From Rhizome To Renaissance: Engaging Integral Bamboo Systems for Sustainable Development

Dr. Jonathan M. Scherch
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For centuries, the bamboo plant has been an integral feature of socio-cultural development throughout the world and much can be learned from the interdependent relationships manifest therein. As diverse as the species and characteristics of bamboo itself, its thousands of uses have been employed as sources of food and fuel, tools and building materials, housing, furniture, art and more. In China, some four million hectares of bamboo forest presently support products and services representing livelihoods of five million people and valued at US$1.5 billion as of 2000. With initiatives intended to promote sustainable development of bamboo resources, attention is increasingly being paid by Chinese officials to optimize best practices of bamboo cultivation, processing and usage to safeguard stocks from harmful exploitation. While officials recognize that bamboo as an industry is thriving, pursuing sustainable bamboo business practices could create many compelling economic development opportunities for both urban and rural locales. Accordingly, this paper will discuss efforts undertaken in China and elsewhere to advance sustainable bamboo industry activities and introduce an innovative supply resource management framework for assessing bamboo industry "best practices." Focusing on whole-system performance benchmarks for related practices of bamboo agro-forestry and cultivation, product manufacturing methods, and economic development strategies, the framework utilizes an integrated business model featuring four key conditions for sustainable performance: People (social welfare), Planet (ecological health), Profit (financial efficacy), and Plant (sustainable bamboo cultivation). This “Four P” model (or “quadruple bottom-line”) and its assessment framework is discussed as means of achieving and maintaining vital bamboo business and industry performance congruent with sustainable social, economic and environmental quality expectations within China and beyond.

Keywords: Bamboo Systems, Economic Development, Agroforestry, Permaculture, China
Stream: Economic Sustainability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: From Rhizome to Renaissance

Dr. Jonathan M. Scherch

Core Faculty, Graduate Programs in Environment & Community
Center for Creative Change, Antioch University Seattle


I bring to my work various writing, teaching, research, and leadership experiences. Having served as Chair of the Graduate Programs in Environment and Community from 1998 to 2002 at Antioch University Seattle, I am presently a Core Faculty member within Antioch's emerging Center for Creative Change. I teach a variety of graduate courses including: Ecological Sustainability; Philosophical Perspectives in Environment and Community; Theories and Practices of Social and Environmental Change; Reflective Practicum II, Topics of Environmental Sustainability; Tools and Techniques of Interdisciplinary Environmental Analysis; Permaculture Design Certification; Critical Inquiry; and Ethics and Environmental Justice. I hold a Ph.D. in Social Work from the University of Tennessee and an M.S.W. in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh. My professional interests include social and environmental change processes, low-impact and ecological (permaculture) design methodologies, growing non-profit and for-profit partnerships, sustainable food systems and agriculture, international bamboo cultures, appropriate technology transfer, integrated biosystems and zero-emission business ecologies. A returned United States Peace Corps volunteer (Kingston, Jamaica, 1991-93), I have been involved in community organizing and sustainable development initiatives for some 15 years. Recent publications are: Scherch, J. (2005). Models of Sustainability. In John Nolt's (Ed.) A Land Imperilled: The Declining Ecological Health of Southern Appalachia. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. Scherch, J. (2004). Riverton: Envisioning a Sustainable Community. In D. Fauri, S. Wernet & F.E. Netting's (Eds.) Cases in Social Work Macro Practice, 2nd Edition. New York: Allyn & Bacon. My website:

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