Publisher: Springer Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 4 431 25028 X
Pages: xvii + 385 Format: Paperback

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Introduction; Part 1 - Asia by theme: 1 - Military impacts on the environment; 2 - Trade and the environment; 3 - Food, farming and the environment; 4 - Forest and rice paddy biodiversity; Part 2 - Asia by country and region: 1, NE Asia, The Mekong Region; 3 - Inner Asia; 4 - Country/Region updates; Part 3 - Data and commentary.



There has been a considerable volume of literature produced about the Asian environment much of it aimed at highlighting problems such as deforestation, and erosion. Although the data do provide good evidence of environmental problems most of the material is produced from and by organisations outside the Asian sphere. What makes this book both challenging and refreshing is that it's produced from within the area by those with a vested interest in examining the real issues and commenting upon them. From this perspective (and the text is a translation from the original Japanese) the reader gets a completely new outlook on how the region sees its problems and prospects.

The introduction gives some idea of the way in which the analysis is to proceed. Here, globalisation is something received not produced and the impacts are not always welcomed. There is a recurrent theme of fairness - that nations need to be able to work with the environment but not at a cost of their own existence. There's a knowledge but also a belief that problems can, and do, come from outside the region. The remainder of the book is divided into three sections dealing, loosely, with topic, country and data. The topic section starts with a detailed examination of military action. As is rightly pointed out, the region has been a source of conflict and the consequent military pollution for over 50 years. The debris of war leaves a huge legacy that is still being paid. It's also acknowledged that the region needs environmental stability to gain political stability. Chapter two looks at trade and the way this needs to be managed. Alongside the more usual material both here and in other chapters, there is a series of essays; small, often personal, contributions from key writers in the area making their own thoughts about issues known. For this particular chapter it means tuna long-lines, trash and trade in ozone-depleting substances. Chapter three moves on to food and the need to supply the regional population. Rather than continue with business-as-usual there's also a section on sustainable development. Chapter four takes a regional perspective on biodiversity concerned here with the impacts of forests (deforestation but also other activities) and rice-paddies. The argument here is that loss of forests has a crucial impact on all people in the region and that rice is needed for the growing population. There's a recognition that the area faces problems not seen in the West as it tries to juggle population, development, food and environment. Part two moves on to a regional and national study. The first three chapters keep to a regional theme with the area divided into 3 (NE, Mekong and Inner Asia) which although disparate do show some common themes. This is followed by an update for each of the nations within the study area (this is the third book in the series) to show changes since the last volume. Part three provides data but not in the stream of variables we see in some European/US productions. Here the data are wide-ranging but focussing on backing up material is the first two parts.

Overall, this is a very interesting book. One of its key points is that it written by the people living in the region and with a close regional focus as to what bothers them. The choice of topics separates it clearly from its European/US counterpart. It also contains a wealth of detail not easily found elsewhere. This aside, the text is dense and detailed making it difficult to grasp for beginners. However, given the interest in and ties with the region most areas have today, it would make a fascinating case study and an entry into more detailed work about the region.


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