A retired forester recounts his experiences working with trees and the logging industry around the world.
In this blend of memoir and science, British author Fraser (Ghosts on the Somme, 2016, etc.) combines his personal experiences with broader economic, environmental, and policy questions to tell a story of forest management from the 1960s to the present. The author has worked with trees in Suriname, Nigeria, Thailand, and Indonesia, among other places, and offers travel stories in addition to details of the work assignments that brought him to the far-flung locales. His variety of professional experiences gives him the knowledge to critique forestry policies around the world as well as those of other related sectors, from poverty elimination to climate change strategy. The book presents a coherent, levelheaded take on sustainable forest management and on the role that forestry experts may play in policy discussions. To that end, Fraser offers examples from his own work and concrete recommendations for the future; for example, he notes that small logging enterprises and large multinationals may both succeed, but “intermediate scale” operations lose out in a globalized market. Although the narrative occasionally gets waylaid by overly complex sentences (“This first part of this story is more about Suriname than the sustainable management of tropical forests, but the reason for being in Suriname was to work out how to improve the management of their forests and that will come later”), it succeeds in engagingly presenting a unique perspective on global issues. Although the author is clearly well-versed in the details of forestry, he avoids jargon and provides clear explanations of key concepts, making the book accessible to nonspecialists. Fraser also does an excellent job of painting a vivid picture of the early decades of his career, when he tracked the paths of logging trucks without the aid of GPS and evaluated Soviet furniture manufacturing during the days of glasnost in the late 1980s.
An accessible combination of policy analysis and reminiscences from a half-century–long forestry career.