|Balancing Acts: Community-Based Forest Management and National Law in Asia and the Pacific (WRI, 1995, 204 pages)|
|II. Historical Overview: Colonial Patterns of Forest Management|
Although recent improvements in carbon-dating technology have revised the age of the pithecanthropus erectus remains found near Travil on Java (hence, the name "Java man"), from 1.2 to 1.8 million years32 some anthropologists speculate that the year-round growing season and the extensive natural resource base delayed the development of large, settled societies in Asia and the Pacific. With abundant food, water, and building materials, early inhabitants had little need to structure communities extensively either to produce goods collectively or for defense.33
According to this theory, the development of non-migratory agriculture, especially wet-rice cultivation and the sophisticated, labor-intensive irrigation systems it requires, prompted the formation of sedentary societies. The lure of easy gathering and regular harvests induced once-itinerant cultivators and hunter-gatherers to settle in close proximity and establish more elaborate social structures.34 Artifacts unearthed at Spirit Cave in northwestern Thailand indicate that settled cultivation was under way as early as 10,000 b.c.35
Over time, broad regularly-inundated river valleys that had once been lightly populated became the home of thriving - and often complex - societies based on wet rice culture. Free from the need to prepare for months when game and produce are scarce, these civilizations developed highly sophisticated cultures, rich in arts and crafts, that sometimes culminated in the construction of magnificent temples.36 Those with access to sea channels also engaged in mutually enriching trade.
Most upland cultures tend to be less complex than their lowland counterparts. Left to their own devices, forest communities developed sustainable agricultural and forestry practices tailored to the various challenges posed by upland terrains and soils. Many survive today in only slightly modified form. Because heavy rainfall induces erosion and leaching on upland tropical soils and because vital nutrients drain away in perpetual growing seasons, many upland forest farmers move frequently. In many cases, shifting cultivation is the only viable agricultural system.