Bamboo publications


In response to your inquiry about the proposed bamboo identification manual
which we hope INBAR will spearhead: some tentative thoughts--

A major task for the world bamboo communities is to develop appropriate
infrastructure to support the long processes which will put bamboo more
strongly into local and, perhaps, world resource calculations. As with any
resource, immense work is involved. Look how many years it took to develop
that gooey black ooze into petrochemicals--not that that particular
development process is a meaningful model for bamboo.

The history of the Philippines, common to nearly all nations colonized by
western imperialists, shows almost 500 years during which the pre-existing
norms were ripped out and displaced by the conquering western cultures. Those
processes may now be coming to some logical conclusions thereby opening more
possibilites for past and present locally-based ways to influence a better

I hope that developing bamboo as a more widely used resource will consist
more of adapting local processes to contemporary local needs than
substitutions within primarily western-oriented or export products for now
depleted other resources such as wood.

It is within this context that the recent First National Conference on Bamboo
in the Philippines acquires added significance in my view. I note that this
conference was an outgrowth of the Bali World Bamboo Congress in 1995. We,
individually and collectively, are building and expanding on the work done by
INBAR and the other bamboo organizations.

The existence of a dynamically expanding set of related format
INBAR-sponsored publications or manuals would be a significant step in the
direction of determining and then actualizing the potential of bamboo as a
contemporary resource. A first effort naturally would be some sort of
identification manual. I would hope that the manual developed will break the
bonds of purely scientific or taxonomic considerations. I would hope that the
listing and depiction of each identified bamboo would also include listing
and depiction of uses and utliizations of that bamboo as they are known and
naming where, the specific areas, within which that use is known.

From western perspectives, we also have works such as the University of
Stuttgart's IL31 within which considerable detail is available on bamboo
utilizations, albeit primarily archetectural. A volume belongs in the bamboo
set which collects the archetectural and building experiences in Colombia,
Costa Rica, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, China and elsewhere both west
and east where bamboo is being used effectively in today's terms. Another
volume which concentrated on the myriad utilitarian uses of bamboo as tools
and aids to living is sugggested. Still another which focuses on arts and
crafts uses would be appreciated. A fine arts history and appreciation of the
highest artistic and spiritual contexts for bamboo would cap such as set or

Probably optimal publications would incorporate the heart of David Farrelly's
work, the pragmatics of one like "Joe" Caasi of the Philippines and the
academic details of the taxonomists all rolled up into physically tough
handbooks for workshop, laboratory, home and field. A tall order and one
which bamboo fully merits.

As Richard Waters, American Bamboo Society chair on arts and crafts, likes to
point out, "Bamboo is more than just a plant." Of course, one major
difficulty here in the US and to differing degrees elsewhere is availability
of bamboo to use and to utilize. People like Simon Henderson and Daphne Lewis
of Bamboo People in Washington state along with an expanding number of others
who are involved in larger scale growing of bamboo are exemplars moving to
increase supply, to advance practical knowledge and to provide training. The
pragmatic Joe Caasi's of the bamboo world need as much or more coverage than
the more academic approaches. Establishing a regenerating and diverse supply
of bamboos adequate for projected demands is as necessary as understanding
tensile strength and other important technical issues. 

All of the bamboo advancement processes are of the systems nature of
"both/and" and "and/and"; that is, complementary, inclusive and open. We are
all parts of the global system expanding feedback loops and thereby
participating in important aspects of rebalancing the planet. Bamboo is a
prime example of the negentropic or anti-entropic qualities available in
nature. Working to understand, to expand and to actualize those natural
qualities is a challenge worthy of poet and pragmatist.

The pragmatics of a publication challenge such as a manual or set of manuals
focusing on 1) identification/taxonomy; 2) pragmatics of growing bamboo and
3) uses and utilizations of bamboo are immensely complex. For example,
Richard Waters is advocating expanding the ABS Source List to include
suitable uses for each particular bamboo and then to add in the sources
section the names of people and companies who are using them or have cut
culms or pieces of that particular bamboo for sale. I hear rumors and get
snatches of tantilizing information about bamboo efforts in Australia and
other countries which merit some kind of followup beyond my resources. To
have references related to supplies of particular bamboos being developed for
particular uses in distant places would be a significant inclusion for a
basic manual.

To begin dealing with the pragmatics, I would advocate designing a strategy
for the publishing program in terms of end-users. Part of that strategic
design is identifying audiences both apparent and peripheral to the stated
purposes of the publications--which I would see ever expanding in scope
myself. The collected database would then have multiple uses and spread the
expenses across more publications. The entire effort would necessarily be
seen as on-going with expansions, new editions and widening audience
possibilities all focusing on bamboo as more than just a plant.

The narrower the enduser definitions, the narrower the possibilities for
securing financial as well as other participation. For example, given the
popularity of David Farrelly's book, now in second printing, a broader based
strategic concept or vision, if you will, involving a set of publications on
bamboo may be more likely to attract a publisher's advance funding. Another
possibility is to attract other forms of advances in terms of 1) equity
participation in a for-profit publishing venture to which INBAR and others
involved would be contractors, 2) grant funding from private or NGO
organizations or 3) governmental participation in the publishing projects.
The world's bamboo societies represent a fourth possible funds source. The
process of planning and executing an integrated plan for such a project is
one also involving relatively sophisticated skills. With volunteers carrying
such projects the risk is getting exactly what is paid for. An approach
looking for the best of all possiblities will craft a significant mix of
volunteers, enthusiasts, professionals and, fundings.

While there is a large role for volunteer participation in research and, to a
degree, data gathering; I suspect that the scope of the project (at least as
I would visualize it and urge) will demand some very strong professional
participation in design of data organization and information collection as
well as the actual database development involved in a project with staggering
amounts of widely scattered information most likely in incompatible formats
as well as languages. 

When the relevant data for the intitial publication spectifications are
finally assembled in some manageable format and availability (which today
demands powerful computer and data storage capacity), then the equally
formidable task of intregrating, selecting, writing and graphic presentation
begins. With that in progress, another parallel process involves the design
and layout of the publications. The pre-press processes are another major
task now largely undertaken with powerful programs and computer-based
graphics capacities as well as capabilities. This kind of existing
capabilities for such tasks is seen, in the US, with Time-Life Books,
Smithsonian Books, Sierra Club Books and numerous others who have staff and
technology in-being or strong contractors with the equipment, staff and
experience. Major academic-based presses also possess the relevent skill
bases to manage such a project.

If my recent Philippine experience is any guide, had I depended entirely on
the conventional in-country sources primarily from academic and scientific
institutions, I would have missed a great deal as well as learning a great
deal. I believe it is immensely important to understand the cultural and
societal situations, micro-economic contexts and micro-climatic influences
which largely determine the socio-economic actualities of bamboo in a
particular area. One matter which always impresses me is the range of
differences which evolve in island areas compared with continental areas. The
evolution of bamboo in the Philippines is quite different f rom what I saw in
Indonesia. To project to the general from the specific based on one country's
or one geographic region's experience can lead to misleading expectations.
For example, what worked for Joe Caasi in Davao, Mindanao did not work in
Santa Cruz, Laguna, Luzon--not two hundred miles away. And the principles
involved were similar enough that he could successfully recognize the
differences and compensate for them. The learning there, at least for me, is
to understand the principles as including significant room for variation and
difference so that rigidity is avoided in practice. That is, there is no
"right" way to grow or to use bamboo in any particular place or application.
There are many "right" ways and the more we know about more of them, the
better off we are. 

I am suggesting thereby that independent field work can also produce
important data which might otherwise be overlooked. Similar opportunities
were present in Bali where Linda Garland's efforts added dimensions which
might otherwise have been unavailable. I am sorry that my time committments
and funds limitations kept me from extended visits to other Indonesian
islands and areas. From all the scattered information which dribbles in
through participation in conferences, books, magazines and such; I am aware
of myraid research opportunities which would fit into a coordinated set of
bamboo publications aimed at a broadening audience for bamboo information as
well as suggestions and directions for growing and using this wonderful plant

The openings becoming available through the bamboo families developing from
internet contacts cannot be over-emphasized. These media are, in spite of the
exaggeration, frustrations and learning curves involved, simply magnificent.

In terms of people who might contribute to the committee, I would suggest you
pay appropriate homage to the academics and scientists and, in parallel,
search for people with publishing and marketing skills to carry the balance
when positive votes are needed.

Right now I would hope for some strong visionary leadership to get this
effort going.

Milo Clark