Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Graduate Research Seminar Presentation

On Wednesday, 30 April 2008, I will be presenting my research proposal at the department Graduate Research Seminar Session I. If you're interested, it'll be from 9am to 12 noon at the department honors room at AS2, Level 3 (cannot remember the unit number).

For those who won't be able to make the presentation, here are my slides. The slides have been corrupted when uploaded on slideshare so pardon the black outs.

Feel free to leave me your comments or if you have any juicy questions.

Update: The presentation was a success by default because I feel I am at an advantage over the rest because I had one more semester than them to think about this and in comparision I would appear to have done better. Much more can be improved as post-data collection and during fieldwork, anything and everything can happen. Looking forward to it.

Monday, April 21, 2008

GRSS Funding Received!

17 April 2008

Dear Monkey,

I am pleased to inform you that your application to the above scheme has been approved with the following budgetary allocations:

Overseas Travel - $3000

The amount approved is the maximum limit for Masters student.
Yay hurray! I can start my fieldwork in peace now. However I am still hoping my supplementary funding will come in as this is seriously not enough. What more I am now recruiting field assistants.

So far, I have gotten several geography undergrads who are very keen and I'm so glad. 2 confirmed. 2 more not. 1 nakedhermitcrab keen on coming as well. We'll see how this goes. Glad I don't have to be up in the north alone.

Now I just need to get enough people for the survey in Singapore. A teacher friend of mine in NJC said the research sounds interesting and will send it to the students who need CIP project. Let's hope somebody respond favorably!

On other news, I need to seriously get in touch with the vehicle person in Cameron and hopefully Mr Chua will confirm with my query for June accommodations favorably.

I am actually disturbed by something in the funding letter but cannot write about it.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Neoliberal Environmentalism

Eureka! I think I've found the keyword for my study.
Very interestingly, much of the literature appears to be located within Geography. Must do more google search for relevant literature. If all goes well, I think I've found my personal holy grail. Not that I actually attained it, at least I know what it vaguely looks like. Damn it was the right decision to write about conceptual framework for my GRS paper after all.

Davis DK (2006) "Neoliberalism, environmentalism, and agricultural restructuring in Morocco" The Geographical Journal, 172 (2) pp. 88-105

Lockie, S and Goodman, M (2006) “Neoliberalism and the problem of space: competing rationalities of governance in fair trade and mainstream agri-environmental networks” in T Marsden and J Murdoch (eds) Between the Local and the Global: Confronting Complexity in the Contemporary Agri-Food Sector (Research in Rural Sociology and Development)

Update @ 28 Apr 08

Bought a book today from the routledge sale on neoliberal environments.
Heyen N, McCarthy J, Robbins P and Prudham S eds. (2007) "Neoliberal Environments: False Promises and Unnatural Consequences" Routledge

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New York Times Food section

NYT has a column called Food Chain which talks about food issues. And no I don't mean food review or your culinary epicurean section. It's about food supply. Ironically, or perhaps aptly, it's under the Business section.

Either way it'll be useful for me. Some very interesting articles.

The Food Chain

Conference Updates

The dissertation workshop in Los Banos is moving along. Another MA student from South East Asian studies saw my name on the list and emailed me. We will be meeting up beforehand. I hope that she will take the same flight as me. She is from Thailand! I can practice my Thai (yay!) She is working on rural indebtedness in Thailand. Ah, I will have things to talk about. Is happy.

I bought my air ticket already and Andie has agreed to host me.

Here's my tentative itinerary for Philippines.

29 May
10am Arrive at Manila Airport
- Either take taxi directly to UP Diliman to meet with the workshop people and go with them to Los Banos (the bus is leaving from UP around 2pm)
- Or maria pick me up from Airport to UP Diliman?

30 May to 1 June
Los Banos workshop

1 June - 2 June
Either come back to Quezon City or stay in a resort in Los Banos for one night and check out Los Banos

3 June - 6 June
SEAGA, UP Diliman.

7 June (Saturday)
Extra day in Philippines

8 June (Sunday)
Fly back to Singapore in the morning 10am.

Graduate Research Seminar Essay

We are supposed to write an essay that is on any of the following topics:
- determining research topic
- research ethics
- research paradigm and methods
- presenting at conferences

I'm going to do conceptual framework within paradigms. Sounds hard but I found a book on conceptual framework and dammit the same book also has items for methods. I was going to write phenomenological method and ethics but gave up because cannot find. When I do find, it's for writing another topic. It's always like this.

But anyways it's good to deal with conceptual framework. I need the further reading and thinking for my own dissertation

Lunenburg, FC and Irby BJ (2008), “Writing a successful thesis or dissertation: Tips and strategies for students in the social and behavioral sciences”, Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press, pp. 122-123

Methodology Ideas

Yesterday we got word that a new PhD student from Royal Holloway is come and while reading up on her, I found that she's using an unique methodology of getting her respondents to take photos. This technique is quite commonly used for landscape perception or any kind of perception study in tourism and other landscape studies. She's using it for migration but looking at perception of what is important to the respondent. ok, very interest.

How do I incorporate something like that for my project? What is a way to truly understand how a farmer thinks? No point asking him to take picture. I can't do an ethnographic and be the farmer either. There hopefully will not be any calamity when I am doing my research, for their sake.

So I thought ok maybe I should come up with a scenario and ask how all of them would react to this scenario. but how's that different from just asking them questions? The scenario must be very special. and several things happening at the same time. So then they have to rank which one they will address first. Maybe draw in a mindmap and show them and ask them to circle the one they would address first. Followed by... etc

Ok so now how do I find out if other people have used similar methods?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Global food system 'must change'

Tuesday, 15 April 2008 (BBC)

The global agriculture system will have to change radically if the world is to avoid future environmental and social problems, a report has warned.

The study, commissioned by the UN and World Bank, concluded that while recent advances had increased food production, the benefits were spread unevenly.

It said that 850 million people were still not getting enough food to eat.

The authors added that food prices would remain volatile as a result of rising populations and biofuel growth.

The findings were published by the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), an intergovernmental body that involved more than 400 scientists and 30 governments.

"We tried to assess the implications of agricultural knowledge, science and technology both past, present and future on a series of very critical issues," explained IAASTD director Robert Watson.

"These issues are hunger and poverty; rural livelihoods; nutrition and human health.

"The key point is how do we address these issues in a way that is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable?"

'Need for reform'

Speaking at the launch of the final report in London, Professor Watson said advances over the past 50 years had seen total food production grow faster than the human population had increased.

"The price of food, in real terms, has also gone down. Even today, many food commodities are comparable to the early 1990s; so what's the problem?

"Well, we still have over 800 million people going to bed hungry every night. There have been some successes but if we look at it on a region-by-region basis, there have been uneven results."

He added that the study identified other consequences: "We have lost some of our environmental sustainability.

"There have been adverse effects in some parts of the world on soils, water, biodiversity; our agricultural systems have contributed to human-induced climate change and, in turn, human-induced climate change threatens agricultural productivity."

IAASTD co-chairman Dr Hans Herren said "contentious political and economic stances" were affecting attempts to address some of the imbalances.

"Specifically, this refers to the many OECD member countries who are deeply opposed to any changes in trade regimes or subsidy systems," he stated.

"Without reforms, many poorer countries will have a very hard time."

Food for thought

The authors projected that the global demand for food was set to double in the next 25-50 years, primarily in developing nations.

As a result, they said that it was necessary for the agricultural sector to grow, but in a way that did not result in social hardship or environmental degradation.

As well as looking at the global picture, the IAASTD also examined the situation in different regions:

* Central/West Asia and North Africa: unique agricultural biodiversity is beginning to disappear. Likely to suffer the consequences of limited water supplies and climate change
* East/South Asia and the Pacific: development in the region is increasing pollution levels. Climate change is likely to trigger large-scale migration
* Latin America and the Caribbean: increased yield from agriculture has not led to a significant decrease in poverty. Food imports have created dependence and disruption to local production
* Sub-Saharan Africa: agriculture accounts for about 32% of the region's GDP, yet 80% of arable land is experiencing water scarcity
* North America and Europe: private sector funding has affected the direction of agricultural research and has increased the influence of transnational companies

The study found that access to food was taken for granted in many nations, and farmers and farm workers were poorly rewarded for acting as stewards of almost one-third of the Earth's land.

It recommended a fundamental rethink of agricultural knowledge, science and technology, in order to achieve a sustainable global food system.

The experts said that efforts should focus on the needs of small-scale farmers in diverse ecosystems, and areas with the greatest needs.

Measures would include giving farmers better access to knowledge, technology and credit. It would also require investment to bring the necessary information and infrastructure to rural areas.

'Valuing services'

Professor Watson outlined some of the challenges facing the sector over the coming 50 years: "We need to enhance rural livelihoods where most of the poor live on one or two dollars a day.

"We also need to stimulate economic growth because half of the countries in Africa have a significant percentage of their GDP in the agricultural sector.

"At the same time, we need to meet food safety standards and make sure that we do not have pesticide residues, unacceptable levels of hormones or heavy metals.

"All of this must be done in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner."

He warned that agriculture could no longer be approached as a single issue.

"We need to consider the environmental issues of biodiversity and water; the economic issues of marketing and trade, and the social concerns of gender and culture.

"How do we pay farmers to not only produce food, but to value the environmental services?

"Agriculture is far more than just production of food, and that is what we have to recognise."

Editor's note: This article may just be the fodder for my research significance!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sudah Selasi!

Progress has been made. One step closer for manmonkeykind.

1) got my conference funding for SEAGA
2) finished an expanded version of my research proposal for ChATSEA, sent it off to Canada. The information there can be used for my ISM. Awaiting boss' approval.
3) finished teaching all tutorials for this semester (yay!)
4) finished making recruitment poster for RA position and meeting the head of dept in 30 min

I feel progress in my blood.

Conference funding is in da house

Dear Monkey,

I am pleased to inform you that approval has been granted for you to attend the following conference: Southeast Asian Geography Association (SEAGA)

Yay! I can spend up to $2000 but of course I won't spend so much.

Interestingly, under "Conditions of Approval"

#3. You should also make a presentation in the Department, preferably before going to the conference / symposium.

Well I don't think anybody will be around the department for me to present to

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My new olympus digital voice recorder

Well I stayed true to my words and got myself a new olympus. I managed to get one for $160 because all the expensive models that I really wanted were sold out. That's fate for you.

It's really light though and it freaks me out since I'm so used to heavy, weigh-a-ton type of gadgets. oh well :) It's all good! Will record the guest lecture I'm giving on Thursday and see if I can upload it as a podcast.

The good part is that I can use rechargeable batteries for it and won't be wasting tons of tape. That way I won't have to bring tons of batteries nor cassettes with me to the field. Now I just need to buy a battery charger!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Environmental Problems at CH

Cameron Highlands - One of Malaysia's most popular hill stations; it is well known for its cool weather, hill cottages and tea plantations. A soil erosion study in 1995 found the Cameron Highlands to be the hill resort most affected by erosion in the country, due to the rapid increase in inappropriate development. The study found that the road from Tanah Rata to Robinson Falls had an average of two gullies (the most severe category of erosion) every kilometre. The Cameron Highlands Structure Plan disclosed that between 1950s and 1990s, silt levels in Cameron Highlands rivers increased 11-fold. Various surveys from 1993 to 1996 by the DOE, the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute and the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM) found that land clearance for human settlement has caused more erosion than any other activity. The 1993 Development Impact Study of Cameron Highlands reported the annual average temperature had increased three degrees since the 1960s. Daily average rainfall dropped from 2.7 millimetres (mm) in the period 1951 to 1960, to 2.58mm in 1981 to 1990. The number of rain-days per month was reduced by three to five days. A DOE study showed that water quality in the Ringlet Lake as well as in the Ikan, Terla, Telom and Bertam Rivers was degraded.

Taken from Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM)'s The A to Z of the Malaysian Environment

Pride and protest in Malaysia

Pride and protest in Malaysia: Foreign governments and conservation groups are quick to condemn countries that cut down their rainforests. But attitudes must change on both sides if the forests are to survive

21 October 1989
From New Scientist Print Edition

IN THE SOUTHERN part of the Malay Peninsula, among mountains close to 1000 metres high, two wild rivers have their source. Forest covers the whole region and despite decades of logging in the area, the upper catchments of these two rivers remain virgin territory.

The rivers are Sungai Rompin, with its catchment mostly in the Malaysian state of Pahang, and Sungai Endau in the neighbouring state of Johore. For more than a year, these two states have been deliberating whether to create adjoining state parks with a combined area of 920 square kilometres. The states are keeping their options open. They have designated a core area of 200 square kilometres for the park, allowing for the possibility of future logging in the remaining area.

Conservationists in Peninsular Malaysia have been fighting to protect the Endau-Rompin forests for more than a decade. Although forest covers more than 40 per cent of the peninsula, most of the lowland tropical rainforests have been logged. Loggers are now moving into the mountains at altitudes of 800 metres and higher. True montane forests, stunted, moss-festooned tangles of slender trees and climbers, are confined to ridgetops above 1500 metres, and so remain more or less undisturbed. But in many places, the gentle slopes of the adjacent forest are good for agriculture. In the Cameron Highlands, tea planters and vegetable farmers are steadily clearing the forest. Outside Endau-Rompin there are only two other extensive areas of virgin rainforest in the lowlands of Peninsular Malaysia. One is in Krau Wildlife Reserve, an area of 537 square kilometres. Only scientists are allowed into the reserve. The other area is in Taman Negara, unquestionably one of the world's great national parks, covering 4300 square kilometres of lowlands, hill forest and mountains in the central part of the peninsula. Here the rainforest attracts some 10 000 visitors a year. Despite threats from loggers, hydroelectric dams and road construction, Taman Negara has survived with its boundaries almost wholly intact for half a century.

With such a large tract of forest still intact, why are conservationists so determined to protect Endau-Rompin? The simple answer is that this forest is different: the species that grow and live in it are not the same as those in Taman Negara, 300 kilometres to the north. Endau-Rompin is home to a dozen Sumatran rhinoceroses, the largest known population in the peninsula. Only a few hours' drive from the cities of Johore Bharu and Singapore, the forest, and its rivers and wildlife, offer great promise for tourism and education about the environment. Perhaps more important, the creation of the park will be a landmark for conservation in Southeast Asia. It will show that Malaysia's state governments at last accept responsibility for protecting the environment.

Malaysia is a federation of states. The states, rather than the federal government, have total control over the land and how it is used. In the past, Malaysia's state governments showed little regard for conservation of either nature or their natural resources. In the late 1970s, the federal government admitted that less than 10 per cent of logged areas received any follow-up treatment to encourage the regeneration of timber trees.

In 1978, the government drew up a National Forestry Policy and by 1986 all states in Peninsular Malaysia had passed laws to implement the policy. In consultation with the states, foresters working for the federal government developed what they claim is a sustainable system of forestry. This is now being applied on a small but growing scale by some states. Nevertheless, in many places, loggers working under licence are responsible for rehabilitation of the area they have logged.

Many companies pay little more than lip service to rehabilitation. A recent court case in Pahang state revealed that a sawmilling company that had selectively logged more than 6000 hectares of forest had replanted only four hectares. The forestry officials were so lax that they had allowed the company to move on to new cutting areas.

The government argues that such floutings of licence conditions are isolated cases. But for all the wise prescriptions for management passed down from above, there is below a powerful momentum of exploitation and corruption. Policing the system is extremely difficult.

Consider a typical area of virgin lowland rainforest in Peninsular Malaysia or Borneo. The tallest trees are between 50 and 60 metres tall. On good sites there might be 30 such trees per hectare, with dozens of smaller ones in the spaces between, and an understorey rich in palms. On the ground grow few herbs, but on any one hectare there may be seedlings representing more than 100 species.

A logging operation is highly selective. Of some 700 species of trees that reach a merchantable size, only about 30 are exported in substantial quantities. Local markets make use of a wider range of species, but loggers often fell fewer than 20 trees per hectare. The number of trees harvested may be small but the damage to the rest of the forest is extensive. Felled trees tear down climbers that link them to their neighbours. Logging roads and tracks where loggers drag out trees damage a disproportionate amount of forest and expose the soil to erosion. Surviving seedlings prosper as light floods through the broken canopy, but most must compete with a tangle of pioneer plants that quickly colonise open ground.

A forest manager faces a difficult task. According to the prescriptions of Malaysia's Selective Management System, the forester must make an inventory of the seedlings that are present after logging. If natural regeneration is not enough to replace the logged trees, then the foresters must supplement the young trees with seedlings raised in nurseries.

An individual or an organisation expressing concern for the conservation of rainforests the world over cannot prove that a country such as Malaysia is mismanaging its forests as long as the government insists it is managing them well. The Malaysian government claims, for example, that of 364 000 hectares logged between 1981 and 1985, 96.9 per cent were 'rehabilitated'. To check on the extent of rehabilitation means carrying out the same sort of detailed survey that foresters are now required to do, and to differentiate among the mind-boggling assortment of seedlings and saplings, deciding whether enough of them belong to the desirable timber species to ensure a good crop in the future.

Selective logging and replanting will ensure that the land is covered by rainforest, but its structure is different from that of virgin rainforest. The problem is how to preserve the stature and diversity of the virgin forest that remains. In Australia, conservationists are demanding a moratorium on logging in the virgin rainforests of Queensland and might well achieve one. A moratorium could be the best way to conserve virgin forests in Malaysia and Indonesia, but would probably take many years to achieve. As yet, there have been no strong moves in this direction, although the Sahabat Alam Malaysia (Friends of the Earth Malaysia) is beginning to promote the idea. In the meantime, there is an urgent need to identify the areas that are most in need of protection, and encourage governments to make them national parks, state parks, catchment forests, tribal reserves, wildlife reserves, no-logging zones, no-logging-in-the-next-ten-years zones - or whatever status will afford them some protection in the short term at least.

Conservation is making some progress in Malaysia. In a scheme initiated by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the World Wide Fund for Nature, Malaysia is drawing up, with the active support of the states concerned, a series of strategies for conserving natural resources. The WWF Malaysia has completed its strategies for five of the 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia, and for Sarawak in East Malaysia.

The WWF Malaysia aims to make conservation more holistic, so that rather than being the responsibility of a single government department, conservation pervades all planning and operations in all departments and in the private sector. While this may seem idealistic, the approach has gained some support from the federal government, which sponsors seminars for state administrators. There have already been instances where states have changed direction on plans for development in line with the conservation strategy. Selangor, for example, has shelved a scheme to clear part of a mangrove-forested island to make way for an aquaculture project.

The Malayan Nature Society is also gaining respect among decision makers for its methodical and scientific approach to conservation. In 1987 the Selangor state government provided the society with funds to set up a small wildlife sanctuary and bird observatory in a threatened area of mangroves. The society has also been involved in drawing up plans for the development of facilities for visitors to Taman Negara. A group of advisors from the society has helped the Sarawak National Parks and Wildlife Office to plan facilities for visitors to the proposed Matang National Park near Kuching.

Malaysia's federal government was involved in the formulation of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's Tropical Forestry Action Plan (see 'The tropical chainsaw massacre', New Scientist, 23 September). An action plan for Malaysia is in preparation. There is growing awareness in Malaysia, both among the public and in government, that conservation is an inherent part of successful development. Unfortunately, this awareness is so far evident mostly on paper rather than in practice.

Translating words into action will be a slow process, needing patience, diplomacy and education. Malaysia is aware of its colonial past and proud of its independence. The authorities do not want to be told what is good for them. But if the message is polite and deferential, from within the country, with sound arguments and the outline of alternative strategies, then there is a good chance that in time it will get through and practices will change. Yet there are limits to this approach.

In 1985, Gurmit Singh, president of the small but influential Environmental Protection Society, said: 'Concerned foreigners can get their concerns about Malaysian issues resolved by letting Malaysian groups handle the issues on their own, while providing moral support.' Since then the government has cracked down on editorial freedom and Singh has had to modify his view: 'When the suppression of the media becomes acute within Malaysia, then direct action by foreigners is our only hope,' he says.

Well-informed comment from outside the country almost certainly has some impact. An international outcry over the importance of conserving rainforests stirred the Malaysian government to announce its commitment to responsible management of its forests. But conservationists must strike a balance between condemnation and diplomacy.

Time then becomes the enemy: how much time can the rainforest afford to lose? This is where economic arguments are of most value, and where national parks come into their own. Even the wealthier countries of the developing world, such as Malaysia, are burdened with international debt. 'Debt for nature' swaps have been negotiated in Costa Rica and Bolivia, whereby Western banks have written off debts in exchange for the setting aside of an area of rainforest.

Diplomacy wins support for the forest

There are good reasons for making Endau-Rompin a park, and not all are to do with conservation. Parks can bring in much needed foreign currency from tourists; they are beginning to attract local interest for their potential in education. And, a factor seldom considered in the West, international recognition of Malaysia's part in preserving rainforests - internationally important in conservation terms - contributes to national pride.

Recognition is one thing; interference another. Criticism from other nations can damage or destroy the work of local conservation groups. In 1986, the international condemnation of logging in the Baram and Limbang regions of Sarawak, which disrupted the lives of many long-house communities and the Penan hunter-gatherers, produced a knee-jerk reaction from the authorities.

Conservation groups such as the Malayan Nature Society have an unwritten rule that says environmental issues should be fought first at the local level; then nationally; and internationally only as a last resort. International intervention should be confidential: as a first step, leading international conservationists with personal experience in Malaysia should write to key political figures, for example. Finally, in desperation, international exposure might have some effect.

The Penan issue in Sarawak in which local tribespeople are fighting against the disruption of their lives by outside exploitation of their forest, quickly boiled over. It soon escalated from local disputes between native people and unyielding government officials, to feature articles in international magazines and newspapers. The Sarawak government felt ridiculed, and both state and federal governments were seriously embarrassed. With such a loss of face, the government's reaction was to salvage pride through defiance. With news stories already in the overseas press, Sahabat Alam Malaysia mounted a brave and vigorous campaign in support of the Penan people. Protesters were arrested and interned without trial. The logging would continue. The logging, the blockades and the arrests still continue.

Other approaches in Sarawak have been more successful. The World Wide Fund for Nature in Malaysia has built up a good working relationship with the Sarawak government. It drew up its conservation strategy for the state in collaboration with the State Planning Unit. With support from the WWF, the Sarawak government has set up four new national parks and two wildlife sanctuaries in the past eight years.

The other East Malaysian state, Sabah, has also established national parks and reserves, again with some unobtrusive help from WWF Malaysia. The best known is Kinabalu Park, covering some 700 square kilometres around Mount Kinabalu. Kinabalu Park is a mainstay of the state's tourist trade, attracting more than 100 000 visitors a year.

Neither Sabah nor Sarawak has a strong local conservation movement; comment on matters of environmental concern must come from individuals with influence in the government, or from environmental groups in Peninsular Malaysia or overseas.

But if international outcry leads to the sort of reaction Sarawak shows in the Penan case, how can other nations express their concern? Positive reinforcement might be the most fruitful approach. There is no shortage, in Peninsular Malaysia at least, of well-trained foresters who appreciate the need for sustainable management of forests. Some praise for their efforts in establishing a policy for protection of their forest resources is warranted.

The international banking community has an obvious part to play. The world's large banks should support not only new projects based on sound ecology but should also support efforts to reduce the impact of existing activities in the forests. Each year for the past decade, Peninsular Malaysia has cleared around 50 000 hectares of forest to provide 'land for the landless', in the form of plantations of oil palm, rubber and cocoa. The motives are good but the results damaging. The way around this problem is to encourage a use of the land that is geared to local markets rather than cash crops for export. Malaysia no longer receives large handouts in international aid, nor is it looking for them. But other countries can help by offering the expertise of people experienced in rehabilitation of mined land, or in techniques for extracting logs without damaging the remaining forest, or in helping to design and build facilities for visitors to national parks.

The wealthier countries of the world can participate in conservation directly. In Southeast Asia people have little choice but to use timber from the local rainforests until their plantations provide an alternative. But in Europe, North America and Australia, plantations already provide ample timber.

Individuals and organisations can offer support in the way of financial help to the environmental groups working diligently for the conservation cause in Malaysia. Individuals can also help by sending letters of appreciation for the positive things that are happening in countries such as Malaysia. Support for the national park system, and expansion of it, would be well received. Better still, but rather more expensive, is a visit to the country to sample the delights of Taman Negara or Kinabalu, followed up with a letter to express feelings in support of the rainforest. Protests and placards have their place. The challenge is to find slogans that convey to the government concerned an appreciation that there are no simple solutions, and that a change of attitude is needed just as urgently in the developed as in the less developed world.

Should all these approaches fail, only environmental catastrophe will persuade people that ruthless exploitation of forests must stop. In November 1988, Thailand suffered its worst natural disasters in decades when flooding and landslides killed more than 450 people. Recognising that deforestation was the main cause, the Prime Minister, Chatichai Choonhaven, persuaded his cabinet to agree to terminate all existing logging concessions in the country.

Perhaps, in a year or two, Malaysia's Endau-Rompin forest will earn a place on the international tourist map. A steady stream of foreign visitors will encourage local businesses and add to the state coffers. But most important, Malaysians will also be drawn to the area and realise just what benefits a rainforest can bring, from clean streams and reliable rainfall to a boost to national pride and an uplifting of the individual spirit.

Ken Rubeli is the manager of Wangat Lodge, a centre for environmental education in New South Wales, Australia. He trained as a forester and worked for 12 years in Malaysia.

From issue 1687 of New Scientist magazine, 21 October 1989

To focus or not to focus

That is the question.

I just spoke with my supervisor and was assured by the following advice:

1) It's good to have multiple game plan, so take note of the few key focus and go out to explore them all in the field and then just write on one of the focus in the end.

2) It's ok to change topic totally after field work. Be flexible, work around the fieldwork data.

3) No need to survey all 100 farms. Get a few key subjects

4) It's normal to feel you haven't gotten a handle on the literature. But read more!

5) What is your niche? A fertile ground? publish them all! Just use one for master and the rest is free for all.

6) Don't get brainwashed by all the research proposal. There is a real game plan beneath all the administrative bureaucratic talk and proposals.

7) Write your analysis first and conceptualize later. What you go in with now is just a hurdle to overcome. Get to the real crunch.

8) If I don't get A, I can do B. But if A is so good, I can forget all about the rest. Don't even need to do those, can pack up early and come home! w00t!

9) But if A, B and C all don't work I can just do Z. It's ok.

10) All these ideas for narrower focus, keep them. Collect a few. Collect them all! (Pokemon!) During presentation just say that you have a few game plan because you're doing the smart thing. When you write, just write the one you really want to write. No need to write the whole extensive system. Impossible.

I'm a happier camper now.

Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group

Last Friday, at the Graduate Research Seminar, Henry suggested we join listservs of the AAG specialty groups to get informed of organized sessions and what not. So today, after looking through the list of available groups, I realize I am best categorized under the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group.

I consider myself to be working on social ecology so it's really not that far off. I signed on the listserv. Hope it would prove to be fruitful for me in the next AAG in Las Vegas.

I think I'll sign up as a student member of AAG as well. After all, I think we get journals together with the package. w00t.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

I want a voice recorder

Should I spend 350 bucks getting one? Really? Will it be worthwhile? Will I transcribe what I record? I don't have the rigour. But what if I don't record? What a headache.

Update @ 7 Apr
I'm going to Sim Lim tomorrow to buy one. Enough of waiting.

Friday, April 4, 2008

What is a hinterland?

Originally I was going to do a independent study module paper talking about Singapore and its transnational agricultural hinterland: preconditions of a city state or an encroaching ecological footprint.

However, a senior pop by today and got me thinking that transnational doesn't just mean Malaysia and that's what I was working towards. Likewise, agricultural doesn't mean vegetables. How do I lead into talking about Malaysia and Singapore's historical trade?

So in the end, I decided that a change of title is needed.

What I've ended up doing for 2 hours today is to compile a list of definitions of Hinterlands, the different type of usage in different conceptual relationships such as hinterlands in metropolis-hinterland relations or transport geography, foreland-hinterland. There is also heartland-hinterland relationship. I've also looked at rural-hinterland versus urban-hinterland, urban fringe and metropolis. There is international/global/transnational hinterland versus local/immediate hinterland. But do I really need to read central place theory to really know what I am talking about? When do I get to the main dish? Enough with the appetizers already!

Updates @ 11.21pm
Alternative titles may include:

"City-States and Transnational Agricultural Hinterlands: a case study of Singapore-Malaysia Fresh Vegetable Trade"

"Locating the fresh vegetable supply trade within the global food crisis: a Singapore perspective"

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Everything that represents me

Recently I got a new office companion. His name is Gorillaz. I took this picture and then realized that this photo spokes volumes of the things that represents me.

Can you spot some? Add notes on flickr!