<Articles>Environmental Changes and "Environmental Problems" in Sarawak, Malaysia (Special Issue : The ENVIRONMENT as Seen in from Historical, Geographical and Archaeological Perspectives)

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  • SODA Ryoji
    北海道大学大学院文学研究科准教授

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  • <論説>マレーシア・サラワク州における環境改変と「環境問題」 (特集 : 環境)
  • マレーシア・サラワク州における環境改変と「環境問題」
  • マレーシア サラワクシュウ ニ オケル カンキョウ カイヘン ト カンキョウ モンダイ

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Abstract

The purpose of this study is to outline the history of environmental changes in Sarawak, Malaysia, and to make clear the process in which the destruction of tropical rain forests was raised as a global environmental issue in the late 20th century and then became neglected afterwards. The state of Sarawak, which is located in northwest Borneo, has experienced large-scale environmental changes since the early 20th century; that is, (1) the boom in rubber planting on fallow lands by indigenous smallholders since 1905, (2) industrial extraction of timber trees in the primary forests since the 1960s, and (3) oil palm and acacia plantation development by the clearing of secondary and deteriorated forests since the 1990s. While the rubber planting by smallholders brought about few environmental problems, the timber and plantation industries have raised a variety of severe conflicts between indigenous smallholders and the government/developers. Most of the issues concerning these environmental changes can be attributed to land conflicts caused by complicated land and forest administration. In the late 1980s, however, when the forest degradation in Sarawak began to be known to all over the world due to the coverage of the international mass media, people recognized the problems in Sarawak as international political issues of environmental destruction which were closely related to global warming and the loss of biodiversity. In other words, there arose an epistemic gap regarding the problems on the ground and those at global level, and the struggle of indigenous peoples for land remained a local issue. It is true that international criticism of the Sarawak government resulted in the reduction of timber production in the latter half of the 1990s, and at the same time, the temporary enthusiasm of the international mass media regarding the destruction of rainforests in Sarawak began to ebb away. Actually, 'post-timber' land development projects such as oil palm plantations and acacia forestation have worsened the situation of indigenous peoples' lives through the imposition of more severe restrictions on use of their land, but these issues no longer attract the attention of the international mass media. Focus on the rainforest issues has shifted from the land conflicts at the ground level to the 'environmental politics' at the global level, but local issues in Sarawak have been neglected and forgotten without any resolution. This has been a tragic epistemic turn for indigenous peoples in Sarawak.

Journal

  • 史林

    史林 92 (1), 130-160, 2009-01-31

    THE SHIGAKU KENKYUKAI (The Society of Historical Research), Kyoto University

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