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Tufts OpenCourseware
Authors: Kathleen Merrigan, Ph.D., William Lockeretz, Ph.D.


Ch.1, The Political Economy of an Ecological Crisis, P. 1-23, Knock On Wood, W. Scott, Prudham 2005.

Ch.10, Decentralizing the National Forests, p. 247-253. Public Lands and Private Rights, the Failure of Scientific Management, Robert H. Nelson (1995).

Ch.11, Some Economics of Public Rangelands, Public Lands and Private Rights, the Failure of Scientific Management, Robert H. Nelson (1995).

Globalization and Restructuring of the Forest Industry

Key Questions

The Political Economy of an Ecological Crisis

  • What, according to the author, are the drawbacks of the views represented by those advocating laissez faire and neo Malthusian school of thought, in explaining problems associated with environmental degradation?
  • How does the field of political ecology look at the same problem?
  • What is the central thesis of Karl Polanyi with reference to conflicts pertaining to use of natural resources?
  • What are the two types of problems arising out of capital’s use of natural resources?
  • Do you agree with Karl Kautsky’s observations regarding capturing economies of scale in agriculture?
  • The author compares economies of scale in forestry and agriculture. Considering that his reference to ‘forestry’ actually pertains to industries dependent on forest products (e.g., sawmills), is this a good comparison? What could have been a better idea?
  • What are the three dimensions of nature that provide insight into conflicts involving use of natural resources by capitalist industries?

Decentralizing the National Forests

  • What is a critical change in the way of functioning of the Forestry Services that has happened over time?
  • What disciplines / beliefs / ideologies drive the major interest groups that affect forest policies?
  • Why does the author feel that the alliance between economics and environmentalism holds promise for the evolution of better forest policies?
  • What are the suggestions of the author for evolving better forest policies?
  • Despite his recognition that both economics and environmentalism influence forest policies, does the author consider both disciplines while making his suggestions?

Some Economics of Public Rangelands

  • Why, according to the author, is comprehensive planning for public rangelands not feasible?
  • What important issues does he suggest to be included in rangeland planning?
  • Why does he feel that establishing grazing fee based on fair market value is impossible? What does he suggest as alternatives?
  • What are the author’s impressions about conversion of public lands for recreational purposes?
  • What are his impressions about withdrawal of application of mining laws to public rangelands?
  • Why does the author favor long term leases of grazing lands?
  • What are the different institutional arrangements and tenure options proposed for rangeland management?
  • What are the author’s impressions about sale of public range lands?

Globalization and Restructuring of the Forest Industry

  • Which species are preferred for conversion into products by the forest industry, softwood or hardwood?
  • Which country has had a major influence on international commerce in forestry related products?
  • What are some of the reasons for the decline in the availability of the traditional northern temperate zone soft wood species?
  • What are the issues involved in restructuring of the forest industry in the northern hemisphere?
  • Which country is projected to be a major player in the present day forestry industry that is based on plantations? Why?
  • Name some of the fast growing tree species which can be taken up as plantations.
  • Why does the southern forestry industry hold an advantage over those in the north?
  • Why are the advantages and disadvantages of plantations?
  • What is the author’s take on “tragedy of the commons?”
  • What is the difference between private woodlots owned by farmers (in Japan and Scandinavia) and corporate (specifically in Canada)?
  • How does the neoclassical economic theory view utilization of forestry resources?
  • Why does the author feel that application of neoclassical economic theory to forestry is flawed?
  • What is the stated relationship between governments and the market forces?
  • What are the arguments in favor and against providing subsidies to private industries in forestry sector?
  • How does history link deforestation and population growth?
  • What are some of the alternatives suggested by the author for improving forestry related policies?