Book Review by Dr Rory Padfield

Dr Rory Padfield, formerly of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and currently at Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom very kindly wrote a review of my book, “The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia: Palm Oil and Patronage”. An early, condensed version of this review was read out at my book launch at University Malaya last year (by Dr Roy Anthony Rogers), and the full-length version has been recently published in the Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography.

A (quite amusing, if I do say so!) excerpt:

“If a Hollywood film director decides to make a movie about the Southeast Asian haze crisis (a very unlikely scenario on many counts but not least by the fact that there are so few hero characters in this story albeit plenty of likely villains), the director might settle on the following tag line: ‘It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.’ This popular saying nicely summarizes Helena Varkkey’s central thesis: the complex interconnections, networks and shared business cultures between government and corporate actors across Southeast Asia have largely served to protect the interests of plantation companies in their endeavours to cultivate palm oil in fire-susceptible forest and peatland areas in Indonesia. … By bringing new and important insights to the research question on the failure of governments to effectively address the regional haze problem, The Haze Problem in Southeast Asia represents a latent form of resistance: resistance from within Southeast Asia against the actions of various actors involved in the ongoing haze problem. So, on second thoughts, if a Hollywood film director does take up the case to produce a movie on the haze crisis in the coming years, perhaps our hero character is embodied by Varkkey: a brave researcher striving to uncover an inconvenient truth about the politics and economics of unsustainable development in Southeast Asia.”

The full review is available here.

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