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Environment and History

Oriental Nature, its Friends and its Enemies: Conservation of Nature in Late-Colonial Indonesia, 1889-1949

Peter Boomgaard

Environment and History 5(1999): 257-292

Deforestation of mountain slopes in Java began to be perceived as a problem around 1850. This led to the establishment of a colonial Forest Service and, from c. 1890 onwards, to the creation of protected forests. Forest Service personnel were also heavily involved in the organised conservation movement dating from the 1910s. This organisation, in turn, urged the colonial government to take legislative action regarding the protection of nature, thus stimulating the creation of nature and wildlife reserves. Although the conservation movement was almost entirely a Dutch affair, its character was, not surprisingly, 'Orientalist' and colonial, and therefore quite different from the movement in the Netherlands. Too little was done too late, but the measures taken preserved some 'nature' that otherwise would have been lost, and created a framework that is still being used today.


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