The previous two chapters described techniques whereby the basic structure and function of natural tropical forests can be maintained (as in sustainable forest management) or simulated (as in plantations or agroforestry) while at the same time yielding economic profit. While these techniques have great potential for ameliorating the losses and damages caused by conventional logging and forest management, only a very small proportion of tropical forests are managed using these methods. It is not the lack of technical knowledge of sustainable forest management but rather economic and political factors that prevent implementation. Social and environmental benefits of sustainable forest management are intangible, that is, they benefit the global commons through reduced social tensions and decreased environmental degradation. Projects that benefit the forest and the populations that live in and around them produce diffuse results over the long term and therefore garner little political support. In contrast, grandiose projects that generate lots of publicity (but do not include techniques of sustainable forest management), such as the Indonesian Transmigration Program described in Chapter 4, are politically more attractive.
Economic barriers also hinder application of sustainable forest management techniques. Often the dominant view is that the forest should be used to fuel local economic growth, or to establish sovereignty or ownership by harvesting it as quickly and cheaply as possible. The view that tropical forests are a resource that should be used to sustain tribes and communities that have existed in or around the forest for generations is usually considered not economically viable by conventional economic analyses that consider only the present market value of the trees.
In this chapter we ask what political and economic development strategies would be both politically practical and economically effective for achieving implementation of techniques that result in sustainable tropical forest management? This chapter examines two contrasting policy approaches (top-
down and bottom-up management) and two contrasting economic approaches (globalization and locally centered development), and analyzes their strengths and weaknesses from the viewpoint of sustainable tropical forest management.
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