Many will question the Opinion page article "How Best to Save Trees," April 3, in which the author claims that tropical forests, the heritage of Malaysia, can be saved by privatization. History does not provide many examples. Ownership of a resource is the license for development, and for profit beyond that proportional to labor or creativity.
Once a value is placed on a prime resource, making it possible to transfer title to private ownership, it is tradable in the global market. If the property is sold to foreigners with capital, they mostly likely will be interested in short-term profits. And foreign ownership, once obtained, will be protected by force, as it has in the past. The resource will not be retrievable, and its use largely uncontrollable. Whatever immediate income the forests bring will increasingly end up in the hands of the weal thy. There are many examples of this today.
Only public ownership can preserve the lumber resource of Malaysia for the people. It is for the people to insure that this control is effective and designed for sustainable living. Let them use their lumber to create wood products for sale, train their lumberjacks to be cabinet makers, while keeping a tight control on their sacred resource for their own interest and for the life of the planet. Edward G. Bottiger, Woods Hole, Mass.
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