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

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

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

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


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.


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 2 billion people 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 thus stripped. Economies and societies suffered, but no lessons were learned. During the past two centuries, especially after World War II, the world’s tropical forests have undergone an equally systematic and devastating attack. Fully two-thirds of all the forests in South and Southeast Asia have vanished; some countries, such as the Philippines and Thailand, have virtually none left. Many African nations that once exported timber now import it and have formerly forested areas that have become desert. Central America and large portions of the South American continent have been ravaged.

Forty recent years of intensive government-mandated logging have caused a good part of the damage. So have myriad projects to convert . . .

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