Can't See the Forest for the Trees
Prof. Susanna Hecht argues that its time to see beyond the myth of the pristine forest to gain a truer understanding of humankinds interactions with the natural landscape.
"A great deal of it looked like forest," Prof. Susanna Hecht recalled. "If you start saying anthropogenic forests are OK, the place goes from having no forest to tons of forest."
Excerpt from an article in Universiy of Chicago Magazine featuring the research of Prof. Susanna Hecht:
When Susanna Hecht went to El Salvador in 1999 to help the government with long-range environmental planning, officials at the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources told her there were no forests left in the country. To Hecht, AB’72, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and an expert on tropical development, the claim came as no surprise. El Salvador was notorious for population growth and ecological degradation. The most crowded country in Latin America, during the 1960s and ’70s it had suffered severe deforestation with the expansion of livestock and sugar-cane farming. In 1999, the same year Hecht arrived, the tropical ecologist John Terborgh declared that in El Salvador, “nature has been extinguished.”
But as she drove around the country, Hecht noticed plenty of trees. Some were remnants of old forests, but she also saw hedgerows, backyard orchards, coffee groves, trees growing along rivers and streams, cashew and palm plantations, saplings sprouting in abandoned fields, and heavily wooded grassland. Almost every village abounded with trees—“like a big jungle forest,” she said. Rather than no trees, she saw them everywhere. Nature was far from extinguished; it was thriving.
Read the full University of Chicago Magazine article here.
Published: Tuesday, September 23, 2008