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Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand (Culture, Place, and Nature) Hardcover – January 16, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"This thought-provoking book takes a fresh look at controversial political debates over the environment in Northern Thailand. . . . The book is full of detailed case studies and draws on a large amount of research to uncover the complex reality of environmental change in the North."―Oliver Pye, Critical Asian Studies, 41:2 (2009)

"Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers succeeds in its primary mission to destabilize commonly held assumptions about upland agriculture, especially perceived effects downslope, such as erosion, pollution, or water shortages. . . . [It] is well written, and it provides engaging, revisionist critiques that will surely generate a lot of response―especially among the many environmentalist groups active in this region."―H-Environment

"Forsyth and Walker raise provocative questions about the environmental situation in northern Thailand. Their critical dissection of environmental narratives forces the reader to rethink assumptions. Grounded in thorough research, they offer a valuable contribution to environmental studies in Thailand. Their book is well worth reading, and it promotes thinking about the complexities of the situations they discuss . . . . they challenge how we think which is crucial to moving the social and political understandings of environmental situations forward."―Pacific Affairs

"This is a book whose messages will resonate as commonsensical with many readers and yet will simultaneously provoke unease. . . the authors cross a number of boundaries, and they slay not a few sacred cows along the way. The book deserves to be read by all with an interest in the societal and epistemological bases of environmentalism, and all with an interest in environmental issues in Thailand. It also gives very specific and extended treatment to issues that continue to lie at the heart of environmental debates in Thailand."―Journal of Contemporary Asia

"Tim Forsyth and Andrew Walker set forth a provocative thesis that argues against both positivist science and political ecology in the explanation of the environmental processes. [This] is a critical book that is clearly and engagingly written. In definitely offers a stimulating perspective and incisive method for going beyond the apparent conflict between livelihood and conservation in Thailand's upland."―Journal of Southeast Asian Studies

"This is highly recommended for the cross-disciplinary student of undergraduate and graduate studies in anthropology, ecology, sociology, global studies, ethnic studies, and Southeast Asia."―Electronic Green Journal

"In compelling prose, authors Tim Forsyth and Andrew Walker―- who have deep knowledge of the conditions of the population and long experience with the challenging problems of Thailand's environmental issues―- bring to the reader's attention new scholarship that revises previously held opinions on the subject of deforestation."―Chicago Botanic Garden


"Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers succeeds in casting 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 fact that northern Thailand has been studied closely by many scholars, including the authors, makes possible a rich and original synthesis. Since the region served as a buffer zone during the Cold War period, this study illuminates key processes across geographic scales in Thailand and, by comparison, in other such crucial border areas. 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


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Product Details

  • Series: Culture, Place, and Nature
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press (January 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0295987928
  • ISBN-13: 978-0295987927
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,859,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By ChangYai on March 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
I have just started reading about the environment in Thailand and I think this book is a good place to start. Even though the focus is Northern Thailand, it provides a framework for analyzing and thinking about environmental narratives across the country, in a general sense. It is hopeful book, encouraging the use of local narratives to create a more dynamic environmental discourse that has been quite top down oriented fora long time. Walker and Forsyth are not bogged down by focusing on the 'mythical' values of local knowledge either. It is well balanced discussion on how to make environmental politics in Thailand more productive.

The ability of local livelihoods to sustain and diversify the environment, rather than exclusively destroy it when pursuing commercial crops, is an important counter-narrative put forth in the book. Furthermore, the book does a great job of delegitimizing stereotypical narratives about certain ethnic groups and their assumed 'typical' lifestyles that are destructive of the environment. One section which focuses on more carefully examining water demand rather than forest or tree supply when explaining past (and hopefully future) water resource disputes dispenses with discriminatory narratives that assume 'hill tribes' like the Hmong are not only destroying the forest and poisoning the water but using it all the water as well. It is a nice book.
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