Forests, Sustainability and Political Economy in Indonesia

Forest Conservation and Sustainability in Indonesia: A Political Economy Study of International Governance Failure is a new book by Bernice Maxton-Lee and published by Routledge.

The book is reviewed for JCA by editorial board member Paul K. Gellert of the Department of Sociology and Global Studies Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA.

International efforts to create conservation and sustainable forestry fails too often. In Indonesia,  deforestation has increased in the last couple of decades. Gellert states that Maxton-Lee recognises “the political economy of development that causes environmental degradation,” and “addresses this problem by using Gramsci’s approach to hegemony.” He explains:

She uncovers the subjectivities that accept the premise that growth and markets are the solution to environmental problems and thereby illuminates how neo-liberal capitalist ideas have permeated non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and bilateral and multi-lateral aid and development institutions.

He adds:

The bland title does not do justice to the Gramscian gut punch that the book delivers especially to committed conservationists but also well-meaning government officials, and hypocritical oil firms who green their image by investing in conservation projects that do not actually decrease deforestation. Nor does she spare those in wealthy, developed countries, and especially Norway, who want to promote sustainable development “over there” in Indonesia while proceeding with life-as-normal back home.

Gellert concludes:

Maxton-Lee’s book presents a powerful and extended critique of the hegemonic views that repeatedly create failures of conservation in Indonesia and globally. Students of sustainable development and citizens of rich countries will clearly benefit from reading it. The message is one that conservationists need to hear, so her conclusion calls for “deeper understanding, transparency, and communication.”

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