Who Will Save the Forests?

Knowledge, Power and Environmental Destruction

Conflicts over the management of forest resources are examined, comparing situations in India, Finland and the USA. The examples illustrate how the interrelationships between people and their environment differ depending on the knowledge systems of their respective societies. It is shown that Western scientific knowledge in particular, has been used to marginalize the knowledge and practice of ancient rural communities despite the fact that it is these societies that have managed the environment in a sustainable fashion for centuries. The latter implies that the only truly sustainable development strategy is one that restores the autonomy of local arrangements based on alternative conceptions of reality. Therefore, (political) power should be transferred to local communities, innovative and alternative technology should be made available and promoted, and most importantly, there should be a better understanding and an integration of non-modern systems of knowledge.