Much of the discourse on cultural change has been descriptive and explanatory, with few attempts to be predictive. Where indicators of and buffers to change are identified, they tend only to be post-event assessable. The need for a tool with strong predictive power is fundamental to cultural (and environmental) impact assessment and the rationale behind this developmental work.
Focusing on traditional cultures and their environmental context, and based on a case study of the Juatinga Ecological Reserve, Brasil, this research advances knowledge on modelling cultural and environmental changes, and how to manage these changes for accepted goals. A heuristic tool is presented for assessing the impacts of pressures on a culture and its related environment as well as the efficacy of management responses. This tool is associated with methods to assist in developing predictive models representing the change processes.
The change model building process involves consulting stakeholders as a way of integrating different perceptions, to identify pressures, responses and links associated with cultural and environmental change. This assists in creating a co-learning environment, which facilitates communication between stakeholders. The change modelling approach permits incorporation of the complexity and uncertainty of the system represented, and enables scenario analyses. These allow expected local and flow-on impacts of management interventions to be tested. This approach is more efficient than stand-alone performance indicators that do not allow for the synergic impacts of management interventions to be observed and assessed.
Using the models representing the cultural and environmental change processes of the Caiçaras of the Juatinga Ecological Reserve, this research identifies that tourism is a major pressure for change (at that locality). This study also identified that tourist numbers at new and small tourism destinations, as well as on a continental scale, can be forecast using exponential and polynomial functions. Yet, tourism flow may be perturbed at any given time by, for example, acts of violence and when the type of marketing changes. In addition, tourist numbers cannot be greater than the total population, therefore it cannot grow indefinitely as exponential and polynomial functions suggest. Hence, the use of exponential and polynomial functions to forecast tourist numbers is more reliable for short periods, such as four or five years, and when based on six or more sets of data points.
The greatest contribution of this research to the cultural change discourse is its innovative approach to study, forecast and manage cultural and environmental changes. The continuation of this research may lead to identifying general theories relating pressures and responses to indicators of cultural and environmental changes.