At first glance, Alastair Fraser’s Forestry Flavours of the Month appears to be a dry but knowledgeable discussion of the changes in forestry from 1960 to the near present. But soon readers learn that it is tempered by a more personal vision that takes it well beyond such limitations.
Fraser, who holds a doctorate from Edinburgh University and has been a forester for 55 years, relays his information by describing the projects and studies wherein he served as a consultant. Thus, in Fraser’s relation of one study undertaken for the United Kingdom’s Forestry Commission, readers learn how trees align their branches and leaves with the direction of the wind in order to withstand wind loads. In the author’s account of another study, commissioned by the Asian Development Bank, readers discover how a corridor of trees planted along a busy highway can “sequester enough carbon dioxide to more than offset that generated by the traffic.”
The information conveyed here is comprehensive. Topics range from the best practice for forest management, to types of products made from wood, to supply and demand, to biodiversity and global warming. Each chapter is supported with facts, statistics, and reasoning. But what lifts this book from textbook tedium are the flashes of passion that Fraser displays regarding workers exploited by the powerful, forests plundered by corrupt politicians and industrialists, and the slipshod management that has allowed some of the world’s forests to degrade to the point of no return. Fraser’s concern is supported by years of hands-on observation and it limns the book like gold running through quartz.
Although the sequential nature (study after study) of the book serves to demonstrate how the approaches to forestry have changed over the years, it also tends to blur the focus a little, leaving readers to accumulate evidence that might have been sharper with a more thematic approach. Hopefully this diffusion will not deter his audience, as this is a book well worth reading.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.