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The word "conundrum" describes a puzzle whose solution also requires the resolution of a paradox. In this instance, the paradox starts with two widely held and conflicting assumptions: the pathway to a modern economy can be achieved by exploiting and monetising a country's natural resources and the long-term prosperity of a nation is dependent on the conservation of those very same natural resources.
The Cardomom Conundrum consciously seeks to avoid the mentality of "trade-offs" where pro-development advocates view conservation efforts as impediments and conservationists are convinced that development inevitably leads to a loss for nature. Instead, the author seeks to demonstrate the wise management of a nation's renewable natural resources will promote better economic growth and does so by evaluating the opportunities in the still pristine forests of the Cardamom Mountains and surrounding landscapes.
Resolving the Cardamom Conundrum demands an economic model that provides robust economic growth, which alleviates poverty over the short term and eradicates it over the medium term – any other solution is morally unacceptable and completely impractical. The author points the way by identifying innovative options linked to climate finance and low carbon development strategies that span the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.