Box 70, Item 1: Draft of The 'fight for the forests' affair


Box 70, Item 1: Draft of The 'fight for the forests' affair


Printout of draft, undated. Paper published, Routley R and Plumwood V (1986), 'The "Fight for the Forests" affair', in Martin B, Baker CMA, Manwell C and Pugh C (eds) Intellectual suppression: Australian case histories, analysis and responses, Angus and Robertson, Sydney.


Unnumbered paper from collection, item number assigned by library staff.



The University of Queensland's Richard Sylvan Papers UQFL291, Box 70 Item 1


This item was identified for digitisation at the request of The University of Queensland's 2020 Fryer Library Fellow, Dr. N.A.J. Taylor.


For all enquiries about this work, please contact the Fryer Library, The University of Queensland Library.


[4] leaves. 702.07 KB.





Richard & Val Routley.
R. Routley has been since 1971
Senior Fellow in the Department of Philosophy, Research School of
Social Sciences, A.N.U.;
the position is tenured with a 5 year
bar, at that time passed more or less automatically. V. Routley
is author of a number of published papers both on philosophy and
on environmental subjects.
Title & Contents:
'The Fight for the Forests' (1st edition 1973,
290 pages) looked at the situation of Australian forests, especially
proposed and progressing industrial development of the forests such
as in pine and woodchip schemes;
it discussed economic, ecological
and social aspects of these schemes and of the planning which
underlay and justified them, as well as associated issues in the
foundations of economics and environmental decision-making.
Qualifications to write the book: These were of a reasonable
generalist kind. As philosophers we were well acquainted with the
theory of scientific methodology~ probability and decision theory,
as environmentalists and keen amateur naturalists we had a reasonable
general knowledge of the biological and ecological aspects involved.
The foundations of economics is also an area of academic research
and interest.
The local forestry literature is .neither very copious
nor very specialised, so that it is fairly easy · to become more or
less completely acquainted with it. Most of it is fairly easily
understood by people with~ut professional forestry training.
Fight for the Forests' laid major emphasis on reasoning and on
methodological considerations in planning and prediction, and on \,
bringing outunderlying or hidden assumptions - especially value
assumptions - in these areas.
This is an area in which we were
well qualified to w.~ite. Given the very large range of areas involved
in discussing forestry as a social phenomenon, rangi n g from scientific
methodology and decision theory through sociology, social science,
economics and many areas of biology and ecology, our own special
areas of academic interest and in-depth knowledge were at least as
generally relevant to the issues concerned as most of those involved
in a conventional forestry training.
Care was taken to provide
full references to background work in cases where specialist areas
of knowledge were involved, so that no one had to rely simply on
our authority for claims made.
The book attempted then to present
an integrated picture of the forestry situation in Australia on
the basis of detailed knowledge of some areas relevant to the field,
as the work of foresters themselves often does,* and much of i.t
consisted of what is now known as 'applied philosophy'.
* These points should help dispel the professionalist myth, propagated
commonly by foresters, that only people with professional forestry
training are qualified to write about the forests.
Often such
foresters also advocate a closed decision-making system in which
they; as the 'relevant professionals' have sole rights of decision .
However, forestry issues raise many questions of social values which
are of general concern and shou d be widely discussed.
As well, as
noted, a very wide range of discipline areas are involved, and some
of the most important for the fate of the forests lie right outside
(continued on next page)


Character of Book: . 'The Fight for the Forests' was not a very
radical book politically but apparently offended mainly because it
attac~ed cherished programs and because of its strong emphasis on
the control of forests by the large forest industries, the close
connections of these industries with state forest services who were
allegedly employed in the public interest, and the role of professional
foresters in promoting ecologically destructive forestry developments
which were in the interests of industry. At that time the forestry
profession was a sacred cow, virtually beyond criticism, and the
book, rather predictably, was the object of intense hostility from
professional foresters (including academic foresters).
Its main
specific contentions, concerning the excessive nature of the pine
program and overestimation in planning for this program, the destructive environmental effects and uneconomic nature for the public of
pine and woodchip schemes in public forests, were at the time
controversial but have been subsequently vindicated by events and
by a number of later studies by others. The book tended to receive
unfavourable reviews from foresters, but received many favourable,
often highly favourable, reviews from non-foresters.
What happened:
Funds for printing the book were obtained, more or
less by chance, from RSSS, which at that time had a substantial
end-of-triennium surplus, without going through any refereeing system.
After final typing for photo-offset printing WfiS completed and just
a few weeks before the book was due to go to the printer, professional
foresters and sympathisers within the university appear to have got
wind of its likely contents.
(An article on pines published the
previous year, in Australian Quarterly 1972, had a substantial impact*·* l
and provided a good idea of the book's general stance). The then
Vice Chancellor, Professor R.M. Williams, suggested that printlng
should not proceed unless the book was given to the head of the
Forestry School at A.N.U., to be revised in ~ccordance with his
(Given the attitudes, beliefs, and connections of
professionals in general and this head of Department in particular,
this would almost certainly have crippled or destroyed the book.)
Footnote p.l


conventional forestry training. For example, the major and most
influential papers underlying the original planning for the pine
program in the late sixties (papers which were heavily criticised
in our work) were the product of a botanist, Dr. M.R. Jacobs,
although they were primarily concerned ~ith qti~stions of planning
and decision.
But forconsidering these questions (e.g. the popular
planning methodology of overestimating future demand
and population
to 'play safe'), it is more helpful to understand, say, methodology
and decision theory than it is to understand, say, the patterns
of seeding of various eucalypts.
No one complained about Dr. Jacobs
going outside his 'area of competence', nor was his work suppressed
or subjected to censorship on this ground, because he was covered
by the professional umbrella.
There are many similar cases, which
reveal the arbitrariness with which field restrictions are commonly
applied to restrict inquiry.

** 1

After the article appeared there was for the first time parliamentary
questioning of the pine p ogram, with some strong speeches against

and an increasingly critical attitude was

taken in the press.


Fortunately, the acting-Director of RSSS at the time was Professor
G. Sawer, who resisted this suggestion, and also kindly read
through the manuscript to check on liability to legal action;
(in the fuss preceding publication it had been suggested also that
publication should not proceed because of possible liability to
such legal action). He suggested a few minor changes of a few lines
at one or two points to safeguard against this.
Publication proceeded. The first edition of the book in 1973
sold out within a few months, and two further editions, revised and
updated, (1974, 1975) also sold out shortly after printing, making
it one of the best selling books ever distributed by A.N.U. Press.
Harassment from irate professionals and their sympathisers
within the university was not over however. We were left in no doubt
that the book had been 'an embarrassment to the university'.
In 1974
the author with library rights was prevented on order from the acting
head of the Forestry School, Professor Carron, from using the
Forestry School library.
As this contains.most forestry publications
and material, this constituted a direct attempt to block further work.
This ban was later overturned as a result of intervention from the
Biological Sciences Library Committee.
Later, RSSS, apparently in response to criticism of certain
school publications, set up a committee to review publications
Shortly afterwards we were informed that there would be
no funding available for a further edition o f the book or f o r a
a reprint o f the book. No reasons were given. We were not informed
that the book was the subj e ct of a revi e w (as t he re were at that
time no proposals by us for a further edition) . We were given no
opportunity to nominate referees, to supply relevant information,
or to influence the outcome of the review in any way. Subs e quently
the school adopted a different procedural system in which the
departments and authors concerned nominate suitable referees. There
is little doubt that, had we been given the opportunity to follow
the regular system, suitable referees could have been found to provide
favourable reports.
Meanwhile, orders ~or the now out-of-print book
continue to arrive, and it continues to be favourably reviewed and
mentioned, both in Australia and overseas.
There is little doubt
that a further edition or reprint could have been sold. Attempts to
prevent publication were, therefore, ult.Lmately successful.
As a sequel, the production
publications by School presses one - was a major ground used by
take over the School presses and
For the time being, this attempt

of certain unspecified 'controversial'
of which our book was, reportedl½
ANU Press in its recent attempt to
gain central control over publication.
has failed.

General comments:
The situation in the forestry profession showed,
at the time we were working in the area at least, a very high degree
of suppression and professional cohesiveness, and an exceptional
degree of conformity and absence of critical .voices. This probably
is so pronounced because of the great control and influence exerted
by a highly restricted body of employers, namely, a few large forest
industries and the state forest services. For the same reasons perhaps,
there was a high degree of secrecy and control of information.


We encountered many severe cases of suppression in the forest~y
profession (applyi·n g in a·cademic, research, bureaucratic and state
forest service areas) and in related biological areas. This
included action by state forest services to terminate the research
projects (in state forests) of those who made public statements
unfavourable to them, or who supplied information or were associa.t~d
with those who did, and many other .- adverse effects on the careers
or prospects of potentially critical professionals. The influence
of state forest services reached within the university (ANU).
Suppression was so regular and pronounced that we believe it is
probably true that no one inside the profession or discipline
could have, at that time, written a book similar to 'The Fight
for the Forests'.
Such criticism could only appear where it slipped
past :· the usual professional c9ntrol and suppression mechanisms,
as our book did.
The general suppression mechanism illustrated by this case
then appears to be:
a combination of indoctrination and intimidation,
plus well-developed professional loyalty, ensures that significant
criticism does not originate from inside the profession or
discipline itself, or does so only in a rare, muted and easily
ov~rlooked form;
at the same time the professionalism mystique
and the discipline system is invoked, as it was in our case, to
ensure that no one outside the profession _can make such criticism
in a way which needs to be treated seriously (e.g. through publication
in a university series), and even to ensure that such criticism ~Y
potentially dangerous outsiders is silenced altogether. The
fragmentation of knowledge, like the fragmentation of work, is
thus used as a method of control.
It's a neat system, which nicely
protects a particular set of doctrines and interests.

R. & V. Routley
Research School of so c ial Sciences
Australian National University



Richard Sylvan, “Box 70, Item 1: Draft of The 'fight for the forests' affair,” Antipodean Antinuclearism, accessed December 10, 2023,

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