Tag Archives: Vietnam

Can’t See the Forest for the Trees: Deforestation and the Challenges Facing Conservationists

Jen Dickie

Illegally felled rosewood log in Marojejy National Park, Madagascar.  The original author does not wish to be named for safety reasons.  This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported licenseAt the end of November, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA), a British NGO, published a damning report on China’s involvement in the illegally logged timber trade.  China’s rapid economic growth has seen the demand for timber and wood products for both domestic consumption and re-export increase substantially, earning its crown as the world’s biggest importer, consumer and exporter of timber and wood products.  Laurence Caramel and Harold Thibault in The Guardian Weekly summarise some of the key findings of the report highlighting that public enterprises, which are often controlled by provincial governments, play a significant role in this lucrative trade.

Despite accusations of being “the largest importer of stolen wood”, China ironically has enforced strong measures to protect and grow its own forests, including a logging ban across 41.8 million hectares of natural forests and initiating a reforestation programme.  Whilst the EIA acknowledge the Chinese Government’s forest conservation efforts, they argue that the gap between supply and demand has led to China “exporting deforestation to a host of countries around the world”.

On Monday, a report from Simon Speakman Cordall in The Guardian outlined the extent to which the Vietnamese forests, and the people who live there, are at risk from illegal loggers and poachers.  Blaming economic and social problems such as unemployment and alcoholism on an increase of attacks on forest guards, Cordall explains how the Carbon and Diversity (Carbi) project, an alliance of the Vietnamese government, WWF and the German Development Bank, aims to facilitate a sustainable future for the people and the wildlife of the area whilst also  acknowledging the conflict between the importance of conservation and the welfare of the people whose survival and livelihoods depend on forest access.

The complex nature of forest politics is demonstrated by Ivan Scales in his article for The Geographical Journal.  Scales explores the relationships among environmental narratives, identity politics and the management of forest resources in Madagascar, a country that has received global attention for being one of the most biologically diverse places in the world but one that has also had its hardwood forests pillaged.  He argues that more attention should be paid to local views and beliefs of the forest, particularly those associated with local practices of forest clearance, and that these should be incorporated into existing and future conservation policies.

As the global demand for timber increases, the challenges facing both conservationists and the communities who rely on the forests will intensify.  These threatened forests are viewed as a global asset, however, rather than focussing on just the bigger issues it is clear that conservation policies need to focus more on how indigenous cultures understand and interact with their environment.

 Ivan Scales, 2012, Lost in translation: conflicting views of deforestation, land use and identity in western Madagascar, The Geographical Journal 178, 67–79

 China at the centre of ‘illegal timber’ trade, The Guardian Weekly, 11th December 2012

 Vietnamese guards brave attack to reverse destruction of the forest, The Guardian, 17th December 2012

Carbon and Biodiversity Project (Carbi),  accessed 18th December 2012

 Appetite for Destruction: China’s Trade in Illegal Timber, Environmental Investigation Agency, accessed 18th December 2012

‘Othering’ Tropical Environments

By Benjamin Sacks

Castro Guevara by anonymous [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsWar changes everything. Societies and cultures, land and the environment, beliefs and approaches. Conflict establishes dangerous versions of ‘Us’ and the ‘Other’ – a timeless and effective means of dehumanising the enemy. Such distinctions are not only made between states or peoples, but between environmental types as well. In the thirty years following the Second World War, the tropics – from the Malayan jungles and Amazonia to East Africa – was ‘othered’ or, as Daniel Clayton (University of St Andrews) described, ‘tropicalised’ by Western powers and their Marxist enemies in counter-insurgency and anti-Communist wars.

American and British battles against Japanese forces in the Pacific and Asian theatres of World War Two introduced most military officials, politicians, and academics to the tropical jungle as a new and distinct battlefield space. As the United States, Britain, France, and Portugal became embroiled in a series of complex, violent conflicts in East Asia and Latin America, the tropical environment became an enigmatic, ‘militant’ world, ‘seductive’, lethal, and a comfortable breeding ground for far-left regimes (pp. 1-2). This mentality steadily matured into the Vietnam War.

Clayton approaches the tropical environment both as a ‘conceptual space’ and as a more traditional topographical/physical space (p. 2). ‘Tropicality’ soon conjured intense images of instability, distrust, and attrition in Western commanders’ minds. 1950s conflicts in Korea, Kenya, Vietnam, Guatemala, and Malaya cemented such fears in Western military teaching. Importantly, Clayton’s analysis reaches beyond common conceptions of tropical space, delineating between Western and indigenous understandings, the confrontation between intellectual and ideological elites, and the establishment of tropical myth – e.g., Ché Guevara’s controversial deification by Marxists after his 1967 capture and execution in Bolivia.

Western views of ‘tropicality’ appear to have been moulded from French surrealist philosophies cultivated in the wartime empire. Tropiques, published by Aimé Césaire in Martinique between 1941-1945, attacked Nazi/Vichy French amalgamations of the tropical Caribbean, French Polynesia, and West Africa into comfortable notions of ‘greater France’ (pp. 3-5). Instead, Césaire and his colleagues argued, the tropics was a dangerously seductive ‘Other’, an exotic, explosively vivid in colours, flora and fauna, sights, and sounds, very unlike Europe or North America. Césaire may not have sought to establish a rote dichotomy, but his project provoked notions of a confusing, contradictory non-Western environment at once fertile for colonial gains and as a centre of anti-colonial dissent. In the post-War world, the latter would take firm hold.

Cuban revolutionaries, in particular, propagandised their Marxist position through deft manipulation of tropical imagery and narrative. In so doing, they crafted a ‘third way’: indigenous constructions of the tropics – its benefits and dangers – that stood at odds with both traditional American and Soviet images of Cuba. In turn, Guevara and the Castros weaved together strains of ‘rugged terrain’ (pp. 5-8), local, hardened peoples and the culture, gender roles, jobs, and even music and art to fashion complex walls seemingly impenetrable to Western (particularly American) intervention. Other tropical revolutionary movements, such as the Viet Cong, closely watched and learned.

 Daniel Clayton, 2012, Militant Tropicality: War, Revolution and the Reconfiguration of ‘the Tropics’ c.1940-c.1975Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers  38 1-13

Also see:

 James A Tyner, 2004, Territoriality, Social Justice and Gendered Revolutions in the Speeches of Malcolm XTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers 29 330-43


Content Alert: New Articles (13th April 2012)

The following Early View articles are now available on Wiley Online Library.

Original Articles

Body capital and the geography of aging
Maurizio Antoninetti and Mario Garrett
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4762.2012.01089.x


Combining sustainable agricultural production with economic and environmental benefits
Amir Kassam and Hugh Brammer
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00465.x

Original Articles

Spatialising the refugee camp
Adam Ramadan
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00509.x

The geographies of community-oriented unionism: scales, targets, sites and domains of union renewal in South Africa and beyond
David Jordhus-Lier
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00504.x

Corpses, dead body politics and agency in human geography: following the corpse of Dr Petru Groza
Craig Young and Duncan Light
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00502.x

Towards geographies of speech: proverbial utterances of home in contemporary Vietnam
Katherine Brickell
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00503.x

The biopolitics of animal being and welfare: dog control and care in the UK and India
Krithika Srinivasan
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00501.x

‘An instruction in good citizenship’: scouting and the historical geographies of citizenship education
Sarah Mills
Article first published online: 4 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00500.x

Boundary Crossings

Geography, film and exploration: women and amateur filmmaking in the Himalayas
Katherine Brickell and Bradley L Garrett
Article first published online: 10 APR 2012 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-5661.2012.00505.x