Once famous for the beauty of its white beaches, reef-ringed islands, and lush forests, today the Philippines is kwn as an example of the deep costs of ecological decline. In less than a generation, large and small users alike felled the forests, shattered the coral reefs, and over-fished the oceans. The rapid harvest of the once-abundant resources has brought environmental changes: droughts, deadly flash floods, and the collapse of vital fisheries. The consequences have reverberated throughout the country. As the rural ecomy weakened, millions migrated to the cities, overwhelming the infrastructure and deepening the problems of urban health. Pioneering efforts have been launched to curtail the environmental damage and manage the resources that remain. Trained as a botanist and plant ecologist, writer Barbara Goldoftas traveled extensively throughout the archipelago to document the loss of the natural resources, the dramatic human costs, and efforts to reverse the decline. Along the forest frontier, she met villagers whose fields had been washed away by mudslides and church workers risking their lives to defend the dwindling forests. In coastal villages, she spoke with fishermen who, having watched their catches diminish with the dying reefs, enforced the boundaries of -take zones. In towns and villages alike, she interviewed local politicians and leaders of n-governmental organizations working to combine conservation and development and keep their communities intact. Written about a country often described as an environmental worst-case scenario, The Green Tiger offers an unusually close look at the consequences of ecological decline and determined efforts to reverse them. It argues that, rather than destroying a natural resource base, development should integrate conservation and ecomic growth. It gives a realistic, but optimistic vision of the long process of nation-building that is the backdrop of environmental work in a developing country and a new democracy.
Barbara Goldoftas teaches environmental studies at Wellesley College. A nonfiction writer trained in botany and environmental health, she is the recipient of a National Magazine Award for Public-Interest Journalism. She lives in the Boston area.