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Forests Are Gold examines the management of Vietnam's forests during the twentieth century – from French colonial rule to the recent transition to market-oriented socialism – as the country united, prospered, and engaged in both ambitious conservation projects and rapid land development. For Ho Chi Minh and other political leaders, forests were always about more than trees: they were about the development and administration of people and landscapes. Forest policy has rarely been about ecology or conservation for nature's sake, but instead is about managing citizens and society, a process Pamela McElwee terms "environmental rule". Combining archival data with longitudinal field research to present a nuanced perspective on ecological change in Vietnam, Forests Are Gold tells us not just about environmental management and nature conservation but also about the birth of Vietnam itself. This detailed and provocative study of forest management in Vietnam promises to become a landmark work for political ecology and Southeast Asian studies.
Foreword by K. Sivaramakrishnan
Introduction Seeing the Trees and People for the Forests
1. Forests for Profit or Posterity? The Emergence of Environmental Rule under French Colonialism
2. Planting New People: Socialism, Settlement, and Subjectivity in the Postcolonial Forest
3. Illegal Loggers and Heroic Rangers: The Discovery of Deforestation in i M i (Renovation) Vietnam
4. Rule by Reforestation: Classifying Bare Hills and Claiming Forest Transitions
5. Calculating Carbon and Ecosystem Services: New Regimes of Environmental Rule for Forests
Conclusion Environmental Rule in the Twenty-First Century
Pamela D. McElwee is associate professor of human ecology at Rutgers University. She is the coeditor of Gender and Sustainability: Lessons from Asia and Latin America.
"This meticulously documented and groundbreaking study reveals the ways in which the classification of forests is tied in to regimes of power, which in turn frames the political and economic meaning of what we so often assume are righteous ecological and environmental improvement projects."
– Erik Harms, author of Saigon's Edge: On the Margins of Ho Chi Minh City
"Very interesting and thought provoking, Forests Are Gold presents fascinating details about forest politics in Vietnam. This book will be a source of reference on Vietnam for some years."
– Tim Forsyth, coauthor of Forest Guardians, Forest Destroyers: The Politics of Environmental Knowledge in Northern Thailand
"Mirroring what the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz famously said about war, McElwee shows us that 'environmental rule' is politics by other means. Deeply informed by archival knowledge, intensive fieldwork, a knowledge of elite discourse, and a gift for theory, McElwee is, by turns, a consummate historian, botanist, sociologist, economist, and anthropologist. Inspiring, path-breaking, and sophisticated, Forests Are Gold will make big waves in Vietnam and in political ecology more generally"
– James C. Scott, Yale University
"Forests Are Gold takes us on a historical trek through different eras of 'environmental rule' influencing Vietnam's little-known forest histories. McElwee deftly demonstrates the articulations of local and transnational forest imaginaries, socio-natural histories, and entanglements of culture, nature, and power."
– Nancy Lee Peluso, author of Rich Forests, Poor People
"McElwee's description of environmental rule in Vietnam helps readers look beyond simplistic explanations of environmental policy to see the more complex processes at play in defining and intervening in various social and environmental issues [...] McElwee's book will be of great interest to those who focus on environmental policy and the interplay of social-ecological systems. Recommended."
"Forests Are Gold offers a timely analysis that will appeal to scholars far beyond Southeast Asia [...] It should inspire upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and scholars to rethink assumptions about the virtues of environmentalism by showing us how such reasoning has never been just about trees."
– Allison Truitt, American Anthropologist
"A wonderful and timely addition to the literature on political ecology [...] In presenting the dilemmas and projects of forest conservation over the last century, she convincingly demonstrates that if forests can and do act beyond humans, the generativity of these activities is lost on those who seek to more efficiently administer them."
– Nikhil Anand, American Ethnologist (AE)