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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Shadows in the forest : Japan and the politics of timber in Southeast Asia Dauvergne, Peter


This dissertation creates two new theoretical tools to analyze connections between politics and environmental change. The first section develops the concept of Northern ‘shadow ecologies’ to understand the environmental impact of a Northern state on Southern resource management. A Northern shadow ecology is the aggregate environmental impact of government aid and loans; corporate investment and technology transfers; and trade, including purchasing practices, consumption, export and consumer prices, and import tariffs. After outlining Japan’s shadow ecology, the next part constructs an analytical lens to uncover salient Southern political causes of timber mismanagement. This spotlights modern patron-client links between Southern officials and private operators that debilitate state capacity to implement resource policies. Using these analytical tools, and building on extensive primary sources and more than 100 in-depth interviews, the remainder of the thesis examines the two most important factors driving commercial timber mismanagement in Indonesia, Borneo Malaysia, and the Philippines: pervasive patron-client ties between Southeast Asian officials and timber operators; and the residual and immediate environmental impact of Japan. In a continual struggle to retain power in societies with fragmented social control, Southeast Asian state leaders build potent patron-client networks that syphon state funds, distort policies, and undermine supervision of state implementors. In this setting, the state is often unable to enforce timber management rules as implementors -- in exchange for gifts, money, or security -- ignore or assist destructive and illegal loggers, smugglers, and tax evaders. Japan’s shadow ecology has expedited timber mismanagement, and left deep environmental scars that impede current efforts to improve timber management. Post-1990 Japanese government and corporate policy changes to integrate environmental concerns have marginally improved forestry ODA, and contributed to token corporate conservation projects. As well, there is now less Japanese investment, technology, and credit linked to logging. But massive timber purchases from unsustainable sources, wasteful consumption, timber prices that ignore environmental and social costs, import barriers that deplete Southern revenues, and the residual impact of past Japanese practices continue to accelerate destructive logging in Southeast Asia. Sustainable tropical timber management will require fundamental changes to Japan’s shadow ecology. It is also imperative to confront Southern political forces driving deforestation. While reforms will certainly face formidable -- perhaps insurmountable -- political and economic barriers, unless the world community tackles these issues, the remaining primary forests of Southeast Asia will soon perish.

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