Forests are alive, filled with rich, biologically complex life forms and the interrelationships of multiple species and materials. Vulnerable to a host of changing conditions in this global era, forests are in peril as never before. New markets in carbon and environmental services attract speculators. In the name of conservation, such speculators attempt to undermine local land control in these desirable areas.
Moral Ecology of a Forest provides an ethnographic account of conservation politics, particularly the conflict between Western conservation and Mayan ontological ecology. The difficult interactions of the Maya of central Quintana Roo, Mexico, for example, or the Mayan communities of the Sain Ka'an Biosphere, demonstrate the clashing interests with Western biodiversity conservation initiatives. The conflicts within the forest of Quintana Roo represent the outcome of nature in this global era, where the forces of land grabbing, conservation promotion and organizations, and capitalism vie for control of forests and land.
Forests pose living questions. In addition to the ever-thrilling biology of interdependent species, forests raise questions in the sphere of political economy, and thus raise cultural and moral questions. The economic aspects focus on the power dynamics and ideological perspectives over who controls, uses, exploits, or preserves those life forms and landscapes. The cultural and moral issues focus on the symbolic meanings, forms of knowledge, and obligations that people of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and classes have constructed in relation to their lands. The Maya Forest of Quintana Roo is a historically disputed place in which these three questions come together.
José E. Martínez-Reyes is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. He is co-author of La Transformacion del Paisaje Puertorriqueno y la Disciplina del Cuerpo Civil de Conservacion,1933-1942.
"Martínez-Reyes illuminates the Yucatán as a historically disputed place where local and global forces competed for the meanings and uses of nature, landscape, and resources, driven by Western consumerism."
"This book shows how the new markets in carbon and environmental services open up the area to speculators who attempt to undermine local land control in the area in the name of conservation. The investigation of environmental services and the potential of conservation to privatize and enclose land represents the cutting edge of the field."
– Molly Doane, author of Stealing Shining Rivers: Agrarian Conflict, Market Logic, and Conservation in a Mexican Forest
"A compelling account of 'the nature industry,' a complex assemblage of NGOs, state policies, conservation science, and green economics, and its perilous deployment in the Mayan forests of the Yucatan peninsula. This eminently readable and insightful ethnography is one of the best contributions to the geo-anthropology of nature in many years."
– Arturo Escobar, author of Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World