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BORNEO LOG by William W. Bevis


The Struggle for Sarawak's Forests

by William W. Bevis

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-295-97416-8
Publisher: Univ. of Washington

 In a riveting account both beautiful and shocking, Bevis (English/Univ. of Montana) travels upriver in Borneo to witness the destruction of the world's oldest rain forests and one of the world's oldest cultures. Few Europeans, and fewer environmentalists, have traveled to Sarawak's interior to gain a firsthand understanding of how the Penan, the region's indigenous forest people, have fallen prey to a cabal of Japanese investors, Chinese-owned logging companies, and shortsighted, greedy, Malaysian bureaucrats. A gifted, modest, and fair-minded writer, Bevis befriends a young Penan and voyages up the Baram River by motorboat to meet with his people in their longhouses, as well as to visit Japanese-managed logging camps. He finds that the Penan are paid less than one-tenth of one percent of the gross proceeds from the destruction of their forests; that the unanimous verdict of the Malaysian government and of Japanese capitalists is that native people of Sarawak have no rights to their land; that while sustained yield for the forest is 8 million board-feet per year, 16 million board-feet are cut annually; and that the headmen of the longhouses are routinely bribed by Japanese managers to consent to their sections of forest being cut down. Lest readers regard this as a tragic but distant calamity, Bevis notes that Mitsubishi and other Japanese concerns are purchasing timber concessions in Canada and Brazil with the same voracious appetite displayed in Sarawak. Quite beyond this study of capitalist greed, however, Bevis displays a poetic naturalist's eye in describing the lush landscape and its welcoming people and provides interesting historical insights into the imperiled land. An absorbing, well-documented work that is of extreme and immediate relevance to both Third and First World peoples. (8 illustrations and maps, not seen)