Forestry Flavours of the Month: The Changing Face of World Forestry by Alastair Fraser
|Forestry Flavours of the Month: The Changing Face of World Forestry by Alastair Fraser|
|Category: Business and Finance|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: An accessible and very readable look at the factors which have affected forestry over the last five decades. It's informative and thought provoking both for the professional and the layman.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 228||Date: May 2016|
Alastair Fraser's experience of forestry spans more than five decades and having the benefit of the long view he's ideally placed to consider the changes which have occurred over the course of his career. He also has the ability, not as common as it ought to be amongst professionals, of being able to look at what he does both from the point of view of the business and the people who work in it and are affected by it. There's a lack of tunnel vision too: he sees what's happening in forestry both in the narrow focus and where it sits globally so far as economics and politics are concerned.
The book doesn't set out to be autobiography, but rather, as Fraser himself says, to reflect on some of the topics that I, as a forester working internationally, have had to deal with and interesting or important issues raised by many of the assignments. I came to the book after reading about trees and feeling that I needed to know more about how they were managed and their place in the great scheme of things. I did wonder if I might have made a mistake when I read the foreword by Javed H Mir (former director, Southeast Asia Department, Asian Development Bank) which gave the impression that the book would appeal most to professionals, but I'm glad I persevered as the book is completely accessible. It has the rigour which is going to be informative for the professional but the approachability which the layman appreciates.
The title of the book comes from Fraser's perception over the decades that what's been seen to be important in forestry has changed on a regular basis, sometimes because of changing economic or environmental factors but often because of political fads which alter as new brooms come into power. He's seen many pass and occasionally come back into fashion. The flavour which struck me as being most important, probably because I saw it as affecting everything, was sustainability, which doesn't always attract political favour because future sustainability can mean higher energy costs now. Fraser considers the question from all angles, from giving details of how to compute the allowable annual harvest through to the value of forests to indigenous populations, who rarely benefit from the wealth which frequently goes to businesses and countries far away.
He's of the opinion that belief in global warming is steadily declining, but he's eloquent on the subject of the liquidation of forests and the consequent environmental impact. He's equally good on ways in which global warming could be restricted and dealing with the consequences. I've always been slightly woolly about carbon sequestration but I now understand how it works as far as the tree is concerned and I'm convinced that it has the potential to be seen as a crop. No - I'm not going to explain - you should read the book.
As well as insight into the major flavours I came away with a wealth of interesting facts. Did you know that more wood than tobacco goes into the manufacture of cigarettes? Or that if you double wind speed the drag on a tree also doubles, but that a doubling of wind speed creates four times the drag on a building? Trees have adapted: as so often, nature protects the landscape - it's man who puts it at risk. I was fascinated by how wood chips for whisky distilleries are costed and worried when I realised that 'wood from certified sources' might not be the guarantee that I've always sought. Whilst the source of the wood is important it's also essential to establish how much of the wood is used and how much is wasted. I was particularly impressed by the way that Fraser could give insight into businesses in a clear and concise way: I now know a lot more about the way that pulp mills work and why it's important that oxen, horses and elephants are used in forests rather than large machinery.
And what does Fraser think will be the next 'flavour'? He's convinced that it will be food security: what he has to say about the need to keep land forested whilst expanding food production is particularly thought provoking.
Occasionally I read non-fiction books and come to the conclusion that every piece of available knowledge has been shoe-horned in, but in Forestry Flavours of the Month there's a feeling that the author has a far greater depth of knowledge with which to back up what we've been told: it makes reading a pleasure. I also have a way of judging the impact of a non-fiction book (or rather my family have) and that's the amount of information which I feel compelled to share with them. This time it's been massive and they've been interested too, particularly when I pointed out the trees which have been lost from the surrounding hills over the four decades we've lived in this valley and the impact which this has had on flooding. It's a book with a global story and local implications.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
The book which sparked my interest in trees was Out of the Woods: the armchair guide to trees by Will Cohu.
Forestry Flavours of the Month: The Changing Face of World Forestry by Alastair Fraser is in the Top Ten Self-Published Books 2016.
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You can read more book reviews or buy Forestry Flavours of the Month: The Changing Face of World Forestry by Alastair Fraser at Amazon.com.
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