Synopses & Reviews
In the late 1800s American entrepreneurs became participants in the 400-year history of European economic and ecological hegemony in the tropics. Beginning as buyers in the tropical ports of the Atlantic and Pacific, they evolved into land speculators, controlling and managing the areas where tropical crops were grown for carefully fostered consumer markets at home. As corporate agro-industry emerged, the speculators took direct control of the ecological destinies of many tropical lands. Supported by the U.S. government's diplomatic and military protection, they migrated and built private empires in the Caribbean, Central and South America, the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and West Africa.
Yankee investors and plantation managers mobilized engineers, agronomists, and loggers to undertake what they called the "Conquest of the Tropics," claiming to bring civilization to benighted peoples and cultivation to unproductive nature. In competitive cooperation with local landed and political elites, they not only cleared natural forests but also displaced multicrop tribal and peasant lands with monocrop export plantations rooted in private property regimes.
This book is a rich history of the transformation of the tropics in modern times, pointing ultimately to the declining biodiversity that has resulted from the domestication of widely varied natural systems. Richard P. Tucker graphically illustrates his study with six major crops, each a virtual empire in itselfand#151;sugar, bananas, coffee, rubber, beef, and timber. He concludes that as long as corporate-dominated free trade is ascendant, paying little heed to its long-term ecological consequences, the health of the tropical world is gravely endangered.
"This is a fascinating book. Tucker draws together an amazing amount of material to demonstrate how the U.S., through exploitation, consumption, and demand over the past several centuries, has had a major impact on the ecology of tropical landscapes. It is a sobering, much-needed wake-up call to those who view the tropics as an endless cornucopia of resources." and#151;Charles M. Peters, The New York Botanical Garden
"This well-written book presents a critical and much-needed new insight into an important problem." and#151;Otto T. Solbrig, Bussey Professor of Biology, Harvard University
About the Author
Richard P. Tucker is Professor of Asian and Environmental History at Oakland University, and Adjunct Professor of Natural Resources at the University of Michigan. He is coeditor of Global Deforestation and the Nineteenth-Century World Economy (1983),World Deforestation in the Twentieth Century (1987), and other books.
Table of Contents
PART ONE: CROPLANDS
1. America's Sweet Tooth: The Sugar Trust and the Caribbean Lowlands
2. Lords of the Pacific: Sugar Barons in the Hawaiian and Philippine Islands
3. Banana Republics: Yankee Fruit Companies and the Tropical American Lowlands
4. The Last Drop: The American Coffee Market and the Hill Regions of Latin America
5. The Tropical Coast of the Automotive