By: Anne West, Elizabeth Aeschlimann, Haley Campbell, Hilary Ford, Jon Springfield, and Matthew Levin
The trend towards development and modernization defining the world today both creates and attempts to satisfy the world’s demand for resources. Around the globe, particularly in its “developing” regions, natural resources are commodified, processed, exported, consumed, and discarded at an unprecedented rate and scale. Driven by free market ethics, development turns water into electricity, mountains into gold ore, and forests into paper pulp. In harnessing and extracting resources from the natural world, governments often place a higher premium on monetary gain than on social and environmental impacts.
The push to industrialize the agrarian sector in the last five decades has created, in many parts of the world, an unchecked expansion of large-scale monocultures. This trend is particularly visible in the expansion of tree plantations for pulp and wood chip production. Since 1998, over 100 million hectares of primary forests have been converted to industrial tree plantations.1 In Thailand alone, there were 432,000 hectares of eucalyptus plantations at the turn of the century.2
As forests are progressively incorporated into Thai national development schemes, resource management shifts from local to centralized control. This centralization has caused a redefining of the definition of “forest.” The Thai State’s designation of “forest reserve,” prohibits small-scale agriculture and establishes eucalyptus plantations in its place. This has effectively shifted a conservational tool to a tactic of economic development and extraction.