In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia ed. by Philip Hirsch
  • Lee Poh Onn (bio)
Routledge Handbook of the Environment in Southeast Asia. Edited by Philip Hirsch. London and New York: Routledge, 2017. Hardcover: 521pp.

Philip Hirsch's edited volume provides an incisive and comprehensive examination of the complex environmental challenges facing Southeast Asia, one of the world's most economically, demographically and ecologically diverse and dynamic regions in the world.

The book comprises thirty chapters in total, each interesting in its own right and each showing how thinking and writing about the environment vary depending on the author's disciplinary background, and ideological and political stance. In Part 1, the introductory chapter by Hirsch sets out the premise of the book and what readers can expect from each chapter. The next ten chapters have thematic slants (Part 2), eight focus on sectoral issues (Part 3) and twelve on regional and country studies (Part 4)

The section on themes includes chapters on physical geography, population and economic change, environmental movements, legal and governance issues, and political mobilization. It illustrates how an environmental story can evolve from a theme or a conceptual angle, often constructed imaginatively, and framed around historical, contemporary and future challenges.

In chapter two, Avijit Gupta looks at the physical geography of Southeast Asia and how it has changed over time. How population trends and economic development affect the environment is examined in chapter three by Peter Boomsgard. In chapter four, Rodolphe De Koninck and Pham Thanh Hai examine the link between population growth and deforestation. Environmentalism, which serves as a potent political force driving change in Southeast Asia, is discussed by Tim Forsyth in chapter five. Power relations and how unequal relations have shaped ecologies and their governance is examined by Peter Vandergeest and Robin Roth in chapter six. In the following chapter, Keith Barney uses the concept of neoliberalism to explain environmental governance and governmentality. In chapter eight, Ben Boer argues that despite the plethora of environmental laws, regulations and international and regional environmental legal frameworks in Southeast Asia, implementation remains patchy. On the theme of laws and governance, chapter nine by Robert Fisher provides a broad analysis of the decentralized forms of governance occurring in forestry, fisheries and protected areas, and how this has failed to resolve [End Page 402] problems of environmental degradation. Transboundary environmental issues are addressed in chapter ten by Antonio P. Conteras who argues that advocacy and mobilization are important for redressing such issues.

Chapters eleven to eighteen examine sectoral issues in natural resources. Clear policy messages are presented by the various authors, each empirically grounded in an understanding of the circumstances surrounding an environmental issue or sector. In chapter eleven, Frances Seymour and Peter Kanowski focus on how forests and biodiversity can best be protected. In the following chapter, Rob Cramb argues convincingly that shifting cultivation has been a sustainable activity which has not affected the ecological functions of forests. However, governments have increasingly used their powers to allocate vast areas of swidden fallows for large-scale commercial plantations at the expense of indigenous farmers. Water, rivers and dams are discussed in chapter thirteen by Carl Middleton who contends that extensive hydropower development presents the greatest threat to river systems and has affected both the ecology and the livelihoods of those who live and work along those rivers.

In chapter fourteen Simon R. Bush and Melissa Marschke look at the social and political ecology of fisheries and aquaculture, overcapacity of fishing fleets, markets, and the tension between governance and equity. Urban environmental transitions are explored by Peter J. Marcotullio in chapter fifteen. Transitions expand beyond economic indicators to social, health and environmental measures to explain development. Edsel E. Sajor in chapter sixteen examines how the developments of peri-urbanization and mega-urban areas have impacted the environment. In chapter seventeen, Albert Salamanca and Jonathan Rigg argue that adaption to climate change is effective only when set within conditions specific to particular areas and political and power relations that structure society in that area. Environmental migration has become a key theme in the climate change debate but Rebecca Elmhirst contends in chapter eighteen that migration may not just...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 402-405
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.