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Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest Paperback – April, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

Cox (Botany/Brigham Young Univ.) details the tribulations of protecting a small patch of unique forest in this story of his field days in Western Samoa. Spurred by the recent death of his mother from breast cancer, Cox decided to pursue ethnobotanical studies in Samoa, hoping to find indigenous pharmaceutical possibilities for treating cancer in the endemic plant community and in the traditional healing techniques of Samoan herbalists. He headed for the most remote village he could find to interview healers on their use of local plant life and soon found himself swept into not only the everyday life of the village (it didn't hurt that he was fluent in both colloquial and formal Samoan, which he learned during an earlier stint in Mormon service on the island), but also as a dedicated conservationist involved in the effort to save the island's remaining rainforest and its denizens. He knew that as the rainforest went, so too would go any hopes of tapping the potential of its singular plant communities. Cox chronicles his efforts, along with those of numerous others, to end destructive logging, gain endangered status for such unusual forest species as the flying fox, and raise money to provide schools that the timber harvest would have paid for. While Cox can be irksomely disingenuous (``I was astonished Rothman had heard of my ongoing effort to protect flying foxes--I had published only a few articles in addition to giving several lectures on the topic,'' he rather modestly notes), one can only admire the devout conservation ethic, and the deep immersion in Samoan culture, of this broadly curious ethnobotanist. Cox complements his record of the harsh specifics involved in struggling to preserve native species and cultures with the exegetic delineation of subtly important moments in Samoan culture--the kava ceremony, for example--that have no analogue in Western society. A lively, useful work. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A lively, useful work." -- Kirkus

"A moving and haunting memoir by one of the finest ethnobotanists working in the South Pacific, Nafanua is a story of triumph and tragedy which serves to remind us that all of the rain forests of the world are rare natural treasures deserving of reverence and protection." -- Wade Davis, Author of One River and The Serpent and the Rainbow

"A wonderful book by a true conservation hero. Nafanua belongs on the bookshelf of everyone interested in both nature and culture. -- Mark Plotkin, Author of Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: W.H. Freeman & Company; New edition edition (April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716735636
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716735632
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #741,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W. S. Kirkham on June 13, 2002
This unique and fascinating book by Dr. Cox has important implications for development practitioners and academics interested in political ecology as well as ethnobotanists. The challenges faced by the people of Falealupo village in choosing between preserving their forest or building a school for their children are typical of the environmental trade-offs that many people in developing countries feel compelled to make simply to achieve, by our standards, a minimally acceptable standard of living. The solution presented by Dr. Cox, in which social networks are built such that people willing to invest in the preservation of ecosystems are put into direct contact with those people overseeing these ecosystems (without government or NGO intervention) has important lessons for people interested in promoting "Conservation-with-Development" approaches to economic development. This text also illustrates the complex ways that the human imprint on ecosystems is embedded in power-laden social networks and that change involves contestation and negotiation of power within these networks. This book thus holds important insights for those interested in political ecology. (For those interested in these topics, Dr. Cox's contribution to People, Plants and Justice - Charles Zerner, ed., Cambridge University Press, 2000 - makes an informative companion-piece to Nafanua.)
Finally, as a person who has lived in Samoa for several years as a volunteer teacher and as someone who conducts ecological research there, I find Dr. Cox's presentation of the people of Samoa, shown from a more personalized perspective rather than an academic one, to be open, honest and fair.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Paul M. Leidig on August 31, 2001
This was an outstanding work. I am a palagi who has been married to a Samoan woman for 9 years and have had extensive dealings with Samoans for 14 years. We visited Western Samoa in 1988, so I have seen the culture first-hand, as well as my state-side exposure with Samoan American organizations. I could almost see myself interacting with the people as he related his accounts... although my 50 or so word Samoan vocabulary can't be compared with the author. He truly captures the essence of Samoa and its people.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Swallow on November 23, 2001
First I must say that I am not saying that ethnobotany is boring. I am just saying it seems boring to me and it might to others, but even if you know nothing of botany and have little interest in it you will find great interest in this book. It is a fascinating narrative and Paul brings you into the Samoan world as well as a palagi really can.
I had a chance to hear Paul Cox speak and he talked about how the rainforest became his mother. The book starts with the death of his mother by cancer. He travels to Samoa to search for a possible cure in the rain forest, his quest however becomes to save the rainforest from the forces of globalization. I think the most compelling issue of this book is the positive and negative aspects of western scholarship when it comes in touch with another land and culture.
Paul is a very good storyteller and makes you want to continue reading.
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By Amazon Customer on May 29, 2015
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I haven't quite finished the book yet, but I have enjoyed the style of writing and find it very engaging. My only criticism (if I can even call it that) is not knowing the Samoan names for the plants that precede each new chapter. Other than that, it has proven to be a good read.
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