Critical States: Environmental Challenges to Development in Monsoon Southeast Asia

Critical States: Environmental Challenges to Development in Monsoon Southeast Asia. 2009.  Lebel, L., Snidvongs, A., Chen, C.-T.A., Daniel, R. (Eds.) Gerakbudaya, Kuala Lumpur. 473 pages. http://www.gerakbudaya.com/products-page/asian-studies/critical-states-environmental-challenges-to-development-in-monsoon-southeast-asia/

The peoples of Southeast Asia share a common need for action: a proactive engagement with and forward-looking response to the multi-level environmental and social changes which are redefining vulnerabilities and opportunities in development.

Extraordinarily rapid economic development has radically transformed urban-industrial, agrarian and marine environments throughout Southeast Asia. Future development is now being constrained by the consequences of decades of largely unregulated exploitation of the region’s rich natural resources and biodiversity. It has also increased or altered the vulnerabilities of Southeast Asian populations to both climatic variability and global economic shifts.

Critical States provides transboundary “state-of-the-science” reviews, case studies, and assessments of issues in the environmental change-development nexus, including: governance and institutional challenges, urbanization, climate change, poverty, and land-energy-water use.

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After the Logging Ban: Politics of Forest Management in Thailand

After the Logging Ban: Politics of Forest Management in Thailand. 2005. Daniel, R. (Ed.) Foundation for Ecological Recovery (PER), Bangkok. 220 pages. http://www.terraper.org/publications.php (price 350 baht).

The book reviews the state of forests and forest policies in Thailand and shows why the nationwide ban on logging concessions declared in 1989 seems to have had little or no effect in halting forest degradation.

The book reveals how Thailand’s often corrupt forestry industry is exploiting forest resources not just in the country but across its borders such as in Burma and Cambodia, while other efforts to cash in on forest areas such as establishing large-scale tree plantations are bringing their own set of ecological problems and social conflicts.

In examining the critical problems with the forest conservation ideology of the Thai state, the book unveils how conservation areas such as national parks are placing more restrictions on access to forest resources by local communities as well as discouraging local forest conservation efforts. Meanwhile, important legal initiatives for increased local control over forests including the “People’s Community Forest Bill”  are struggling to materialize.

The book points to new ways to build social spaces towards strengthening community-based resource management and reverse the present trends of forest destruction in Thailand.

The Mekong: Grounds of Plenty

DVD, 47 min, in English w. subtitles in four Mekong region languages, 2011.

The story of how fish from the Mekong River is caught and sold, cooked and consumed, by the people in the Mekong region.

A healthy Mekong River is central to mainland Southeast Asia’s food security. The rich wild capture fisheries of the Mekong River and its ecosystems feed not only people living alongside the river but are crucial for the livelihoods of millions of people across mainland Southeast Asia.

Caught using an array of nets, baskets and traps, and cooked in many amazing ways, the wild fish catch provides protein and essential nutrients. Yet, the interconnection between the Mekong River’s well-being and the fish on a family’s plate is not so apparent in the urban centers.

The film shows the Mekong River’s wild fish being caught and processed, and its passage through networks of trade as people work through the night and day to transport the catch to villages and towns, to markets, homes and restaurants.

Filmed in over 30 locations across the Mekong region

from Cambodia and Laos to Thailand and Vietnam.

Produced by: Mekong Program on Water, Environment and Resilience (M-POWER), Unit for Social and Environmental Research (USER) and International Rivers.

For DVD copies please contact: noelrajesh@gmail.com; carl@internationalrivers.org.

Full version available online at: http://www.cultureunplugged.com/documentary/watch-online/play/7225/The-Mekong—Grounds-of-Plenty.

Short version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WeQYG0Idy-8

Exec. Producer: Carl Middleton

Script, Camera, Producer: Rajesh Daniel

The film was screened at:

1. “Siirretyt (Displaced)” film festival organized by the Siemenpuu Foundation, Helsinki, 10-12 October 2011.

2. “Lifescapes” Southeast Asian film festival, Payap University, Chiang Mai,  2-5 February 2012.

 

 

 

 

Grounds of Plenty_Flyer

The craft of film-making

“So you’ve finished a film recently?” the academic from a well-known university asked. The tone was one of amusement, as if she had found a mouse under her chair and it was dead. “So you’ve found a dead mouse under my chair?”.

I replied yes, it had taken some time but now it’s finally done after a year and a half. She asked, “So what was your role in the film?”. I said quite matter-of-factly, “I did the camera and was the director”.

“Ah, the technical stuff?” she queried, and gave a disparaging laugh.

Yes, the technical stuff. The research, then the script reworked and revised and then revised some more, the camera work across four countries and around 30 locations working from early dawn to late night in all kinds of situations. The transcripts of interviews and the translations from the four regional languages, and the final painstaking corrections of the English language subtitles. And then the long, long hours of editing, trying to turn 50 hours of footage into a 47 minute film. Yes, all very “technical”. I was upset that my creativity was not being recognised. Then I realised, why be ashamed of this word technical. Yes, film-making is indeed technical. It’s not that different from a university engineer building a bridge or a 60 storey building.

Yes, film-making is a craft, not only an art, and it takes a lot of patience and skill and time and energy. And yes, it takes a lot of knowledge about what one is doing. It seems in this multimedia digital era, where a child can (and often does) cut and paste digital footage into a film (and that’s a good thing, the ease of technology), it’s often forgotten that documentary film-making can still require so much of the film-maker.

It’s easy to dismiss a documentary filmmaker. It seems we have to be Al Gore or Mike Moore to be perceived as a good documentary maker. But in this digital day and age, even a 10 second clip on a mobile phone can become a documentary film depending on its content. And then we have an effort like ours – 47 minutes after more than a year of hard work. And I do say “ours”, because this film was due to not just long hours but an effort of collaboration by many people, those who funded us, did research for us, helped us to go to the right locations and gave advice. Sometimes it was people we had just met for the first time who allowed us into their busy lives, who simply assented to go on camera to tell us about their work and fears, to trust in us. To be disparaging of such a collaborative effort is not only inhumane but more simply to lack any imagination whatsoever.

We need to welcome all kinds of efforts at multimedia, not just from the Gore’s and Moore’s. From the simple mobile telephone-handheld 10 minute shot of a dam inside Burma (taken at great risk to the videomaker) to the 3 hour-long feature, we need to relish and revel in their efforts. If one is socially activist, why be restricted to just words at a seminar or the written article. Why not multimedia, when the power of the visual can provide such clarity to a life situation. If one wants to be engaged in the public sphere, why would one wish to denigrate the power of film, or the small efforts of the filmmaker as she or he tries to bring some small slice of reality in the visual medium into your lives.