On a muggy morning near Vinh Cuu, a town about 60 miles north of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, a blue Toyota pickup whizzed by dense tropical scrub. Vietnam War … “Now I’d like to return to natural forests. Various trees and plants evolved natural latex as a defense against insects. Agent Orange An herbicide dropped on the forests and bush in Vietnam to defoliate (strip the leaves from plants and trees) an area. From traveling in a car and typing on a computer to practicing safe sex and undergoing a medical operation, the commodity is essential for experiencing the world as you know it. Hopea logs were made into canoe-like boats that once ferried rice and coal around southern Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. It was fought between North Vietnam and South Vietnam. Beatings and rapes accompanied lesser forms of torture, including meager wages and insufficient food. A landmark 1998 decree set a goal of restoring Vietnam’s forest cover to 1940s levels by 2010 through planting 5 million hectares (19,300 square miles) of trees — 2 million for reserves and 3 million for wood production. You know what kinds of animals love a hot, humid … Such a setup not only left workers even more susceptible to malaria and the many other pathogens lurking in the wild, but also came at a great financial cost that ultimately left them unable to compete with Southeast Asian plantations where the blight was not found, and thus systematic planting could be implemented. Strangely, the teak trees that I’ve come across are often in eerie or significant places, such as dotting Hill A1 in Dien Bien Phu, the remote northwestern corner of Vietnam where the bloody final battle of the Franco-Vietnam war took place in 1954. Even if native Dipterocarps are valuable in the long term — Hopea odorata logs are worth at least three to four times more than acacia logs — they take at least 30 years to mature, as opposed to five years for acacia. Thirty-five years after North Vietnamese tanks entered Ho Chi Minh City — formerly Saigon — and four decades after U.S. forces destroyed ordamaged large swaths of Vietnamese forest with bombs and defoliants, this landscape is a window into Vietnam’s struggle to regenerate its once-abundant forests. Mike Ives is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously covered Vietnam for The Economist and The New York Times. Vietnam – good growing conditions for acacia trees. As of 2018, Vietnam is the world’s third-largest producer and exporter of rubber, boasting shipments of 1.58 million tons, worth over US$2.1 billion, a 14.5% increase in volume over the previous year. The surrounding forest had served as a haven for the Viet Cong; 10 miles away the Communist guerillas had dug a network of tunnels. That, sadly, is not reality. For their part, the French corporations were accused of excessive tapping and unsustainable practices so as to exact as much short-term profit as possible in light of the uncertain political future. Yet we paid the owners of the Michelin plantations $600 for each rubber tree we damaged, while the family of a slain Vietnamese child got no more than $120 in payout for a life.”. Companies and private individuals faced a back-and-forth with government officials. China is the world’s largest latex consumer, and any decrease in manufacturing or increased prices could destabilize the commodity, though some theorize India’s increased consumption could offset a drop in China’s. An ambitious, disjointed and often inefficient scientific approach was taken to exploring the best ways to exploit rubber for profit in and around Saigon. This is cause for major concern in Vietnam, as the nation exports 80% of the latex it produces. These native stands of trees have been badly decimated not only in Vietnam but across all of Southeast Asia. The earlier murder of Alfred François Bazin, a Hanoi-based labor recruiter for the company, revealed both the resentment plantations had fomented and the lengths at which Vietnamese were willing to go to put an end to them. Founded in 1995 by Danaan Parry and Jerilyn Brusseau — whose brother, U.S. Army helicopter pilot Lt. Daniel Cheney, was shot down and killed during the Vietnam War in 1969 — PeaceTrees Vietnam is a shining example to the world of how tragedy and conflict can be transformed into peace and partnership. The “Ba Vai” tree is also over 800 years old, 20m high and trunk diameter of 1.8m. Without rubber, you could not enjoy the life you have now. Not all revolutionaries, however, condoned the wanton destruction of the plantations. When planted in neat rows, rubber trees in the area were susceptible to a devastating plague known as South American Leaf Blight. This hasn’t stopped officials around the world from attempting to classify plantations as "forests," as opposed to "agriculture," for the sake of carbon credits under various programs. It's worth noting that whatever disregard the American military held for rubber holdings, it was worse for Vietnamese people. The average pickup-truck tire consists of nearly 50% natural rubber, while larger industrial vehicle tires are 90% and airplane tires practically 100% rubber. Our country is ruined, we are wretched, we pay heavy taxes and duties, we are beaten and thrown in prison for the slightest offense. These are the best Vietnam … In doing so, however, individuals and small communities, often living on the margins of society, miss opportunities for economic independence and security, instead placing themselves at the mercy of large bureaucracies. Binh claims it was rare for a week to pass without someone being crushed by a tree, while broken limbs were commonplace. By the end of the war in 1975, estimates put Vietnam's forest coverage at just 17%, down from more than 40% in the 1940s. Vietnamese members of rubber unions in particular, argued that while they could serve important roles in resisting and overthrowing the French, their basic functionalities and infrastructure needed to remain intact so as to provide the future Vietnamese economy with necessary funds. A 1964 CIA memorandum that the US government only declassified in 2006 provides a remarkably straightforward and cynical assessment of the “gloomy” situation. By Mike Ives The foreign companies and French colonial administration weren't willing to abandon their lucrative latex dreams, however; upon the defeat of the Japanese, they set about re-establishing rubber production and bringing back or re-training as many workers as they could. 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