note the joint collaboration with Dr. Francisco Alburquerque and the development of this document that arose from field research and from materials and workshops developed by IDR's Sustainable Development Group in Andalucía in recent years.

The title of this book immediately leads the reader to the aim of the text: to identify new business opportunities that will lead to job creation in order to increase income among rural populations, as well as for inhabitants of areas under the socioeconomic influence of natural parks and protected natural reserves. One of the purposes of the model presented by these investigators is to turn historically underpopulated rural areas adjacent to protected natural reserves into territories where new, ecologically-based enterprises can be promoted within the framework of sustainable development plans in which local actors take advantage of territorial potential as a strategic asset for local economic development.

The authors recognize that promoting local development through new approaches of territorial competitiveness and the assessment of specific areas of potential –in this case environmental, ecological and in regards to sustainability– will favor the resurgence of rural areas and the reactivation of the agricultural sector midterm, expanding the functions of rural areas through new business activities that can offer greater added value to local production and that can also reclaim traditional, local socio-cultural values. The authors propose that the protection and conservation of natural resources could go hand in hand with building territorial competition based on the quality of the natural environment and productive processes that are consistent with environmental sustainability.

This book by Dr. Delgadillo and Dr. Alburquerque consists of six chapters. In the first, the authors manifest their concern for the current model of economic growth, which generates poverty, socioeconomic inequality and environmental contamination, with the over-exploitation of natural resources and a reduction in biodiversity. In addition, they present sustainability as an element of innovation and territorial development. In other words, they present the case for the need for environmentally friendly, socially compatible and economically viable models promoted by local entrepreneurs. To this end, these investigators propose that organized territory calls for the presence of actors and processes that incorporate ethical behavior that is socially compatible with political and economical actions that favor sustainable ways of living.

In the second chapter, the authors present opportunities provided by environmental competitiveness and show how small and medium enterprises (SME's) have specific advantages compared to large companies, given their flexibility to adadpt to the diversity of their territorial and environmental contexts. Moreover, in the face of globalization, large companies tend to use innovation in their productive process as a way to reduce costs, particularly labor costs, whereas SME's tend to generate new productive processes when they fabricate new or improved products. Also in this section, the authors contend that ecologically-based enterprises are sources of potencial jobs in protected natural areas that are not necessarily limited to rural areas.

The third chapter addresses sustainable development plans in areas of socio-economic influence of natural parks in Andalucia, which, in the authors’ opinion, present an opportunity for local economic development in this region since they promote sustainable use of productive areas linked to areas of environmental conservation in a jurisdictional framework that favors the care and protection of the environment, recognizing the possibility to promote ecological enterprises in different fields of economic activity.

In the fourth chapter, indicators of sustainable development are demonstrated as basic tools to guide or correct the course of economic, social and institutional action in favor of a more sustainable future from both an environmental and human perspective. The development of the System of Indicators for Local Sustainable Development in Andalucía seeks to incorporate the economic, social and institutional dimensions of development.

The fifth chapter is dedicated to Mexico and its federally protected natural areas. Mexico, like other developing countries, suffers from signs of unsustainability; nevertheless, ecotourism can help to build a harmonious cycle between conservation and development since our territory has the potential to dedicate its protected natural areas to purposes of ecotourism, thus converting these protected natural areas into an ecological foundation for sustainable development.

In the sixth chapter, examples of successful ecologically-based enterprises are presented. The authors find it noteworthy that all of these activities to identify business opportunities should be complemented with other actions aimed to develop human resources capable of taking advantage of these opportunities, either to train entrepreneurs or skilled labor specialized in these ecologically-based enterprises.

In sum, the book extends a invitation to read and to engage in collective debate with students, academicians and investigators concerned about local economic development and the conservation of the natural environment. To this end, it emphasizes the urgency of promoting new forms of territorial organization and assessment. It is important to allow local actors to take advantage of the potential of local territory in spaces that claim and address environmental issues. These topics are enabling factors for local economic development since they ultimately contribute to generating new sources of employment and improved quality of life for local inhabitants, while also conserving the quality of the natural environment and long-term environmental sustainability.

Francisco Humberto Valdez Sandoval
Autonomous University of Sinaloa
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