9. Saving the tropical forests.
Earthscan Publication, London, U.K., 1988, 207 pp., USD 12.95
A lot of books and articles have been published in recent years deploring the loss of tropical forests. "Saving the Tropical Forests" is one of the few publications, however, that offers tangible suggestions for mitigating the problem.
The introductory sections of the book provide a brief but accurate sketch of tropical deforestation, its causes, and its potential consequences. But the real value of the publication lies in the presentation of 38 project case studies that provide examples of positive approaches to tropical forest conservation. An underlying theme of the case studies is that, to survive, forests must be used for the benefit of people. Discussion centers on project activities in the lowland, humid tropics, with a primary focus on Latin America (two-thirds of the case studies are from the tropics of the New World).
Addresses of individuals familiar with each case study and lists of recommended references are provided for readers who want to learn more about specific efforts.
The case studies are arranged in four categories: management of forest reserves, sustainable agriculture, natural forest management, and tropical forest restoration. Each section includes a summary of the elements of each project's success. These summaries indicate that nearly every project emphasizes early and direct economic benefits for local people (even in forest reserves), small-scale initiatives, and active local participation in planning and implementation.
The book presents a wide range of project activities, but several important strategies for saving tropical forests are neglected. The authors recognize, for example, that misgided government policies are a principal cause of deforestation, yet the book fails to discuss any ongoing effort to bring about reform of forest policy (for example, the Tropical Forestry Action Plan or the efforts of the International Tropical Timber Organization). Another strategy that deserves greater attention is environmental education. Although some case studies highlighted in the book have small components on environmental education, none of the broad-based campaigns of public awareness initiated by nongovernmental organizations in tropical countries is discussed. In addition, almost no attention is given to forest plantations that are intensively managed, even though this strategy may be one of the best for relieving pressure on remaining natural forests.
Readers intimately familiar with specific projects presented in the book will discover some inaccuracies in the descriptions and some embellishment of project accomplishments. The authors acknowledge that the project descriptions are not intended to be exhaustive studies; rather, they are meant to spark debate and further research. In that respect, the book is likely to be highly successful. It is not a blueprint for halting the destruction of tropical forests, but it does an excellent job of stimulating readers to think about solutions and opportunities.
1140 92 - 5/116
Review, book, guide, practitioners, environmental economics, economic appraisal, sustainable development, project planning, environmental effects, environmental policy
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