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Tropical Forests and the Human Spirit

Tropical Forests and the Human Spirit: Journeys to the Brink of Hope

Roger D. Stone
Claudia D’Andrea
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 325
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  • Book Info
    Tropical Forests and the Human Spirit
    Book Description:

    Tropical forests are vanishing at an alarming rate. This book, based on extensive international field research, highlights one solution for preserving this precious resource: empowering local people who depend on the forest for survival. Synthesizing a vast amount of information that has never been brought together in one place, Roger D. Stone and Claudia D'Andrea provide a clearly written and energizing tour of global efforts to empower community-based forest stewards. Along the way, they show the fundamental importance of tropical forest ecosystems and deepen our sense of urgency to save them for the benefit of billions of rural people in tropical and subtropical regions as well as for countless species of plants and animals. In their travels to research this book, the authors saw many remarkable examples of how proficient even the poorest local people can be in stabilizing and recovering formerly destitute forests. With engagingly written case studies from Thailand's Golden Triangle to Mindanao in the Philippines, from Indonesia, India, and Africa to Brazil, Mexico, and Central America, they introduce us to the communities and the individuals, the governments, the loggers, the agencies, and the local groups who vie for forest resources. Contrasting community-based efforts and traditional forest management with government and donor efforts, they discuss the many reasons why international institutions and national governments have been unable and unwilling to stem the accelerating loss of tropical forestland. This book argues we are paying a terrible price--politically, economically, and environmentally--for allowing tropical forests to be stripped. Community-based forestry is no panacea, but this book clearly shows its effectiveness as a management technique.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93607-2
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-10)

    Three hundred and fifty million people living in or near forests depend heavily on them for income, food, fuel, medicines, and even spiritual well-being. Most of these people live in poor tropical or subtropical countries, as do most of the 2billionpeople who rely less directly but hardly less importantly on the many goods and services that forests provide. Throughout history the world’s powerful have often ignored the needs of these weaker elements of society, regarding forests as a commodity to be harvested rather than as a resource to be protected. Millennia ago the forests surrounding the Mediterranean were...


    • CHAPTER 1 Forest Use and Misuse
      (pp. 13-34)

      Images of forest destruction assault us. No television documentary on the rainforest is complete without the obligatory shot of a lone man, deep in the jungle, attacking a giant hardwood tree with a snarling chainsaw. The tree at last succumbs. Creaking and groaning, carrying down with it a supporting cast of smaller trees and vines, it crashes to the forest floor. Then there is silence and the fluttering of leaves. Another classic shot is that of machines like giant fingernail cutters that snip the trunks of plantation trees off at the roots and hoist the logs skyward to be picked...

    • CHAPTER 2 Why Tropical Forests Decline
      (pp. 35-56)

      In lowland Amazonia violence frequently breaks out when ranchers, loggers, and miners plunder the forests and poison the rivers in their quest for quick gains. During the 1980s, stated the anthropologist Stephan Schwartzman, some five hundred “peasants, union activists, Indians, and rubber tappers” in Amazonia were victims of what he called “targeted, political assassinations promoted by large landowners seeking to stop rural community organization and efforts toward land reform.”¹ Until 1990, when rancher Darly Alves and his son were convicted for the celebrated 1988 murder of rubber tapper Chico Mendes in the state of Acre in Brazil’s far west, no...


    • CHAPTER 3 The Road to Bendum
      (pp. 59-79)

      From Cagayan del Oro, a port town at the north end of Mindanao island in the Philippines (map 3), the road to Bendum rises steeply. We wound around deep ravines before reaching the broad plateau where farmers cultivate corn, pineapple, and fruit trees.¹ In the distance were denuded mountains on whose flanks magnificent huge hardwood trees once grew. In the foreground, a nine-year-old boy stood by the roadside. He dangled an eel he had managed to catch from a fast-flowing nearby river, despite the growing scarcity of the species; he hoped that a passing motorist would buy it for a...

    • CHAPTER 4 Village Forests in India
      (pp. 80-120)

      I arrived in New Delhi late at night, surprised by the chill of winter in the smoggy air.¹ I peered through the crowd and spotted a small sign with my name on it, thankful that the director of the Tata Energy Research Institute (TERI), R. K. Pachauri, had arranged to have someone collect me from the airport. I had met Pachauri earlier that year at the annual World Bank conference on Environmentally Sustainable Development in Washington, D. C. “It will be your first trip to India?” he had asked. “Then I must help make your trip an unforgettable experience. You...

    • CHAPTER 5 Conservation in Indonesia
      (pp. 121-153)

      Once known for its exotic spices, fertile volcanic soils, and teak forests, the island nation of Indonesia is probably better known today for coffee from Java, surfing in Bali, and Nike sweatshops rather than the tropical forests that I had come to study.¹ Indonesia has one of the largest expanses of tropical forests in the world, second only to Brazil’s. Because these forests possess some of the world’s most unusual flora and fauna, Indonesia plays a very important role in global conservation (map 8).²

      I first went to Indonesia in 1988 to work for WALHI, the Indonesian Environmental Forum. During...

    • CHAPTER 6 Africa’s Cornucopia and Scorpion
      (pp. 154-179)

      Ancient Romans depicted Africa as a woman holding both a cornucopia and a scorpion.¹ Early in the continent’s precolonial history, traders were already hauling gold from there to Mediterranean destinations. Later bountiful quantities of ivory, copper, and diamonds, and plantation crops such as rubber, cocoa, cotton, palm oil, peanuts, and cashews were exported from the continent. Even as late as the early 1970s, when I first visited East Africa, there was a stunning grace and beauty to the golden meadows flecked with striking flat-topped trees and populated by giraffes and baboons and antelopes of every description as well as the...

    • CHAPTER 7 Learning from Latin America
      (pp. 180-212)

      In 1990 the Group of 7 (G7) leaders, representing the United States and six of the world’s other principal industrial nations—Britain, France, West Germany, Italy, Japan, and Canada—gathered in Houston for their annual meeting. West German chancellor Helmut Kohl arrived with a keen interest in coming away with a strong environmental commitment from the group that would assuage his country’s pesky Green Party as well as civil-society environmentalists. He proposed agreement on targets and timetables to reduce carbon emissions and to slow the rate of global warming. But George Bush, still heavily influenced by powerful American energy and...


    • CHAPTER 8 Shifting the Balance
      (pp. 215-235)

      Flying northeastward from San José, Costa Rica, we passed two lofty dead volcanoes—Poás, a national park and major tourist destination area, and Turrialba.¹ Then the pilot of our single-engine Cessna Caravan throttled back and we began a gradual descent, over coffee and banana fincas and cattle ranches and the occasional small town, to the edge of the Tortuguero National Park. The park is located on the country’s Caribbean shore, near the Nicaraguan border. Below us was a swath of unbroken forest, the crowns of myriad large trees reaching toward us in a splendid succession. Soon we were over water...

    • CHAPTER 9 Helping from Afar
      (pp. 236-262)

      How can the international community lead developing nations toward better forest policies? How can faraway people and institutions encourage weak and often corrupt national governments to delegate power to local people, for their sake and that of the standing forest? It depends. On the political side, the dreary history of the intergovernmental forest debate suggests little hope for the future. A recent independent initiative, the World Commission on Forests and Sustainable Development (WCFSD), did a thorough and frank job of analyzing the importance of forests and the causes and consequences of their disappearance, but after three years of expensive deliberations...

    • CHAPTER 10 Future Imperatives
      (pp. 263-274)

      Jesse Ausubel, director of the Program for the Human Environment at The Rockefeller University in New York City, sees hope in the global trend toward what he calls precision agriculture. The cropland needed to feed a single person was more than one acre in 1950, he calculates. Now the figure is only about half an acre. “If during the next sixty or seventy years the world farmer reaches the average yield of today’s U.S. corn grower,” he reckons, “10 billion people will need only half of today’s cropland. The land spared exceeds Amazonia. . . . In other words, if...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 275-292)
    (pp. 293-300)
  11. INDEX
    (pp. 301-315)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 316-316)