Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailandby Silkworm Books
Tim Forsyth & Andrew Walker
312 pp. 14x21.5 cm.
In this far-reaching examination of environmental problems and politics in northern Thailand, Tim Forsyth and Andrew Walker analyze deforestation, water supply, soil erosion, use of agrochemicals, and biodiversity in order to challenge popularly held notions of environmental crisis. They argue that such crises have been used to support political objectives of state expansion and control in the upland and to justify the alternative directions advocated by an array of NGOs.
The peoples living in Thailand's hill country are typically cast as either guardians or destroyers of forest resources, often depending on their ethnicity. Hmong farmers, for example, are thought to exhibit environmentally destructive practices, whereas the Karen are seen as linked to and protective of their ancestral home. Forsyth and Walker reveal a much more complex relationship of hill farmers to the land, to other ethnic groups, and to the state. They conclude that current explanations fail to address the real causes of environmental problems and unnecessarily restrict the livelihoods of local people. Their redefinition of northern Thailand's environmental problems will be valuable in international policy discussions about environmental issues in rapidly developing countries.
"Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers casts serious doubts on the accuracy of received ideas about the nature and dynamics of environmental change. It has important policy implications because land use regulations in Thailand appear to be based on a misunderstanding of the causes of environmental problems." -Thomas J. Bassett, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
"The authors' impressive theoretical compass combines effectively with deep regional knowledge to provide a study that should spark vigorous debate about the politics of knowledge and environment."-K. Sivaramakrishnan, Yale University
TIM FORSYTH is a Reader at the London School of Economics and Political Science. ANDREW WALKER is a Fellow in the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University.