Deep roots in culture, shallow roots in nature: Identifying sustainable bamboo management challenges for China and the implications for multidisciplinary research
The Chinese government is moving towards market mechanisms to promote environmental sustainability. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is a globally recognised label gaining ground within Non Timber Forest Product markets (NTFP). Standardization and replicability have become essential in order to make the local manageable. The FSC has been described as a ‘boundary object’, creating new governance networks outside the authority of government, creating or adapting verification practices to ‘join together heterogeneous resources.’ The bamboo sector is one of the fastest growing forest land uses in China. Intensification of management has led to biodiversity loss, erosion and depletion of soil nutrients. Bamboo is rooted deeply in Chinese culture, through the language, culture, civilisation, science and daily life. Bamboo is a grass with shallow root systems, physiologically relying on mixed forestry on sloping land to access water resources and maintain the soil. This research identifies the move towards certification for bamboo globally, but highlights the lack of culturally embedded enabling environments for the protection of bamboo, a potential key substitute for timber, cotton, construction material and edible product. Two key areas of enquiry arise from the sketch of bamboo management and the operative framework in China: firstly, the predominance of neoliberal market norms and secondly the need for a cross-cultural pluralistic approach to conservation involving considering the implications of categorisation. Although globalisation already affects many bamboo farmers in China, the coupling of nature into mainstream markets through certification or carbon trading could have resonance. Agricultural economists should critically assess the coupling of nature and the economy within the current climate and consider the different ‘capitalist’ models emerging and the implications for valuing systems. China has two striking examples of divergence from Northern ideologies: clientelism and environmental politics. The importance of conservation actors, in terms of their perceived or implicit power and the adaptability of ‘blue print’ approaches within the cultural framework in which they are framed are key areas for further research.
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