The applicability and analytical power of political ecology is improved by study of the 'ethno-ecological context', which is based on the concept of socio-ecological systems (SES). It represents an operating principle of interactions between the ecological and social systems of a specific locality, developing under different historical, political and climatic regimes. We compare two socio-ecological systems in the high mountain regions of Georgia – the Skhalta Gorge and the Upper Svaneti. These are on the southern and northern borders of Georgia. Historically, their socio-ecological systems were similar but today the Skhalta Gorge is rapidly depopulating, whilst in the Upper Svaneti the population is stable. The comparison of the ethno-ecological context and today's state of affairs suggests that (i) "self-regulation" and conserving local culture and traditions, whilst the country undergoes rapid social and political changes, can lead to degradation or even destruction of either the ecological or the social components; (ii) conversely, sustainable development results from active intervention rather than abstaining from it; (iii) tourism appears as a mechanism that restores the ethno-ecological context by providing a source of income - under certain conditions, it supports traditional agriculture.
Keywords: Political ecology, ethno-ecological context, socio-ecological systems, Georgia, Adjara, Svaneti, Mulakhi community, Skhalta Gorge, sustainability, tourism
How to Cite:
Tevzadze, G. & Kikvidze, Z., (2016) “Ethno-ecological contexts of the Skhalta Gorge and the Upper Svaneti (Georgia, the Caucasus)”, Journal of Political Ecology 23(1), 246-262. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/v23i1.20212