Income Inequality, Distributive Justice, and Sustainable Development: Implications for Niagara Peninsula Aspiring Global Geopark
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AbstractThe rising inequalities across the world, including in Canada, present a challenge to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Under the auspices of UNESCO, supporting the implementation of SDGs is one of the main missions of geoparks. It has been shown that geoparks can foster the implementation of SDG 10 (reducing inequalities), but there is a dearth of studies specifically exploring the means and channels through which a geopark can help reduce income inequality. This study aims to fill that gap by exploring income inequality in the Niagara region through the lens of distributive justice with a focus on the role of Niagara Peninsula Aspiring Global Geopark (NPAGG) in reducing income inequality in Niagara. This study employs a qualitative research approach to collect data via 16 semi-structured interviews with the NPAGG board of directors, people who are advocating for poverty alleviation and reduction of inequalities in Niagara, and local tourism-related business owners. Thematic analysis was conducted on the collected data to explore the role of the NPAGG in addressing income inequality in the Niagara region. All the participants agreed that the income inequality in Niagara is unfair and needs to be addressed. The results of the thematic analysis show that in the pursuit of more equitable distribution in Niagara, the NPAGG can present economic benefits – with a direct yet incremental impact on income inequality – and societal benefits – with indirect yet necessary implications for addressing income inequality. There are two main limiting factors identified for the NPAGG’s role in battling income disparities: 1) it is not the primary objective of the NPAGG, and 2) the problem of income inequality is much bigger than the NPAGG. Moreover, inflation, negative environmental impacts, and dependence on tourism were identified as minor risks associated with the NPAGG development. Although the findings of this study may not be generalized to other geoparks around the world, they offer understanding of what to expect from geoparks in addressing income disparities.
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