"Perfumed the Axe that Laid it Low:
the Endangerment of Sandalwood in South Asian and Global Context."
By Ezra Rashkow (UVa Department of History)
Friday 10/9 - Clark Hall 101 - 3:00 pm
University of Virginia
[Abstract] Between 1950 and 1970, on average 480,000 sandal trees (Santalum Album) were annually harvested in India, nearly the entire range of the species being localized in southern state of Karnataka. Then, in 1974 it was 'suddenly discovered' that there were only approximately 350,000 standing trees left in the entire state. Overnight, India's sandalwood industry ground to a halt. The species was on the brink of extinction. Harvesting and trade in sandalwood, long the most precious wood in the world, was effetely banned. Smugglers such as Veerappan could now make more money by felling sandal trees than by poaching elephants for ivory. This might seem like a peculiar episode in environmental history, but it was by no means a singular one. Like many resources in the modern world, sandalwood is a species that has literally been loved to death. From the late eighteenth century, sandalwood traders in the South Pacific moved from one island to the next, systematically harvesting until there was no more harvest. Time and again the tree was exploited until it went locally extinct. In this talk, I will present a synopsis of the anthropogenic impact on this species in local and global context, thereby raising the question: what is it that so often drives modern man to overexploit natural resources without regard for the future?
Created on October 09, 2009, Philip McEldowney