From “Natural Wealth” to “Resources”: Simplification of Nature in Asia
“Resource” is a central concept that connects nature and the human use of nature. Identification of resource has the power to delimit what is useful from what is not in our surrounding nature. It is also an extremely relevant concept in thinking about the balance between environmental conservation and economic development. The definition of what constitutes a resource and the distribution of control over it has significant implication for sustainable development. “Development,” after all, can be interpreted as the process of identifying and allocating resource control, as well as processing material and nonmaterial resources into useful products and human services. The management of nature has been the key to rapid economic growth in Asia, and this was successfully achieved by the top-down simplification of nature: extracting useful material and transforming nature into resources from the point of view of the state. Interests in resource control have gone beyond nature per se and extended its reach over the control of people living with the resources, such as the minority hill people in the forests. Simplification of a resource, therefore, often entails extraction of resource from the weak to the more powerful. This chapter argues that state simplification creates disparity between those who control the resources and those who live with them in a specific locale. Understanding this divergence is crucial for responding to certain environmental questions, such as why it often takes so much time for the state to take an initiative in remedying problems that had long been identified by scholars and local people. Reversing the direction of simplification is a formidable task, despite various attempts by the governments to decentralize their resource management system. Rather than holding on to the conventional framework of “centralized versus decentralized,” the chapter draws attention to the political implication of “slowing down” the policy speed as an alternative entry point for reforming resource governance.
KeywordsForest Management Forest Cover Local People State Simplification Environmental Conservation
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