At present, several prominent forest geographers and analysts strongly support the forest transition hypothesis, which I have evaluated in recent weeks. These researchers share common views on social and historical change. These focus primarily on a unilinear assessment of social and cultural development. For this reason, I previously suggested that the forest transition hypothesis fits perfectly with notions such as the Kuznets curve in economics, the environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) of modern environmental studies, and older notions. demographic transition in population studies.
Readers will recall that the Kuznets curve postulates a situation in which, as economies grow and develop (i.e., their real GDP per capita increases), the intensity of income inequality (that is, measured by their Gini coefficients) changes at the same time as this economic development. growth. Concretely, the coefficient first increases, then peaks, then decreases, giving rise to the famous U-shaped curve, now well known to social theorists of all disciplines, under the name of Kuznets curve.
The Kuznets curve again
As noted earlier, this curve represents the intensity of income inequality (measured on the y-axis), over the timeline of a country’s economic growth and development (measured on the x-axis). Stated this way, it turns out to be the same logic at the heart of the forest transition hypothesis. Instead of the intensity of income inequality, plotted on the y-axis relative to economic growth and development plotted on the x-axis, the former is replaced by the extent of remaining forest cover.
Such social theorization is based on historical studies, which, it is claimed, demonstrate distinctive regularities as having occurred in a wide range of countries and regions. However, to move from these observed regular historical occurrences and their suggestive generalizations to arrive at a confident predictor of future developments in a given forest country, is a huge methodological leap that cannot be scientifically justified.
Perhaps more importantly, readers should consider that, methodologically, this unilinear view of driven and determined historical and social processes ignores the fact that, ultimately, societal outcomes are frequently, if not always. , affected by people’s behavior. . Such behavior may be contradictory, consensual, confrontational, individual or group oriented, but whatever it is, in any case, such behavior is always dynamic and dialectical.
Centuries versus decades
Thus, the hypothetical question can be asked: Does the forest transition theory support the idea that the reduction of net forest loss in Guyana depends “only or entirely” on the reduction in the economic growth of the country? Another equally absurd hypothetical question could very well be: does faster economic growth promote more “affordable” attention to maintaining the country’s forest cover? Obviously, there are no correct answers to such questions and, therefore, forest transition theory cannot provide definitive answers. Indeed, in reality, forest transitions have occurred on very different historical time scales. Research studies have identified these phenomena over the centuries, as in the case of Scotland; and decades, as in the case of some Asian economies like Vietnam.
Finally, theorists like Perz 2007 in his Grand Theory and Context – Specificity in the Study of Forests: Forest Transition Theory and Other Directions and P. Robbins and A. Fraser, 2003 in their A Forest of Contradictions: Producing the Landscapes of the Scottish Highlands have drawn strong criticism of such methodological misuse and over-stretching the usefulness of generalizations of forest transition. They argue that the forest transition hypothesis is little more than a “simplistic, forest-oriented version of naive and largely discredited concepts of history drawn from standard neoclassical modernization theory.”
In the next section, I begin the review of the forest extraction sub-sector in the Guyanese economy.
Extractive forestry in the national economy
In order to describe the role of the extractive forest sub-sector in the Guyanese economy, I begin by positioning the sub-sector in the calculation of Guyana’s national accounts and GDP growth performance over the past decade. In this regard, it should be noted from the outset that the forestry sub-sector, as presented in Guyana’s GDP, mainly reflects the extraction of forest products, timber (including roundwood, sawnwood, logs, split wood, plywood and veneer) as well as non-wood forest products (acacias, manicole palm, mangrove bark, palm and balata). Of great help in this regard is the fact that the Guyana Forestry Commission, GFC, reports annually on the details of production of both timber and non-timber products.
Indeed, the Guyana Bureau of Statistics in its reports on its calculations of the GDP of the forestry sub-sector, indicates that it relies on the detailed volume data provided by the GFC. Further, he asserts: “The gross output data of the subsector is calculated from GFC data on the value of exports and domestic sales (quantity and prices are available) to derive value added; intermediate consumption is calculated from cost coefficients derived from its classic national economic surveys and supply and use tables ”.
Table 1 shows both the growth performance of the Guyanese economy and the extractive forestry sector over the last decade 2006-2015. As readers of my column know, overall GDP growth has fluctuated, although it has remained positive throughout the decade; ranging from 2% in 2008 to 7% in 2007. However, the extractive forest sub-sector has experienced very fluctuating growth. This ranged from minus 16 percent in 2015 to plus 20 percent in 2006. Such volatility is not surprising. This is what we expect for economies heavily dependent on the extractive sector like Guyana. And, indeed, we have seen such volatility in the gold and bauxite sub-sectors.
Next week, I continue the discussion on the extractive forestry sector from this basic introductory observation.