Men and trees

Poverty is bad for the environment. (It's bad for people, too, but the environment can seem more tractable sometimes.)

The classic image is the poor farmer - somewhere in the developing world - scraping together a subsistence living by razing and burning the virgin forest. And the solution, too many times, seems to be foreign experts rushing in to save the trees, while the poor look on in disbelief and anger.

As Monitor correspondent Kevin Platt points out (right), it's a scenario that has played out in one form or another on every continent this century.

But the answer may be surprisingly simple: Help the poor find a livelihood that depends on saving rather than razing the trees.

In southern Tibet, this idea has been so successful that in one valley the same loggers who were slicing down the forest became the guardians of young saplings and an enclosed orchard. Not only did the Tibetan peasants' standard of living go up, but some of the world's most spectacular high-rise scenery got preserved along the way.

And on the subject of preservation, Shira Boss finds that the ephemeral art of e-mail correspondence is getting a grounding on paper (see page 18).

Recognizing how quickly those messaged words can disappear into the ether, some folks are printing out their personal e-mail and having it bound in leather for posterity.

It's an odd twist for the cyber-age. The push and speed of paperless communication is slowed to a 19th-century pace. E-mail letters may not be signed and sealed, but they still convey the sentiment.

*Susan Llewelyn Leach is the assistant Ideas editor. Comments? Send e-mail to:

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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