Also See: Table of Contents, Endorsements, and Purchase Information
The obstacles to discovery—the illusions of knowledge—are also part of
our story. Only against the forgotten backdrop of the received common sense
and myths of their time can we begin to sense the courage, the rashness,
the heroic and imaginative thrusts of the great discoverers. They had to
battle against the current "facts" and dogmas of the learned.
Daniel J. Boorstin, The Discoverers
Amid the cascade of helpful new books and papers on the science of sustainable forest management and the art of environmental conflict management, this heartfelt call for reform by Chris Maser stands out as unique. For Maser
is a discoverer charting a new course, and his thesis is compelling. Here,
an experienced forest ecologist asks all the battle-weary forestry-policy
combatants without exception to adopt a radical new mindset or attitude,
for the sake of our forests, ourselves, and future generations.
Specifically, Maser recommends that parties to the forest-management debate: Shelve their legislative drafts and legal brief based on a view of those with other primary interests as the enemy; obe gentle with one another, "do[ing]
whatever we do with love;" be gentle with nature, viewing it as a "Thou"
to be revered rather than an "it" to be exploited; and oadopt an attitude
of humility, because of our limited knowledge of ecological processes—which
is definitely not your typical, hard-edged, oh-so-familiar "save the last
stand" or "owls versus jobs" bugle call to battle, but something new, different,
and well worth considering.
His appeal for gentler, kinder human relations—"heal the social rupture"—and for the application of good science—"biologically sustainable forestry"—is indeed timely. In my view, it's the right prescription. Unfortunately, important but radical new ideas like this often take a long time to become accepted, and their prophets often go long without honor.
Recall, for example, President Woodrow Wilson's July 1918 vision of a League of Nations—"the Past and Present are in deadly grapple and the peoples of the world are being done to death between them. An organization of peace
must be established to make it certain that the combined power of free nations
will check every invasion of right."—and how it was spurned by the United
States Senate (Herbert Hoover. 1958. The Ordeal of Woodrow Wilson, McGraw-Hill,
NY). Similarly, Chris Maser sees forest management "Past and Present" as
being "in deadly grapple," and he calls on the combatants—the forest products
industry, the environmental-protection community, and the forestry profession—to adopt a new modus operandi to take the place of their fruitless, seemingly
never-ending political/legal/media relations trench warfare.
"What we need, " he says, "is a collective dream large enough to encompass and transcend all our small, individual dreams in a way that give them meaning
and unity." To transform that dream to reality he recommends the use of
"sustainable forestry" to produce both wood fiber and wilderness for society
in perpetuity. The iron fist within Maser's velvet glove—the pill that will
be hard for many to swallow—is his call for forestry as a profession to
be "broken out of its encrustation of economic dogma" (which he says erroneously
assumes all ecological variables to be economic constants) and "catapulted
into ecological truth ... if the 20th century exploitation of forests is
to become the 21st century healing of forests."
Saving the planet's productivity and thereby improving the chances of accommodating the needs of a growing human population over time will require,
he contends: (1) the recognition of the primacy of ecological principles
and (2) their integration into our political decision-making process. Easier
said than done, certainly, given the current primacy of economic principles,
but at last the ecologists' goal has been clarified.
It will take time for Maser's proposal for forest-management reform to win broad recognition and support, just as Wilson's proposal for a new forum
for the peaceful resolution of disputes among sovereign nations took years
to bear fruit, and for much the same reasons: the loss of total independence
of action on the part of the various players and the elusiveness of compromise,
exacerbated by the lack of rewards for its practitioners.
Environmental group and industry trade association board members, I know from personal experience, encourage their staff members to pick fights and
win them, on Capitol Hill and in court, rarely applaud their staff members
for participating in negotiated (compromise) settlements, such as those
facilitated by the Keystone Center. Yet such off-the-record headknocking
efforts to attempt to reach consensus on sticky environmental policy issues
are important and necessary, and in my view the participants should be encouraged
and rewarded, because this process can be used to break the policy gridlock
and help chart paths through minefields of opposing views to reach agreements
on improved forest practices and therefore a better future for all.
I for one support reform of forest practice in the direction Maser advocated, for to vote (by inaction) to continue with business-as-usual forestry clearly
is a vote to steal from our grandchildren any chance of experiencing the
quality of life generations now living enjoy. For the continuation of
forest-management business as usual—characterized by Luna Leopold in 1990
as "stressed by a plague of special interests and a disdain for equity"—could
well result in widespread forest depletion. A vote for no change in forest
practice therefore represents a questionable act by any caretaker or trustee
of a living trust, such as a forest, because at the current rate of exploitation
we will rapidly run out of old, high-volume trees. And to liquidate the
old-growth forests, upon which both our existing forest-products industries
and thousands of species of plants and animals depend, is to liquidate much
of our biological diversity inheritance.
"Unfavorable" questions must be asked and "unfavorable" inquiries must be pursued, Maser argues, to provide the checks and balances necessary to steer
our technological culture away from catastrophic failure. More specifically,
he observes, "we did not design the [original] forest; we do not have a
blueprint, parts catalog, or maintenance manual with which to understand
and repair it; [therefore] how can we afford to liquidate the old growth
that acts as a blueprint, parts catalog, maintenance manual, and service
station—our only hope of understanding the sustainability of the redesigned,
We have been "mining the old-growth forests" while we have "exceedingly little understanding of young-growth forests, especially their sustainability over
time," Maser observes. Yet, "we are marching ahead as though we know what
we are doing—marching from complex old-growth forests designed by Nature
toward simple, uniform Christmas tree-like plantations designed by
humans—jeopardizing our forests for lack of data and lack of patience with
Nature's design." Maser's prescribed alternative is "sustainable forestry,
with the focus being on landscape management and forest health rather than
on the level of forest-product harvest ... on the requirement for an
'ecologically sustainable forest' in which the biological divestments,
investments, and reinvestments are balanced in such a way that the forest
is self-maintaining in perpetuity."
I have heard Chris Maser roundly criticized for being impractical and impatient. Economists ask, who will pay the bills to implement his go-slow approach—the cost of finding the needed ecological facts and the cost of applying the
research results on private as well as public lands? Ecologists respond,
we can see the forest-management future on the current trajectory, and it
What will be the cost to our descendants of our failure to make a forest-management course correction now and, instead, present them with an
Or don't we care?
M. Rupert Cutler,
The River Foundation,
Assistent Secretary of Agriculture
in charge of the U.S. Forest Service
President Jimmy Carter.
(Return to Top of Page)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
PART I: WHAT IS A FOREST?
CHAPTER 1: CAN THE NOTION OF A FOREST BE CONTAINED IN A
For Want Of A Squirrel, A Forest Is Lost
What Happens To The Forest When It Loses The Grandparent Trees?
A Forest Is More Than The Sum Of Its Ingredients
All Elements Are Neutral
A Flexible, Timeless Continuum Of Species
A Lesson From Black Bear
Why Are Patterns Across The Landscape Important?
The Longest Living Being On Earth
A Unique Entity
PART II: AS WE THINK, SO WE MANAGE
CHAPTER 2: FORESTRY PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE
Some Causes Of Trouble In The Forestry Profession
The Economic Myth Of Forestry
Dogmatization of Forestry
Limitations of Science
Foresters Of Yesterday, Today, And Tomorrow
CHAPTER 3: THE CYCLE OF AN AGENCY
The Inception And Function Of An Agency
We Are The Agency
Stages In The Cycle Of An Agency
Anger And Aggression
Breaking The Dysfunctional Cycle
CHAPTER 4: CONFLICT IS A CHOICE
The Enemy In The Courtroom
CHAPTER 5: CHANGE, THE UNIVERSAL CONSTANT
The Dynamics Of Change
Changes We Can Control
Changes We Cannot Control
Change In Human Terms
Can We Stop Change?
I Cannot Change Circumstances, I Can Only Change Myself
PART III: PLANNING: THE BRIDGE FROM CONFLICT TO VISION
CHAPTER 6: VISION, THE FRONTIER BEYOND CONFLICT
Collective Vision, A Lesson From Insects
Rational Thought: A Requirement For Rational Planning
Rational Planning Requires Our Total Presence
Modifying Our Belief Systems
Decisions, Decisions, DECISIONS
PART IV: FUNDAMENTAL ISSUES: THE SILENT DILEMMA
CHAPTER 7: TECHNOLOGY, SCIENCE, AND UNCERTAINTY
Lessons From History
What Will History Record About Us?
CHAPTER 8: SHORT-TERM ECONOMIC EXPEDIENCY
CHAPTER 9: SUSTAINABLE FORESTS = SUSTAINABLE HARVEST
CHAPTER 10: WHY OLD-GROWTH?
The Value Of Old Growth
Old-Growth As A Living Laboratory
CHAPTER 11: GENETICS, ADAPTABILITY, AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The Untested Product
The Value Of Native Forests
A Question Of Affordability
CHAPTER 12: A FOREST IS A LIVING ORGANISM, NOT A MACHINE
A Forest Is Cyclic, Not Linear
Cyclic Forests And Linear Models Do Not Match
Biological Sustainability Is Cyclic
Faster Is Not Necessarily Better
The Invisible Makes The Difference
Defile Not The Land
Special Cases And Common Denominators
Air The Global Commons
CHAPTER 13: WATER, AN INESCAPABLE NECESSITY
How We Think About Watersheds
Roads And Water
Balancing The Stresses
CHAPTER 14: PLANNING, OUR HALF-USED DATA
Use All Available Data
There Is No Magic Hinge
Forestry Practices Affect The Ocean
The Forest As A Living Trust
PART V: SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY
CHAPTER 15: WHERE ARE WE HEADED?
What Is Natural?
When Is A Native A Native?
A Reassessment Of Our Control Of Nature
Sustainable Forestry As Conscious Evolution
The Questions We Ask
The Hope We Plant
CHAPTER 16: SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY THROUGH ADAPTIVE ECOSYSTEM MANAGEMENT
IS AN OPEN-ENDED EXPERIMENT
Rationale Behind The Experiment
"Management" A Combination Of Ecological Principles And Societal Values
Sustainable Forestry Is More Than A Local Issue: A Clarification Of Terms
Framing The Experiment
Scientific Premises In Ecosystem Management
Societal Premises In Ecosystem Management
Conducting The Experiment
What Is Adaptive Ecosystem Management?
Why Is The "Adaptive" In Ecosystem Management Necessary?
Decision And Planning Processes
Design And Analysis Of The Management Experiment
CHAPTER 17: TODAY'S DECISIONS, TOMORROW'S CONSEQUENCES
APPENDIX: COMMON AND SCIENTIFIC NAMES
REFERENCES (Return to Top of Page)
"Reading a book by Chris Maser is always an experience—a mixture of a Buddha-like quest for personal growth, a call for democratic action, and insightful doses of forest science and economics. As such, Maser is more apt to seek consensus than a litigated land ethic. He contends, for example, that 'Our dream—a sustainable forest—must be bold enough to allow change not only in the forest but also in our thinking, because the land is not to be conquered, but rather to be nurtured. ' His concept of sustainable forestry not only recognizes humans as part of a forested ecosystem, it demands their active role as decision makers. But here, Maser seems to straddle the fence between 'wild' and 'working' landscapes. On one hand he writes, 'We can break it [a forest] and we can disrupt its processes, but we can neither fix it nor heal it by managing it.' Later, he notes that 'Managing for ecosystem sustainability encompasses the following ideals: ...restoring ecosystems, as necessary, to some former productive capacity, so they can sustainably produce socially desirable goods, services, and conditions.' Still, the bottom line for Maser is a belief that as humans restore the forests, they will also restore themselves and, ultimately, come to value a more sustainable existence."—Restoration & Management Notes (1995), 13(1):139.
"Foresters must regain prominence in developing the concept of sustainable forestry. This requires us to be better informed, and I recommend such books as Sustainable Forestry [: Philosophy, Science, and Economics] (Maser )."—John A. Helms; Chair, Society of American Foresters; "Forest Science and Technology Board" Journal of Forestry, March 1998.
"This beautifully written book is more descriptive than prescriptive, but gives the reader a true sense of what must be considered to maintain a sustainable forest as defined by ecosystem processes rather than extraction. Maser describes ecosystem processes, not logging techniques."—Howard Drossman, Catamount Institute,
Colorado Springs, CO.
"Another excellent work in this regard [environmental sustainability] is 'Sustainable Forestry' (1994) by Chris Maser—you don't have to know anything about forestry to appreciate this book and will also learn more about the essential role of forests in maintaining a sound, functioning ecosystem."—Tim Campbell,
Community Development Society, Columbus, OH.
"…Maser is in his element, and the book is both informative and entertaining … the 'what-ifs' are endless, but exceedingly relevant."—American Scientist Magazine.
The first reason Chris Maser wrote this book is to examine what humans are doing in the name of forestry . . ., why humans are doing this, and why humans must change if forests are to be sustained. "Change" is the one word that defines how the author presents the first purpose …
The second reason for this book is to present the idea "that we must have a biologically sustainable forest before we can have a physically sustainable yield of forest products."
The third reasons for this book is to propose a new paradigm for forestry. It is an appeal for gentler, kinder human relations. Maser says this paradigm is our ability to love, trust, respect, and nurture one another and the land. This is "the right prescription" writes M. Rupert Cutler in a foreword. It the last chapter, Maser writes: "We must be willing to openly and freely share all of our knowledge, ecologically appropriate technology, and personal expertise with the single aim of helping our fellow human beings to heal their forests, from which we all will benefit." I would have enjoyed reading about ways to implement this paradigm.
"And I have changed." With these words, Chris Maser asks everyone else to change. His is asking those who would foster social, political, and economic disturbances to be gentle with each other. This important message is timely. Among those concerned with human use of forested landscapes, many words and phrases have become rallying calls for more arguments, accusations, disagreements, and sometimes, civil disobedience. He is addressing environmental activists, foresters, loggers, manufacturers, government employees, policy makers, and consumers. In Chris Maser's home territory, world attention is attracted to conflicts in beliefs about how forested landscapes are consumed by humans. Maser uses ideas from philosophy, science, and economics to direct his message at "sustainable forestry."
In my opinion, it is unfortunate Maser's new paradigm is irreparably ruined by the author's sermons against personal dislikes. Some examples include "academic ritualism aimed at confinement and compliance with the decades-old flawed economic dogma on which today's forestry is based (page 83); genetics (page 213); management (page 37); "the economics of extinction" (page 252); and plantations (page347). I try to fit these sermons into the three reasons of this book.
…" In my endeavor to define the notion of a forest, I discovered that words or collectively language are but metaphors for that which we cannot reach with our minds because the intellect sees but a fraction of the world and in itself is incomplete. What is missing is the language of the heart, for which there can be no definition. [This is a correction of the misquote in the present review.]" This philosophy of Maser's appears in many forms. Philosophy is not a managerial practice. No practices are found that would encourage resource managers to change management. Maser's presentation of philosophy, science, and economics are used as metaphors and analogies to present his three reasons for writing the book. This book is not written for the practice of "sustainable forestry."
This book is about philosophy and sociology of persons concerned with using forest[s] in the western world. It is about social attitudes of humans who need only turn a switch to cook a meal. This book is not about 3 to 4 billion human beings who must spend more time gathering wood to cook a meal that preparing the meal. It is not about forestry to supply more than half of the world's population with benefits.
This book should be of great interest to persons concerned with an original description of philosophical ideas and perceptions of social attitudes about using forest[s] in developing countries. Parts of it are important to policy makers who want greater insights into environmental movements in developed countries. I recommend this book to students of social change and environmentalism in developing countries.—Stephen G. Boyce (1995) Growth and Change 27(4):630-633. (Return to Top of Page)