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Forest Utilisation in Sarawak, Malaysia: A Case of Sustaining the Unsustainable

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This paper argues that policies to promote sustainable development which are formulated around attempts to objectify what is or is not sustainable in any specific circumstance are impotent and ill-conceived. Using the case of forest exploitation in the Malaysian state of Sarawak as an example, we suggest that progress in the theory and practice of sustainable development depends on a more adequate understanding of the causes of unsustainability. In Sarawak, development has involved a clear tendency towards increasingly profound forms of exploitation. A realist mode of explanation allows the mechanisms through which this tendency is expressed to be better understood. Identifying these mechanisms and understanding why and how increasingly exploitative and degrading practices are legitimated and empowered is crucial to understanding why and how unsustainable outcomes are produced and how they might be more effectively prevented.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography, University of Hull, U.K., 2: Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Singapore

Publication date: December 1, 1997


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