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Global Forests.

A friend of mine who graduated from what he calls Duke University's "dirt forestry" program of the early 1960s recently mused that studying forestry at his alma mater has changed completely. The intellectual dimensions of forestry-science, economics, and sociology-have now replaced technology at the helm. The principle reasons are listed in this book's last chapter where the authors list some of the strongest influences on their science: the fuelwood crisis, tropical deforestation, European forest decline, and global warming. All of these became part of the public awareness only in the last 15 years.

In Global Forests Sedjo and Laarman demonstrate why forestry can no longer be understood without understanding a variety of global forces that affect both natural and commercial forestry, both local economics and the world environment.

No book to date undertakes this task more fairly or comprehensively. Or more provocatively. The authors are particularly good at spotlighting forestry's most troublesome questions. The recent emphasis on tropical rainforests, for instance, raises a question of priorities. The authors ask if that emphasis hasn't led to ignoring key temperate regions. "An example is the temperate region of southern Africa, where species richness (ratio of species to land area) is the world's highest, and where a large proportion of plant species are both endemic and threatened."

Does industrialization destroy forests? The authors outline the main arguments at length, but typical of the non-ideological way they handle their material is this suggestive sentence: "That most industrialized countries are not at the extremes of either high or low forest cover is worth pondering as both a result of their wealth, and possibly a reason for it. "

Richer countries have tended to respond to forest problems in poorer countries by sending advisors. While not passing judgment, the authors offer the useful note that supporting such advisors usually costs about $250,000 a year, little of which goes to the host country.

Difficult questions are the forte of this book. Each chapter ends with a list of issues for investigation and discussion. The book and these lists are a bonanza for serious teachers and students (and good reading for anyone who wants to get underneath the emotional simplifications of some loggers and environmentalists). If Global Forests were a central text in university environmental and forestry programs, we could rest assured that students were being exposed to the most rigorous kind of science and thinking, and the American mind would be opening instead of closing.
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Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Kaufman, Wallace
Publication:American Forests
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Words:408
Previous Article:Introduction: the 1992 edition, national register of big trees.
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