Volume IX, issue 1
In this issue:
I can't believe I actually managed to stay indoors long enough to write this issue of the newsletter - spring is in its full exploding glory here and it would be sooo easy to just dig around in the garden, go foraging or ramble through the dales and vales of the great green yonder... But there you are: contrary to expectation, voila, the new issue of the newsletter came together just in time for Earth Day. I had been getting a bit disenchanted with the Earth Day concept - after all, what good does it do to only remember and celebrate the earth once a year? But this year a very special event is taking place in Bolivia and I really hope it will have a real impact on the way we think about and treat Mother Earth. Check out the Earth Day article below.
What else is new...well,(drumroll) 'Sacred Earth' and 'Sacred Earth Travel' both now have their own Facebook pages, so, if you would like to keep in touch with interesting news items or just hang out with other Sacred Earth friends, I invite you to join the 'Sacred Earth' page on Facebook if you 'like' it. :-) Facebook has just changed some aspect of its organization and lingo - so what used to be 'becoming a fan' is now termed 'liking' a page with a corresponding button, just to confuse everybody.
or join Sacred Earth Travel on Facebook if you want to keep posted with the latest travel news.
And, just to remind you - we now also have interactive discussion forums where members can discuss all matters concerning herbs, indigenous plant uses, or foraging topics. Drop by and join in - the more the merrier!
If you want to contribute or have any other useful comments or suggestions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you will enjoy this issue of the newsletter.
Enjoy the lovely spring (or fall, if you are in the southern hemisphere)
I would love to hear your comments, so please send your feedback to: email@example.com
I love this time of the year when Mother Earth is at her most exuberant, especially when it comes to weeds. I have been busy experimenting with my weed cuisine, concocting new delicacies every day. Usually I end up with a combination of herbs, a handful of this and a few leaves of that, depending of what is offering itself as I make my way through the garden or fields. But, this year my special attention is firmly focused on goutweed, which I am happy to have found in the garden.
I am probably the only person ever to have said this! Goutweed is most gardeners nightmare of an invasive weed. The mere mention of it distorts their faces with agony. I don't really understand why, though. Ok, it is invasive, but it is such a generous herb! It pops up very early in the season and can be used as a tasty fresh green with just about anything. I have made soups and salads as well as fillings for things like empanadas, cannelloni and lasagna. Of course you can just serve it as a green or make a pesto with it. It is also one of the best candidates for the 'greens jar'. A greens jar is where any surplus herbs end up, if I have picked more than I need for the next meal. I dry them, crumble them up and put them in the jar, no matter what they are. I love this concept of an ever changing herb-mixture ready to use in soups and what not when those herbs are no longer in season or not very palatable anymore.
Goutweed is a member of the apiaceae also known as the umbellifer family. It has many tasty relatives, such as carrot, parsnip or fennel. However, there are also some very poisonous members in this family - like the deadly water hemlock, the herb that infamously was used to execute Socrates. So if you intend to pick ANY of the umbellifers for food, make sure you are absolutely certain you have ID'd them correctly - a mistake could be fatal. However, Goutweed does not look much like Water Hemlock, so chances of mistaking it are quite remote. More dangerous for US based foragers is the similarity of its leaves with those of poison ivy. Like those of that vicious vine its leaves also sprout in threes and have a similar size and shape. Again, be very careful and very certain you have the correct species before you start munching it, or even start picking it.
One distinguishing feature - Goutweed will NEVER grow as a vine. But poison ivy does not always grow as a vine either. Once the flowers are out they are easier to distinguish, as goutweed has typical umbel shaped flowers while poison ivy has trailing flower clusters. Goutweed never develops any woody parts and its leaves are not glossy. Prior to unfurling the very young leaves are shiny and bright green. Goutweed does not look hairy. It loves popping up as a weed in gardens, but can also be found in damp shady places in the woods or hedges. In Europe it likes to grow in the company of nettles, another delicious edible and quite invasive species.
As the name suggests, Goutweed was once used to alleviate the pain of gout. This medicinal use has gone out of fashion in modern herbalism and I cannot attest to its efficacy since I do not suffer from this very painful condition. However, I can attest to its cleansing action and general beneficial effect on elimination. Goutweed is a useful herb to help 'move things around' whenever there is an energy blockage in the body. It is a diuretic, but it also gently stimulates digestion and metabolism. It is a good source of vitamin C and A as well as minerals such as iron and manganese, copper and trace minerals such as boron and titanium.
In the US it occurs throughout the Eastern States as well as in the Pacific Northwest, though it is not as abundant as in the Old World, where once upon a time it was purposely planted as a vegetable. Once established it is almost impossible to eradicate and so, to this day, it occurs throughout Europe, from Scandinavia to the south of Italy.
Goutweed is very versatile and can be used like spinach. Older leaves develop a more pungent flavor.
Sautee the onions till soft. Add mushrooms and garlic. Add the potatoes and sautee for 3 minutes or so. Add Vegetable stock (about 1 liter) and cook the soup until the potatoes are soft. Add the goutweed and simmer for about 5 minutes. Puree, dilute to desired consistency and add salt, pepper, chilies or other herbs to taste.
Make your empanada pastry (many people just use a basic shortcrust recipe, but feel free to make the dough as fancy as you like. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. Roll it out in 6" diameter rounds.
For the filling, cube the tofu and fry in a little bit of soy sauce until crispy. Put aside. Sautee onion mushrooms and garlic, add seasoning
Add goutweed, stir in and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the tofu bits. You should now have a pan full of delicious filling for your empanadas. Cool the filling for an hour or so.
Preheat the oven to 350°F = 176°C
Place a handful of filling in the center of your empanada round and fold it over to make a parcel. Press together the edges, with a little water if necessary to make them stick. Glaze with egg-wash (egg yolk mixed with a little water). Line a cookie sheet with baking paper and place the empanadas on it. Bake for about 30 min.
No doubt you'll come up with dozens more delicious recipes - that is the wonderful thing about things like Goutweed, which just provide you with a tasty, healthy green to add to just about anything.
That all the earth is fragile and that we must not take from her beyond what she can sustain. Overharvesting, particularly due to commercial collection of medicinal plants has brought many once plentiful plant species to the brink of extinction. As 'plant people', we should adopt an attitude of green guardianship for mother earth, who so plentifully provides for us.
Here are the rules that every forager should live and breathe by:
Get to know the plants that grow around you on a personal, first name basis: familiarize yourself with the herbs, bushes and trees in your neighborhood, try to learn as much as possible about the ecosystem of which you are a part and the plant members of your 'extended family'. Learn to identify them correctly and investigate all their uses. Try to understand it as part of a larger ecosystem. Which animals like it or dislike it? With which other plants does it form communities? Is it native or invasive? Does it protect the ground or deplete it of any of its nutrients? How does it 'fit' into its environment? What can you learn from its chemistry? Building this kind of holistic knowledge base will give you a much deeper insight into the nature of a plant and its role within the ecosystem. Its a lengthy process, but vital if you want to truly get to know your plant friends and the habitat you share.
It is especially important that you learn to identify the poisonous plants you are likely to encounter, lest they inadvertently end up on your dinner plate, which could be most unpleasant or in the worst case scenario, even lethal. The importance of this point is completely obvious, but cannot be stressed enough. Some people hold the false and dangerous belief that what can be found in nature cannot harm them. DO NOT EAT ANYTHING YOU CANNOT POSITIVELY IDENTIFY AND DEEM SAFE. When you think you know a plant, think again and see what other, non-edible look-alikes might be fooling you. This is even more important when it comes to collecting mushrooms, as there are many poisonous mushrooms out there that have evolved to be masters at deceiving unsuspecting mushroom hunters. There are also many more potentially deadly mushrooms with edible look-alikes than there are deadly plants with edible look-alikes.
Familiarize yourself with the plants that are listed on the endangered species list for your area. Apart from being unethical, it is also highly illegal to pick endangered plant species. Instead of taking rare plants, consider sowing their seeds in the wild.
Only pick as much as you need and never take ALL the plants of any one kind in a given patch. After harvesting an area give the plants plenty of time to recover before returning to the same patch. Be especially conscientious when it comes to harvesting roots and barks. Remember that often harvesting roots means the death of the plant, so before you start digging ask yourself if this plant is really plentiful and if it can sustain a harvest of its roots. If in doubt, don't collect. Consider growing some in your garden rather than depleting natural stands. Collecting barks can also be fatal to a tree. If you must collect this part, try to collect it from smaller branches rather than the stem, from branches that have fallen, or from trees that are due to be cut for other purposes.
However tempting it may look, never pick in places that are subject to pollution from roads, industry or heavy spraying of farm chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers etc.). And don't collect from nature reserves either - these are areas set up to protect wild species, so give them their space and let them be!
Cast seeds of native species to the earth and to the winds once in a while - as a way of giving something back. Consider adopting a little patch that you are particularly fond of. When you are out and about, never leave any litter behind, but try to bring some back with you - I always carry two bags, one for foraging and one for litter picking. Give thanks to the plants and to Mother Earth who has provided them.
This year EARTHDAY is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Lots of things have changed for the better in those 40 years and environmental awareness is certainly growing. But unfortunately that has not stopped us from carrying on with our polluting ways. CO2 emissions have hugely increased since then, despite the fact that we now also have windmills and solar-power and more energy efficient gadgets.
A big part of the problem is told by 'the story of stuff': which is the story about our ravenous consumerist appetite that treats resources as infinite – a disastrous fallacy which nevertheless forms the foundation of our current economic system with it misguided idea of infinite growth. That infinite growth is an illusion, and a glaringly obvious one at that. I shared this little flic here once before. It shows the insanity of consumerism as we know it: As a reminder of the absurdity of it all watch the Story of stuff on http://www.thestoryofstuff.com. (Great site!)
Climate change is the biggest issue of our times, there is no denying it. Those who have had the least impact on it are going to be the ones who will suffer its consequences most severely: plants, animals and the poorest people. As the Climate Conference in Copenhagen has shown, rich countries have not the least intention to take responsibility for the mess they have created. A lot of talk has resulted in little more than just more hot air. It is unlikely that we will make any progress with the old way of doing things. We need entirely new paradigms, a vision that cuts through the materialistic, greed-based model of reality in which we are all presently caught up.
Despite the sobering outcome at Copenhagen, I feel heartened and actually more hopeful about Earth Day than I have done for years. Why? Because a groundbreaking initiative is underway in Bolivia: the call for the 'World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth'. A bit of a mouthful, I admit, but this conference promises to become the most meaningful Earth Day Event ever:
The Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia calls on the peoples of the world, social movements and Mother Earth's defenders, and invites scientists, academics, lawyers and governments that want to work with their citizens to the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth to be held from 20th to 22nd April 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
"If we are all part of a single interdependent system, why should only humans have rights, and nature be treated simply as the object of human interests?" reads a conference statement. "Only by recognizing and defending the rights of Mother Earth can we restore balance on the planet. ... As long as humans treat Mother Earth as a slave with no rights, it will be impossible to recover our humanity."
I could not have put my feelings on this matter in better words of my own. I am truly elated that at long last the sacredness of Mother Earth is being addressed and in an international public and political forum at that!
Of course, giving 'rights' to something or someone, be it humans, animals, plants or Mother Earth, is only meaningful if we implement a system that protects and defends these rights. Abusers must be held responsible and prosecuted. And while there are such notions afoot, the practical implementation is absolutely daunting.
Criminalization has many inherent problems. For a start, the biggest polluters are not individual people that can be prosecuted but corporations or even governments. How can they be held accountable, except through paying fines? When money is involved at this sort of scale I always get suspicious. What judicial system can be trusted to stand above corruption? Those who will benefit the most will be lawyers. How will fines be used to clean up the mess in question? Or would it not be better to let fines pay for research into cleaner technologies, while the guilty should pay for the clean up of their mess separately. And what about pollution that has long been, and still is, politically sanctioned by the majority, despite its implicit and explicit dangers for future generations?
Take nuclear power for example. To this day there is no practical solution as to how to deal with or dispose safely of its waste materials, let alone methods for safely dismantling old facilities. The technology should never have been allowed to be developed in the first place. But now we are stuck with God knows how many reactors and some people are even trying to paint this technology as a 'green' energy solution, because it does not produce CO2 emissions. However, the waste is highly toxic – probably the most toxic substance known to wo/mankind. Who will be held responsible for unleashing it onto humanity? And even if we identify a scapegoat – that does not render the waste any less toxic, nor does it make it any easier to deal with for future generations.
We need to find solutions that are workable. Even solar panels contain harmful chemicals. How will they be disposed of? What will be their legacy for our children's children? Or, consider all the highly toxic wastes generated by old computers that are filling up the landfills? We have all contributed to these.
We have to find a way forward, and fast, but I fear simply criminalizing polluters is not going to solve the problem. We need a paradigm shift that takes these matters – the long-term effect of new technologies, into consideration BEFORE we go all out with the manufacturing phase.
The well-being of all life on earth must become the guiding principle for all political and economic decisions and actions. As long as our corporations and governments continue to promote business and policies that pollute and harm the planet we all as citizens and consumers share in their guilt and will pay the price, one way or another. But, as citizens and consumers we, the people have the power to demand that paradigm change and vote with our purchasing power for a 'greener', healthier way of life – MAKE EARTH DAY EVERY DAY!
Even if you don't do anything else for Earth Day, please do watch this film (click on the image to watch it online for free). It is a powerful and moving documentary about earth, our home, its predicament - caused by us, and some glimmers of hope as to how things could be changed...
A socially and environmentally responsible tourism initiative in the Andes
Imagine living somewhere in a small village high up in the Andes, tending animals and growing a few meager subsistence crops. Survival is a daily battle. Your dwelling is a small adobe hut that you share with 5 other people. Electricity and water are luxuries. There is no transportation, walking, sometimes for days is the only way to get around, to get to the market towns, to get to school or wherever you need to go. Imagine watching well clad tourists with guides and pack animals walking by your hut or field at regular intervals, looking at your 'charming' abode, not knowing the hardships of the daily life within.
Tourists have been coming to Peru in ever increasing numbers, yet most people benefit little from it - especially when the operators or hotel chain management is an international corporation. At best they might work as porters on the various treks. Their pay is often not very good, especially when working with one of the cut throat discount 'cheapest of cheap' tour operators. It is disheartening and frustrating that all these tourists dollars have so little effect on improving the living conditions of local people.
To alleviate this situation a small tour operator in Cusco has started to work with one local community that has expressed a wish to get involved with sustainable tourism to provide services to tourists, and in turn to allow tourists to really interact with them through a range of volunteer projects. If you really want to get to know the heart and soul of the people, this project is a great opportunity to give back and to partake in a tiny glimpse of Andean reality - and to be part of the positive change that is taking place there.
Projects range from supporting efforts to fix up the most needy and dilapidated dwellings, to buying and donating school supplies, to cooking breakfast for about 30 school kids, to buying and supplying hygiene kits to local people and to teach them how to use them, to planting trees as part of the UN project.
This volunteer program is very direct in the sense that you personally will have a huge impact on these people's lives. You can see directly where your money is going and you can be sure that it will benefit those who it was intended for. The community has built a campground and kitchen where volunteers can stay and meals are provided. Most volunteer initiatives take 1 day, but you can stay longer if you wish, or integrate a volunteering day into your itinerary. For more information send us an e-mail.
It is the unbelievable speed at which the loss is occurring that is truly frightening. Species have come and gone since the day of creation, there is nothing new about that. But what is happening right now is not due to a natural disaster, but to human misconduct. It is because of our mismanagement of habitats and resources that plants and animals are finding it impossible to survive. Urban sprawl, desertification, global warming, pollution, over exploitation all conspire to destroy habitat and/or food supplies of one species after another.
The Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon declared 2010 as the 'International Year of Biodiversity', no doubt in the hope of drawing attention to the fact that we are losing species at an alarming rate. Although we do not really know how many species actually exist on the planet at any one time, it is estimated that we are losing about 15 of them per day. (That is 5475 per YEAR!)
To be sure, in the course of its existence earth has generated and lost more species than currently inhabit the planet. No doubt, in time it will regenerate and create conditions appropriate for new species to evolve. However, I dare say, human beings will not be part of that version of life on earth. We seem to forget that humans are at the top of the food chain, which means that ultimately we depend on every other species which, in this hierarchical view of the world, sits below us, - even those we do not utilize for food or anything else. In the web of life each species is connected with every other. By destroying it we destroy our own basis of existence.
But for some reason there seems to be a prevalent attitude of either 'devil may care' or an irrational belief in science and technology that 'they will fix it'. Science is the new religion and scientists are the saints that are supposed to work miracles. And sure enough, they always come up with new solutions that are supposed to solve our problems. Unfortunately more often than not the solutions create more problems than they solve.
Consider seeds, for example. Seeds are the basis of all life. Before the advent of agriculture humans gathered and hunted for their daily needs. Their diet typically comprised of some 250 species, which were available to them, though not all at the same time, of course. Once we started to settle we focused our attention on certain particular plants to grow in our fields and gardens. Over hundreds of generations we developed countless varieties of our favorite species, which me managed to adapt to specific locations and micro-climates. We actually helped to increase biodiversity through a direct and personal interaction with nature. This process can be considered at the very heart of ethnobotany, since many such special crops are also the foundation of cultural identity and play a significant part in ceremony and ritual. Literally thousands of species evolved at the hands of dedicated farmers and gardeners throughout the world.
Life depends on diversity - be part of it.
Somewhere, hidden deep within the heart of the Chhindwara district in Madhya Pradesh, lies Patalkot, a verdant valley that seems to exist within its own time and space. About 3000 tribal people live here in small villages that are scattered throughout the valley. Until recently few outsiders ever knew this place existed. But now the modern age is encroaching even on this hidden corner, and with it comes the threat of deforestation, which ultimately will undermine the basis of human existence in this fragile ecosystem. So far people have managed to live in harmony with the earth, but with commercial logging moving in that balance can no longer be maintained. Yet, there are few opportunities. The government in Delhi is far away and has no time or concern for the pleas of a handful of tribals. The future of Patalkot hangs in a precarious balance and the scales can be tipped either way.
Dr. Deepak Acharya is an ambassador for the tribals and their pleas. He has dedicated himself to helping to preserve their heritage and lifestyle by means of an independent charity. He also seeks to make the unique knowledge of the tribal people better known. You can visit the website of Abhumka to learn more about Patalkot and the traditional tribal uses of plants.
by Dr Deepak Acharya and Dr Anshu Shrivastava
In the previous issue we discussed medicinal uses and indigenous knowledge regarding 5 Indian spices i.e. Onion, Garlic, Coriander, Cumin and Mango Ginger. This is the second in a 4 part article which in all will cover 20 common Indian spices. In this issue, we share information about Turmeric, Cardamom, Fennel, Kokum and Curry Leaf Tree
The powdered rhizomes are widely used as a spice and condiment in many Indian foods. Traditionally Turmeric is used as an antiseptic in India. Women commonly use it in skin care preparations, particularly to discourage facial hair and acne. In the Indian systems of medicine it is considered alterative, stomachic and also given as a blood purifier. The rhizome is orally used as a digestive stimulant (Padhmanathan et al., 2005), and it is said to be effective in bronchitis and cough (Ghazanfar and Al-sabahi, 1993). They are also applied externally as an antivenin (Selvanayahgam et al., 1994). A decoction of the rhizome is given for rheumatic pain in joints bones and limbs (Kong, 1977) and to promote menses (Couvee, 1952). A decoction of the entire plant is administered orally for renal or urinary calculi (Mukerjee et al., 1984). The juice of the rhizome is taken orally for hepatitis and as a poultice for bruises (Duke, 1994). Leaves are used externally along with Moringa oleifera leaves and buttermilk to treat wounds (Reddy et al., 1989). The juice of the fresh plant is said to be anthelmintic (Suwal, 1970).
Read full article or jump to:
Acknowledgement: We acknowledge tribesmen of Patalkot, Dangs and Aravallis for sharing their much valued information with us.
Dr Deepak Acharya (MSc PhD) is Director, Abhumka Herbal Pvt Limited. He can be reached at deepak at abhumka.com or deepak at patalkot.com. For more information about him, please visit www.abhumka.com and www.patalkot.com
Acharya, D. and Shrivastava, A. 2008. Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices. Aavishkar Publishers Distributors, Jaipur. ISBN 978-81-7910-252-7.
Manihot esculenta Crantz
A tropical herbaceous perennial plant growing up to 3 - 5m in height. The leaves are deeply indented, palmate 3 - 7 lobed, attached to a slender stem by long petioles. The flowers are small, greenish-yellow occurring in panicles. The seeds form in capsules, which explode upon ripening to distribute their load. The roots form large starchy tubers, somewhat similar to sweet potato, with a dark brown fibrous covering and white flesh.
Cassava is one of the most forgiving and adaptable plants. It grows well in tropical humid conditions but can also withstand draughts. It does well in poor soil where little else will grow. It requires little care and protects itself against predators by means of poisonous latex, which is particularly evident in the leaves. It is an ideal food crop for tropical growing conditions.
Cassava appears to have originated in Brazil and Paraguay, but has spread throughout tropical areas of South and Central America long before the arrival of Columbus. It is now one of the most important food crops in tropical countries throughout the world. It ranks as the 6th most important food crop worldwide, even though in western countries it is little known or used.
In mythology it is portrayed as a savior that protects against starvation. According to one story, Tupi woman in Brazil, long ago, was devastated as she watched her child starve to death. She buried the child's body under the floor of her hut. That night she was visited by a wood spirit, known as 'mani' who changed the child's body into the roots of a plant, which subsequently became known as 'mani oca' meaning 'wood spirit root'. This plant became the chief staple food for generations of Indians to come - and in time, of inhabitants of the tropics throughout the world. (Plotkin, 1993)
The tubers of Cassava or 'Yuca', as the plant is commonly known in South America, are extremely rich in starch - in fact, it is THE richest source of starch of any food plant (it contains up to 10 times as much starch as corn and twice as much as potatoes.). The large tubers, which can weigh up to 5kg, provide 30% of their dry weight as starch. However, the entire plant is poisonous if consumed raw, due to its linamarin content, a pre-cursor of cyanide glycosides. Even a relatively small amount can be fatal. Thus, the roots have to be rendered edible by a ritualized process of grating, washing the pulp and squeezing out the harmful juices. Heating also renders the substance harmless.
There are several different species of Cassava, but in the main it is differentiated as sweet and bitter types. The sweet varieties contain considerably less linamarin than the bitter types. Different types are used for different culinary uses - to make flour from which thin tortilla-like Cassava bread is made, to prepare a mush or to fry like French fries. Natives also make an unpalatable, but nevertheless culturally important ceremonial alcoholic beverage from Cassava, which is produced like Chicha - the women chew the Cassava and spit it into a large vat where it is allowed to ferment for a few days. The resultant brew is consumed during festival occasions. However unpalatable, to refuse it is considered an insult.
Source: The Peninsula (Qatar), 15 March 2010
The GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries should take the right choice immediately to protect the depleting Agarwood resources. The Agarwood trade industry with its billion dollar value is in high need of proper management for its sustainable continuation, according to an expert. "The CITES conference is an important turning point for Agarwood conservation and trade as some of the major consumers are in the region," said James Compton, Asia-Pacific Programme Coordinator for TRAFFIC - a wildlife trade monitoring network. "There should be a collaborative management between both the consumer counties and the producers. If consumer countries like GCC states, Taiwan (Republic of China), Japan and others make the right choice and commitment now, a long lasting change will happen. If something is not done in five years the chance for a sustainable trade is very low," he told The Peninsula. Agarwood, an aromatic wood, is at threat of depletion in the wild. In 1995, one species of Agarwood was listed in CITES Appendix II, meaning that trade could continue, but a CITES export permit is required. Later in 2004, all the Agarwood species were also added to the list. Consumer countries including Qatar should work together with the producers to ensure an Agarwood industry which encourages legal and sustainable trade and curbs the black market.
For full story, please see: http://tinyurl.com/y3ycaw4
Source: www.sciencecentric.com, 22 March 2010
Environmental degradation is causing serious detrimental health impacts for humans, but protecting natural habitats can reverse this and supply positive health benefits, according to a new WWF report. "Our research confirms what we know instinctively: Human health is inextricably linked to the health of the planet," says Chris Elliot, WWF's Executive Director of Conservation. "Vital Sites: The Contribution of Protected Areas to Human Health" notes that the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates between 23 and 25 percent of the global disease burden could be avoided by improved management of environmental conditions. The report singles out deforestation for its key impacts on human health. "Deforestation is a double blow to human health," says Elliot. "It increases the spread of certain diseases while destroying plants and animals that may hold the key to treating illnesses that plague millions of people." Protecting natural landscapes can contribute positively to human health through protecting future medicinal resources, reducing the impacts of pollution, toxins and weather extremes and providing recreational places that support physical and mental well-being. In the forests of Borneo alone in the past decade, WWF reports discoveries of trees and shrubs that may be used to treat cancer, HIV and malaria. In all, 422 new plant species have been discovered in Borneo in the last 25 years, but deforestation puts them and others waiting to be discovered at risk. "When WWF stresses the importance of biodiversity, it's not just because we enjoy a variety of trees or frogs in a forest. It's because the science tells us that those trees and frogs are vital to the forest's health, and the forest's health is vital to our health," says Elliot. The report stresses that while people are good at cultivating plants whose value is known, we have a poor track record at conserving those seen as having little use for humans. The problem is, habitat destruction is eliminating potentially valuable species before they can even be discovered, let alone tested. "Most people think of protected areas like national parks and nature reserves as tools for wildlife conservation, but by protecting whole habitats and ecosystems the world's protected areas offer us some very practical social benefits as well," writes Dr Kathy MacKinnon, lead biodiversity specialist for the World Bank, in the report's foreword. For full story, please see: http://tinyurl.com/yh87lf6
National Geographic Online, 13 March 2010
Armenia has learned the hard way what it means for a country to lose its forests-and the huge backbreaking effort required to replant them. But in its struggle and determination to restore its trees, Armenia is an inspiration for the rest of the planet. The endeavour to bring trees back to Armenia is thanks mostly to an initiative called the "Armenia Tree Project," a programme supported by the international conservation charity WWF and BMU/KfW, the German Development Bank. The Armenia Tree Project has been raising and planting trees throughout the country for almost 16 years. Last year one million trees were planted, a record that brings the total of trees planted over the life of the project to about 3.5 million. All of this is done by individuals determined that their trees will become forests that will sustain livelihoods and restore a vibrant environment to Armenia. What happened to Armenia and its trees, and what's being done to reverse the devastation of its forests? Jason Sohigian, deputy director of the Armenia Tree Project, says the lack of alternate fuel sources caused the loss of Armenia's forests, especially during the years after independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, when people had no other way to keep warm than to cut down trees for fuel. Ideally, forest should cover 25 percent of Armenia, Sohigian said. But now, even after a big replanting effort, the country's tree cover is in the range of only 7 or 8 percent. Where the trees have been cut, the land is often degraded and desertification has set in as topsoil washes away. To make matters worse, the changing global climate threatens the last fragments of forest, especially if rainfall declines.
"One of our goals is to try to tip the balance back to where forests can regenerate naturally, which we can do provided we don't continue to lose trees," Sohigian said. "We're trying to get young people involved in investing in Armenia's future," Sohigian said. "This programme is also a way for Armenians outside the country to build the future of Armenia. We encourage Armenians-and others-to support us with the future of the country in mind. It's why we're calling this initiative 'Trees of Hope.''" Trees of Hope is one way to get involved, by sponsoring the program to plant trees. Another way is to support the Armenia Tree Project's focus on education. "Education is a big focus for us this year," Sohigian said. "We're working with teachers to educate children about the environment, and we've partnered with the Yale University Global Institute of Sustainable Forestry to provide sustainable forestry training for adults. The Armenia Tree Project works to afforest Armenia with natural forests, planting a mixture of native trees that should in time expand and regenerate forests naturally. "We are really trying to recreate natural forests, rather than plantations for harvesting," Sohigian said. The partnership with Yale is focused on training foresters to plant, maintain and harvest such "natural" forests sustainably. Part of the training initiative is the production of a sustainable forestry manual. Fruit and nut trees are also provided by the Armenia Tree Project to people in urban areas, so that individuals may plant trees on the streets or in their yards. This provides food to eat and trade as well as a more pleasant, landscaped environment. The massive tree planting program has also stimulated employment for Armenians, from the cultivation of seedlings to planting to protection of the nascent forests. For full story, please see:http://tinyurl.com/ygqqg2g
Source: Traditional Knowledge Bulletin, 10 March 2010
On 3 March 2010, the African Union Commission (AUC) commemorated Africa Environment Day under the theme "African Resilience to Climate Change: Biodiversity Conservation and Enhancing Traditional Knowledge," in celebrations hosted by the Government of Tanzania.
In a statement to mark the Day, Ahmed Djoghlaf, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), stressed that the negative impacts of climate change on biodiversity have significant economic, ecological and human costs, and disproportionately affect traditional communities. At the same time, he said, communities' TK, based on life-long observations and interactions with nature can be used in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss. He urged leaders to continue emphasizing the importance of TK, and to monitor the impacts of climate change on biodiversity in partnership with indigenous and local communities, noting the strong need to enhance links between TK and scientific practices.
Luc Gnacadja, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), said an effective resilience strategy must focus on protecting all forms of biological diversity, in particular soil biodiversity, and must build on Africa's TK. He also underscored the contribution of African women, who are the primary guardians of TK and the treasure keepers of seeds in their communities.
For more information, please see: http://tkbulletin.wordpress.com/
Source: Nira Gurung, ICIMOD
This year is the UN International Year of Biodiversity 2010, with the slogan "Biodiversity is life. Biodiversity is our life". ICIMOD (International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) is marking the occasion with a Photo Contest on the biodiversity of the Hindu Kush Himalayan region and its role in people's lives.
The photo contest also reflects the theme for the International Day for Biological Diversity 22 May 2010 'Biodiversity, Development and Poverty Alleviation'. The aim is to raise awareness of the vital role that mountain biodiversity plays in sustaining life in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan region and beyond.
The photo contest is open to all and runs until 10 May 2010.
Entries can be submitted in any of five categories: 1) mountain agrobiodiversity, 2) livelihoods and ecosystem services related to biodiversity, 3) women and mountain biodiversity, 4) indigenous/traditional knowledge and use associated with mountain biodiversity, and 5) threats to mountain biodiversity.
Images must be taken within the Hindu-Kush Himalayan portion of ICIMOD's regional member countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. Contestants may submit up to five entries in total, regardless of category. Images must be digital, in JPEG format, and between 1 and 8 MB in size.
The ICIMOD Hindu Kush-Himalayan Prize will be awarded to the overall best entry, and category prizes to the best entry in each category, each with a small cash prize and certificate.
Images will be judged on criteria such as (a) quality/visual appeal, (b) novelty, and (c) overall effectiveness in conveying the thematic category.
For more information, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.icimod.org/photocontest/2010/
Source: Inter Press Service, 29 March 2010
After the failures in Copenhagen to agree on a new climate protection treaty, and more recently at the Doha meetings on trade in endangered species, indigenous forest communities may offer examples of sensible governance for shared resources on a small planet.
Hundreds of poor Mexican Zapotec indigenous farmers have become owners of a multi-million-dollar diversified forest industry, offering an important model of a community-based enterprise that supports local people and conserves the natural environment, says David Barton Bray, a professor and associate chair in the Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University in Miami.
The farmers of Ixtlán de Juarez, a forest community in the Sierra Norte mountains of central Mexico, utilize their strong traditional community values and communal ownership of more than 21 000 hectares of pine and oak forest to run a successful business that benefits the entire community.
There is no private property, and rather than establishing a business to maximize profits, the people of Ixtlán, and in other Zapotec communities of Mexico with similar forest-based enterprises, focus on job creation, reducing emigration to cities and enhancing the overall well-being of the community, Bray told participants at the Smallholder and Community Forestry conference in Montpellier.
"Communities will be more important in the years to come because they can address vital issues that the state and the market cannot," Bray, an expert on community forests in Mexico and Central America, told IPS.
The survival of much of the world's forests may well depend of the survival of local communities. A quarter of the world's remaining forests are controlled by about one billion local people, says Estebancio Castro Diaz of the Kuna Nation in Panama, who is executive director for the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of Tropical Forests.
"Local control is good for the people and good for the forest," Castro Diaz told participants attending the conference organised by the Centre for International Forestry Research, headquartered in Indonesia, the French Research Institute for Development and the French International Research Centre for Agricultural Development.
"The forest is a supermarket for us, it is not just about timber," he said.
For those reasons, more than 90 percent of the forests controlled by the Kuna people are still standing. "We need to communicate there are broad benefits to the larger society for local control of forests," Diaz said.
In sharp contrast to the usual nation-state or private enterprise overexploitation of commonly-held lands, oceans or other resources - characterized as the "tragedy of the commons" - local communities can set and enforce rules to maintain their landscapes, conserve biodiversity and improve livelihoods for the long term, Bray suggests.
The World Bank, FAO, IUCN and others have formed a "Growing Forests Partnership" to find ways to support community-managed forests, said Chris Buss of IUCN. Not only is this partnership trying to ensure that indigenous and local people are involved in their national government's forestry policy, but also to find ways to channel financial investment into local forest management be it for timber, Brazil nuts or other uses.
For full story, please see: www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50829
Source: www.mongabay.com, 23 March 2010
Daniel Janzen - conservation biologist - made his name in 1965 by discovering the extraordinary co-evolution and "mutualism" between two rainforest species, a study so well-known it goes by its own shorthand: "the ant and the acacia." In the ensuing decades, Janzen has gone on to additional groundbreaking research in the forests of Central America. But by the mid-1980s, Janzen had grown so alarmed at the rapid rate at which forests were disappearing in the region that he and his wife and research partner, Winifred Hallwachs, threw themselves into conservation projects. They worked to expand a small national park in northwestern Costa Rica into a 300 000 acre reserve - the Area de Conservación Guanacaste, or ACG - encompassing dry tropical forest, rain forest, cloud forest, and marine areas. With Costa Rican colleagues, including President Oscar Arias, Janzen demonstrated that denuded tropical forest can be re-grown, a landmark achievement in ecological restoration. Janzen - who leveraged a US$3.5 million donation into a permanent US$30 million endowment for the park - recently set the ambitious goal of raising a half-billion dollars to endow the entire Costa Rican park system in perpetuity. Now 71 - and still pursuing a decades-long inventory of moths, butterflies, and caterpillars of the ACG - Janzen has recently turned to another significant endeavour: the development of a "barcorder" device, a kind of taxonomic iPod designed to quickly identify the world's organisms (viruses, invertebrates, plants, animals, and birds) by their DNA in conjunction with a vast database to deliver that information to users. Janzen and his partner, Paul Hebert, have championed the device as a way to open the public's eyes to the world's biodiversity and the growing threats to it. Speaking on REDD, Janzen says, " If the world does get serious about what is packaged under the acronym of REDD and puts in a big bucket of money that is used to lock down big chunks of forest in a permanent carbon storage state, that has the potential - and I have to underline the word "potential" - for truly saving big blocks of wild areas. And there are a lot of ifs between the big picture wish or international agreements and actual on-the-ground doing it." "But if there were a bucket like that that was available so that people like me, who are seriously out there trying to lock down big chunks of forest, that could become a financial instrument for actually doing it." "My feeling is that all the science I see says that the only places that are going to survive in the long run are big conserved pieces. Small pieces may be very pretty, but they die, just because of insularity. They turn into islands. And we all know what happens on islands. Islands never have high species richness. And even when they do, like Hawaii did when people got there, [they are] very, very fragile, very susceptible to human perturbation." For full story, please see: www.e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2253
By Daniel Zueras
SAN JOSÉ, Apr 1, 2010 (IPS) - Solutions to global warming based on the logic of the market are a threat to the rights and way of life of indigenous peoples, the Latin American Indigenous Forum on Climate Change concluded this week in Costa Rica.
Proposals from governments and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs), such as the Clean Development Mechanism and the UN-REDD Programme (United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries), "are new forms of economic geopolitics" that endanger indigenous rights enshrined in treaties, says the final declaration of the forum, which ended Wednesday.
For full story, please see: http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=50886
Check out this fascinating movie. The things we think of least may matter the most - dirt is earth.
April 19 - 22, 2010
World People Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth Cochabamba, Bolivia
The Government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia calls on the peoples of the world, social movements and Mother Earth’s defenders, and invites scientists, academics, lawyers and governments that want to work with their citizens to the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth to be held from 20th to 22nd April 2010 in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
More information at:
World People Conference for Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth
May 11-16, 2010:
41st TCM Kongress Rothenburg 2010. Wildbad Conference Center, Rothenburg, Germany
The TCM conference in Rothenburg is an event held annually by the AGTCM (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Klassische Akupunktur und TCM e. V.), which is organized by a group of volunteers, the Rothenburg team, and the project management Conventure Messe Frankfurt Venue GmbH & Co. KG.
Our aim is to offer a wide range of knowledge related to Chinese Medicine and demonstrate the variety that has grown through the centuries. The five so-called classical therapies of acupuncture, pharmacology, Tuina, dietetics and Qigong are represented in great detail, but some fringe subjects such as Feng Shui are also considered. We have always been interested in listening to philosophers, historians and sinologists at the conference as well. And last but not least, our meeting at Rothenburg offers a forum to discuss the latest issues of scientific investigations.
A major concern of our conference is to present in detail the different schools of Chinese Medicine (e.g. TCM, the French school, Professor Worsley, different oriental family styles, the school of Stems and Branches, Daoist medicine, etc.) without any dogmatism. From our point of view, a dogmatic position would be contradictory to the principles of Chinese Medicine. We would like to discuss subjects which are interesting to therapists in Germany, Europe, as well as in China and the USA. The continued analysis of these subjects contributes to an increased solidarity amongst all practitioners. Chinese Medicine has become very popular in recent years. By trying to get the highest possible quality of lectures and seminars we want to make our contribution to its steady and consistent development.
Since its beginning in 1968, the TCM conference in Rothenburg has been a centre for professional exchange and a meeting place for colleagues. The enjoyment and fun of study while meeting other colleagues is a major part of Rothenburg as well as the commitment and quality of the speakers.
More information is available at: http://www.tcm-kongress.de/en/index.htm.
May 23-26, 2010:
7th Annual Meeting of the Natural Health Products Research Society, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.
You are invited to join respected international experts, researchers and the leaders of the future in a discussion of emerging trends and significant findings in natural health products' research. The Society's 7th annual conference will gather top scientists, government regulators and industry representatives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
More information is available at: http://www.nhprs.ca/
May 25- 27, 2010
People, Forests and the Environment: Coexisting in Harmony, Casablanca, Morocco
The conference will explore the conflicting relationship between Population, Forests and the Environment, and will examine long-term problems and their governance challenge from different angles, towards coexistence in harmony between people, forests and the environment, at local, regional and global level. The programme promises to be exciting including numerous prominent speakers covering topics including the latest developments on various themes, such as forest and local development, forest and climate change, forest environmental services, biodiversity conservation and sustainable use, man-made plantations, the forecasting of needs and resources, people and forest coexistence in harmony, education and knowledge systems for sustainability, among others.
For more information, please contact:Amina Zerktouni Secretariat of the Conference Telephonic queries: +212661328797 E-mail: sylva.world at fr.fm or sylva.monde at yahoo.fr Website: http://sylvamonde.110mb.com/welcome.htm
June 5-7, 2010:
Medicines from the Earth Herb Symposium. Blue Ridge Assembly, Black Mountain, NC, USA
Annual symposium on herbal medicine at beautiful Blue Ridge Assembly near Asheville, North Carolina. Keynote speaker: Tieraona Low Dog, MD. Symposium topics include: The Healing Garden-Horticulture Therapy and Herbal Medicine; Women's Health Update (exploring the latest research with Tori Hudson, ND); Herbal Medicine for Insomnia; The Impact of Phytoestrogens on Breast Cancer and Reproductive Disorders and much more. Rosemary Gladstar speaks on the conservation of our medicinal plant heritage. Herb walks in the surrounding forest, medicine making and food preparation demonstrations. Pre-conference intensive June 4 with Tieraona Low Dog, MD. CE credits for health professionals.
More information is available at: http://www.botanicalmedicine.org/
or call 1-800-252-0688 1-800-252-0688 .
June 6-10, 2010:
51st Annual Meeting of the Society for Economic Botany - Theme: Agrobiodiversity, lessons for conservation and local development. Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico.
The upcoming 51st SEB's Annual Meeting will take place in Xalapa, Veracruz, México, June 6–10, 2010. To commemorate this occasion, a series of activities have been planned where stimulating scientific meetings will be complemented with a remarkably beautiful and cultural scenery.
The surrounding ambiance of the city and the state is characterized by a great diversity of flora and a wide ethnic configuration, which is the perfect environment to discuss this year´s main theme: agrobiodiversity. The objective is to present a set of approaches that promote the conservation of agrobiodiversity and its uses in a number of themes such as ethnobotany, community conservation, food production systems, food self-sufficiency, among others.
Along with the academic program, a mixture of unique field trips will be available that will wander around the main archeological sites of the state and learning journeys to local markets and regional coffee plantations.
As host institutions, the Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales (Citro) at the Universidad Veracruzana and the Instituto de Ecología, A.C. (INECOL) are working to make of this meeting an enjoyable and memorable occasion. On behalf of all the members from the organizing committee, we look forward to meeting you in Xalapa.
More information is available at: http://www.econbot.org/_organization_/index.php?sm=07%7Cmeetings_by_year/2010.
June 7-8, 2010
IOF Forest-People Interaction Conference, Pokhara, Nepal
Among the five technical institutes under Tribhuvan University, The Institute of Forestry (IOF) is a well-established national academic, training, and research institute in Nepal. The mission of IOF is to develop technically sound and competent, and socially compatible human resources in the area of forestry and Natural Resource Management (NRM). The main objectives of this institute are to encourage research activities that could address the practical problems at grass root level and to develop IOF as the centre of excellence in forestry education and research.
Themes covered during the conference include:
For more information, please contact:Dr. Krishna P. Devkota Organizing Secretary Forest-People Interaction Conference Institute of Forestry, P. O. Box: 43 Pokhara, Nepal Phone: 061-432169, 430694; Fax: 061-432078, 431563 Email : conference2010 at iof.edu.np
June 28 - July 2, 2010
18th Commonwealth Forestry Conference, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Theme: "Restoring the Commonwealth's Forests: Tackling Climate Change". Further information, including registration form, programme, call for abstracts and a sponsorship opportunities brochure, is available from the conference website. The organizers are keen to encourage the submission of papers on successful restoration case studies.
For more information, please contact the conference organizers:18th Commonwealth Forestry Conference, c/o In Conference Ltd, 4-6 Oak Lane, Edinburgh EH12 6XH Scotland, United Kingdom; fax: +44 131 339 9798; e-mail: cfcc at in-conference.org.uk. http://www.cfc2010.org
July 10-14, 2010:
The 51st Annual Meeting of the American Society of Pharmacognosy (ASP). St. Petersburg Beach, FL, USA.
For more information, or to register, please visit these websites: http://www.phcog.org/files/Tampa2010.pdf or http://www.magellanbioscience.com/ASP%202010/ASP2010_home.html.
July 24-25, 2010:
NW Herb Fest. Eugene, OR, USA
Annual symposium on herbal medicine at Wise Acres Educational Farm. Two days with a variety of presenters. Beginning and advanced classes offered. Herb walks are available throughout the conference. CE credits available for some health professionals. $145 prior to May 1st.
August 29 - September 2, 2010:
58th International Congress & Annual Meeting of the Society for Medicinal Plant & Natural Product Research. Henry-Ford-Bau, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
The specific objectives of this conference will be to promote dialogue and the exchange of medical practices and resources of modern and traditional nations.
For more information, please visit the website: http://www.ga2010.de/.
September 30 - October 3, 2010:
2010 AHG National Symposium.
More information is available at: http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/
October 4-10, 2010:
10th Latin American Botany Congress. La Serena, Chile.
For more information, please visit the website: http://www.botanica-alb.org/.