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peace (76K)Gee, I can't believe it! The newsletter is ready to go out and it is not even Christmas yet! I'll let you in on a secret and tell you how I managed it: I have simply ignored Christmas, until now. Not given it a thought (well, only one or two) and thus my head has been mercifully uncluttered with all the usual frettings associated with the pre-christmas period. Well, no doubt, it will all rush into my brain and drive me insane for the rest of the week as soon as I press the button and send the newsletter out into the world.

Oh well, it was peaceful while it lasted. Anyhow, working on this issue has given me some nice inspirations on what I might cook up for the feast and also made me ponderous about all the waste that once again is going to flood our landfill sites with discarded packages and God knows what. In researching ways of making Christmas a bit greener I came across some great sites, which I am sharing with you below. The best was that little movie on 'the story of stuff' (You will find the link below), so don't miss it!

And finally, you might wonder why I have chosen such an ordinary plant as the potato for the plant profile, but apart from the fact that it has a very interesting history and is among our most valuable staple crops, I have also just found out that next year is the 'International Year of the Potato', so I wanted to let you all have a little bit of a head start and tell you some of amazing things about this humble plant - and if you want to see some creative non-food uses for potatoes that are currently on display in Peru, watch this video: (Sorry about the preceding advertizing.)

I wish you all a wonderful, warm, safe and loving yuletide, where ever you may be. Spare some love for Mother Earth too, and have yourselves a 'Green Christmas'. Here is to a wonderful, happy, healthy and prosperous 2008!

I hope you will enjoy this issue
See you all next year!

December 2007

I would love to hear your comments, so please send your feedback to:

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barbareavulgaris (53K)Foraging Wintercress


Barbarea vulgaris

© by Kat Morgenstern

Winter is a tough time for foragers stuck in a northern climate zone. Leaves have fallen and are buried underneath the snow. Berries, if there are any left in the bushes, tend to look wrinkled and listless. Nuts have long been gathered and stored for later use and those that were left on the ground are now riddled with worms. What is a forager to do? Well, the first and best thing is to make a beeline for the pantry, where hopefully, you will find jars filled with delicious remnants of last summer's delights. Jams, pickles and chutneys will bring back happy memories of roaming through the countryside, picking the gifts of the Earth for drearier times to come - like these drab old winter days.

Each happy mouthful of these treasures will set you dreaming, not just reminiscing about the joys of the past, but also of those to come. Winter Solstice is here, and that means, even though it does not seem like it, that spring is nearer than we think. Another 3 months at the most and we'll be off again, picking salad herbs and enjoying the first gifts of spring.

Though those of us, who don't live in the permafrost zone may be lucky enough to find a few things that are hardy even through the winter. The cresses, for example, are classic northern plants, perfectly adapted to such inhospitable climatic conditions.

Most notably I am thinking of the wintercress, Barbarea vulgaris, a rocket with typical rocket leaves and flowers. If the climate is not too severe, this plant can be found and collected throughout the winter. Sometimes it even stays green underneath the snow. Wintercress is rich in vitamin C and A, and was a typical 'anti-scurvy' plant in the days before vitamin C became readily available throughout the year in northern climate zones. If you don't spot its large-leaved, deeply lobed rosette in the winter months, you will probably notice it as one of the first herbs that pop up in spring.


planting the future - one seed at a time



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.

Don't be greedy!

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.

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Of Feasts, Famine, and Waste in a throw-away society

© Kat Morgenstern, December 2007

EggnoggAs our taste buds have grown more decadent through the ages, we are compelled to invent ever more tantalizing culinary creations, stuffed with extravagancies. Christmas and Thanksgiving epitomize our food fetishes, with such seasonal delights as 'triple heart by-pass eggnog', loaded with eggs and double cream, ice cream, whipped cream and brandy, and similarly rich fare. In Britain this is a favourite accompaniment to steamed Christmas Pudding, which comes with a lavish serving of brandy butter. Although such seasonal delights have become traditional, they merely reflect our need to mark the feast as something special. In an age where foods from around the world have become permanently accessible with as little inconvenience as a trip to the supermarket, making something truly special has become quite a challenge and all too often special translates into 'richer and bigger is better'. Combine that with the stress of it all and it is little wonder that the incident of heart attacks spikes over the holidays.

Although we undoubtedly have gained much in terms of the everyday culinary experiences that are available to us these days, we have also lost something of the appreciation of food and their seasonal cycles. Few people are even aware of which foods are local to where they live and what their natural seasons are.

Picking through garbage for survivalIt seems obscene that increasingly obesity is posing a major threat to health in the western world, and may be accountable for as many as 365 000 death a year, while elsewhere (and in some cases, quite nearby) people are also dying from malnutrition and starvation or have to pick through garbage for survival. Meanwhile, tons of food are destroyed each year merely to keep prices stable, while more still is thrown away because they have gone past their sell-by date, or because they are considered 'imperfect' and thus 'waste', by the food industry. This scenario has taken on epic proportions. Some people have countered this wastefulness by taking up 'dumpster diving', also known as 'freeganism', not so much because they have no money to buy food, but because they object to the terrible waste that goes on.

But beyond the shame of letting all this food go to waste while millions of people around the world are starving, also consider the ecological impact of all the food and/or its packaging, which had to travel half way around the world just to end up on a dumpster near you! Throwing away locally produced food items is bad enough and of course produces the same amount of garbage, but the ecological impact is much less, just because it did not have to travel so far to get to its final dumping place.

Garbage Dump - Suffocating in our own wasteWaste is a big problem in our world. Not only does waste mean 'wasted money', both at the production as well as at the consumer end of the chain, but above all, it also means yet more garbage in a world that is already drowning in its own junk and all the resulting pollution. Worldwide, the United States is the number one leader in waste production, with 760kg per person per year! This is a shocking figure that signifies one environmental impact that could immediately be tackled, simply through consumer choices and less wasteful habits. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and share - give away those 'want-nots' rather than throwing them in the bin. And, conversely, consider shopping at charity shops and flea markets, or get creative and find new uses for old junk. Find out if there is a food co-op near you where you can buy food in bulk and without all the packaging. It will save you money and reduce the throw-away factor, since you don't have to get rid off all that unwanted packaging later.

All these simple things seem like major steps in a consumer orientated world where everything comes packaged and shrink-wrapped. Packaging has become much more than simply a utilitarian necessity - it has become a sales tool, designed to catch your attention and persuade you to purchase something, whether you need or want it or not. It takes some serious de-programming to veer away from these consumer traps and return to more sensible, earth friendly buying habits.

So, as we are at the peak of the consuming season, here are some tips for a greener, more sustainable Holiday

Chocolates and Christmas seem as inseparable as Easter and eggs. But did you know that the majority of the world's most popular chocolates is made from cocoa produced by child labour? And, as if that wasn't enough, of course cocoa plantations are also treated with a bunch of agrochemicals (or produced from gene-manipulated varieties). The good news is, dark chocolate is actually good for you, so don't feel to guilty over this naughty pleasure, just find some organic, fair trade varieties.
Christmas Lights
I know, everybody loves the warm cheer of Christmas lights, and I like them too. To some extend. However, some people, and businesses, are making every effort to compete with Las Vegas in terms of their energy consumption, which seems just a tad over the top. How about turning it down a little? Using fewer, more subtle lights can have a much greater and more beautiful effect and won't necessitate the building of a new nuclear power station near you just to supply the power for this annual over the top indulgence.
Christmas Tree
When buying a tree, see if you can get one that can later be planted out, instead of one that just has to be thrown away. Or perhaps, just decorate one that is already growing in your garden.
Responsible Buying
While doing your Christmas shopping, spare a minute to think about where each item came from and how it was produced. Can you buy organic, Fair trade, or, second-hand alternatives? Try to buy locally produced items, for example from local crafts people, rather than mass produced items that came from the other side of the planet. Or if you have time, why not make some gifts yourself?
Take bags with you when you go shopping so you don't have to accept new ones every time you make a purchase. Consider how much packaging comes with your purchase and if there is any alternative that uses less. Just think about it: the more packaging the more you are paying just for stuff that will immediately be thrown away once your gift is opened. Get creative when you wrap your presents. Is it really necessary to use glossy wrapping paper that is destined for the bin anyhow?
Christmas Cards
Make your own Christmas cards or send e-cards.
Christmas Dinner
See if you can create a Christmas dinner menu with predominantly locally grown food, organic if possible.

In this sense - have a beautiful, 'evergreen' holiday season of love - and spare some love for our planet too!

Here are some wonderful websites resources with nifty tips and tricks on how to live more lightly and become more self-sufficient, even if you live in an urban environment.

This little animated presentation about 'the story of stuff' where it comes from, how it is produced and where it is going, is absolutely great, simple and to the point, and every child should watch it. The Story of Stuff

Fair Trade
Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa, Patagonia, Chile

Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa, an oasis of peace in southern patagoniaPuyuhuapi Lodge and Spa is still a bit of a secret and insider tip, for those who want to experience something really quite out of the ordinary. Deep within a remote recess of Patagonia, one of the least inhabited and most serenely beautiful places on earth, Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa appears like a dream - sitting on the shore of a tranquil sea inlet of the Ventisquero Sound. The lodge is accessible only by sea as it is situated in a space of wild beauty; a place of fjords, native forests, rivers, waterfalls, mountains and glaciers.

This lodge is something special - an oasis of peace, with its own hotsprings and thalassotherapy center, excellent services and rustic luxury amidst the wild untamed nature of Patagonia. Travelers come to Puyuhuapi [pronounced Pooh - yeah - w˜ - pee] to experience the unimaginable solitude of the remote Patagonia wilds, in the land that is interwoven with glaciers, fjords, rivers and channels far from civilization.

Relax with a Massage at Puyuhuapi's Spa facilities, southern Patagonia (33K)Soft adventures, like fly-fishing, trekking, mountain biking, horseback riding, sea kayaking and day trips on Patagonia Express catamaran to the spectacular San Rafael Glacier and Lagoon are available with their package. Plus after a fulfilling day of incredible excursions guest can relax in the natural hot springs or be pampered at the luxurious spa Puyuhuapi has to offer. If you really want to get away from it all and are looking for a place to recharge your batteries, I can't imagine a better place for it.

Read more about Puyuhuapi

Read more about our other adventures in Chile

Note: Patagonia's season runs from October/November to April. Puyuhuapi Lodge does offer some programs which run all year around. Please inquire:


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Festive Food Traditions from around the world

© by Kat Morgenstern, December 2007

FeastingNo other feast day, except perhaps Thanksgiving (if you live in the US), is more centered around food than Christmas. The tradition goes way back in time, long before Christ was ever conceived. How can that be, if we are celebrating his birthday? Well, today we choose to celebrate his birthday at this time of the year, but in ancient times, people celebrated the return of the sun on the 21st of December, the day of the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year, but it also signals the rebirth of the sun, of warmth, of light - and to our ancestors that was a great reason to celebrate. And although most of us are not aware of the fact, we still carry on many of these age-old traditions associated with this great mid-winter festival. (Or have you never kissed under the mistletoe?)

Interestingly, many of our festive food traditions go way back in time, when people celebrated the gifts of the earth by sacrificing them to the ancient Gods of fertility and growth. To 'sacrifice' means 'to make something sacred'. The Christmas Goose, or hog were both considered sacred in the ancient days.

Vegetarian faux meat - pig head roast

This pighead is actually vegetarian - if you want to know how it was made, visit Johanna's excellent blog: Green Gourmet Giraffe

In German speaking countries there is a tradition of serving a pig's head with an apple in its mouth symbolizing the idea of regeneration and eternal life. The pig signifies fertility and the apple is a symbol of regeneration and renewal. Nowadays though, people have become rather squeamish and don't appreciate such overt displays. In fact, at some point animal sacrifices, were substituted by festive breads, baked especially for the occasion. These breads were often huge, taking the shape of a ring (circle of eternal life) or formed into an elongated shape with a medial cut, which some scholars have interpreted as a unified symbol representing both the male and female principles.

In rural areas these breads were taken to the midnight mass on Christmas Eve to be blessed by the priest, a process that was believed to endow them with magical powers. This blessed bread was thought to protect against disease and misfortune and bring blessing fertility and riches to all who shared in it. After the mass people would return to their homes and gather around the Christmas feast, but the first thing they did was to share this magical bread. Even the maids and farm helpers were given a piece and some was crumbled up and mixed into the animal feed for the chickens, the pigs, the cows, the horses - each received their little blessing. One piece was even ground down into flour again and mixed with the seed that was to bring the harvest for the following year.

Essentially this substitution follows the same logic as the animal sacrifices of our pagan ancestors, for the blessed bread is the body of Christ. In breaking the bread and partaking of it we partake of his essence, thus imparting the power of regeneration (or resurrection as it is called in Christian terminology), on his birthday each year, when he is 'reborn'.

All the rest of the elaborate food preparations were just embellishment for this important ritual of sacrifice and blessing. Much later on, another important tradition evolved which, however does not bear any of the spiritual significance. This tradition involves the rare and exceedingly precious spices that started to arrive in the western hemisphere on arduous journey from far away countries, on ancient trade routes from the East. Cinnamon, cloves, pepper, nutmeg, nuts and dried exotic fruit were at one time so expensive that the amount that can be found on an average kitchen shelf today would have marked the owner as a millionaire. A single nutmeg could set you up for life. So to create fine baked goods such as Lebkuchen (a term that signifies 'life' and 'cake'), rich in such expensive extravagancies was a treat that came close to the symbolic eating of gold.

Today we have no way of understanding the preciousness of such foodstuffs. The only 'precious' spice today is saffron, and even that is affordable in small quantities. We have everything available all year around and at reasonably cheap prices too. We could, if we wanted to, eat Lebkuchen everyday and not break the bank. But we don't. We have, to some degree, preserved its symbolic special status by only making it available at Christmas time. The same goes for sweetbreads, such as the German 'Stollen' or the English 'Christmas Pudding', which are rich in dried fruits and nuts - a treat that symbolises the gifts of the earth in the shape of a cake. In time, each country developed its own particular Christmas foods that conveyed the spirit of the season like no other. I have gathered a collection of recipes from different parts of the world (don't read this if you are on a diet or adhere to any kind of 'no fat, no sugar, no wheat, no eggs, no nuts, no whatever' type of philosophy):

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Plant Profile: Corn (Zea mays)

Plant Profile: Potato (Solanum tuberosum)


History of the potato plant


Who would have thought that the humble potato is in fact a widely travelled plant that in the course of its journey has changed world history? The potato plant originates in the high Andes, probably in the vicinity of Lake Titicaca, where native Aymara and Quetchua people are believed to have cultivated numerous different varieties, probably for about 7000 years. In its homeland there are literally hundreds of varieties - large or small, white, pink, purple or black in colour, some hairy, others displaying carnivorous habits by growing hairs that can dissolve approaching insects. Another species merely imitates the scent of decomposing insects in order to warn off any predators.

Potato FlowerCorrespondingly, the actual potato plant also varies greatly in terms of its growth habits. Native species may be highly frost resistant or hugging the ground closely to protect themselves against the fierce winds of the high Andes. In general, the leaves are dark and deeply cut, while flowers closely resemble those of the bittersweet nightshade.

The edible part, which we call 'potato' and generally refer to as a 'root vegetable', is in fact not a root at all, but a specially adapted swollen storage organ that grows at the end of the roots and is botanically known as a 'tuber'. These tubers serve as the plant's energy storage system and consist largely of starch.

Native species of potatoes are often rather small and have many deep 'eyes', which are in fact the dormant buds from which new plants can sprout in vegetative reproduction. Potatoes are also able to reproduce sexually, through pollination, an important feature for plant breeders, who can thus cross particular varieties for their different attributes, a process that is not possible via vegetative reproduction, which produces offspring that is identical to the parent plant.

It is important to note that the green parts of the potato plant are poisonous to humans and animals due to an alkaloid known as 'solanine'. Solanine is also present in tubers that have been exposed to light and can be recognized by the green discolouration of the potato skin. It is important to remove these green parts prior to cooking and also to cut out any eyes that are beginning to sprout.


potato varietiesThe high Andes mountains is an extremely hostile environment for plants. The days are short, the sun can be intense, yet the nights are often frigidly cold or freezing. Furthermore a sharp wind torments mountain plants. These environmental stresses have given rise to very particular adaptations that are able to withstand them. In the Andes potatoes are one of four major root/tuber staple crops. There are about 200 different wild types found from Venezuela to Chile, with the highest concentration around Lake Titicaca.

Indigenous farmers often plant many different varieties together in order to better withstand any possible disasters. I.e. they will grow in the same plot varieties that are resistant to draught and others that can withstand heavy rainfall and also some that are resistant to particular insect pests. In this way they can ensure that even if some of the crop fails, another part will survive and probably thrive. In general, potatoes are not very demanding plants and will grow in many different kinds of soils and environmental conditions. Although originally a high altitude crop, their adaptation to lower altitudes began early on in their cultivation history and varieties developed that were suitable for growing in the dry coastal regions of Peru. However, potatoes never adapted to the hot and humid tropics, although some varieties are found in the cloud forest.

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Guyana: Rainforest tribe establishes massive sustainable-use reserve

Source:, USA, 4 October 2007

An indigenous group in Guyana has established one of the world's largest sustainable forest reserves, reports Conservation International.

The Wai Wai, a forest-dwelling people who received title to 625,000 hectares (1.54 million acres) of land in 2004, will build a "conservation economy" based on principals of sustainable use. With assistance from conservation scientists, the Wai Wai will seek to develop ecotourism and expand their traditional craft business. "We have always been keepers of the forests that support us, and now it is official, recognized by the government and the world," said Cemci Sose, chief of the Wai Wai. "The immediate challenge we face is creating economic opportunity through the Community Owned Conservation Area to prevent our young people from leaving, which could destroy our community."

Conservation International, an environmental group that is working with the Wai Wai, hopes that the reserve will generate additional income from payments for ecosystem services, like carbon sequestration and watershed protection. Carbon credits for forest conservation could be worth tens of millions annually to Guyana. "This shows the power of giving land rights to indigenous populations, because they know what's best for their communities," CI President Russell A. Mittermeier said. "The Wai Wai could have sold off the timber and other natural assets for a one-time payoff, but instead they chose to protect the rainforest and allow future generations to continue to benefit from it."

For full story, please see:

Amazon rainforest children to get medicinal plant training from shamans

Source:, USA, 21 November 2007

The Amazon Conservation Team (ACT) -- a group using innovative approaches to preserving culture and improving health among Amazonian rainforest tribes -- has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Nature's Path, an organic cereal manufacturer. The funds will allow ACT to address one of the most pressing social concerns for Amazon forest dwellers by expanding its educational and cultural "Shamans and Apprentice" program for indigenous children in the region.

The Amazon rainforest houses tens of thousands of plant species, many of which hold promise for warding off pests and fighting human disease. No one understands the secrets of these plants better than indigenous shamans -- medicine men and women -- who have astounding knowledge of this botanical library. But like the forests themselves, this floral genius is fast-disappearing due to deforestation and profound cultural transformation among younger generations. The combined loss of this knowledge and these forests irreplaceably impoverishes the world of cultural and biological diversity.

ACT is working to slow this loss by building stronger cultural ties between tribal elders and children. Under the "Shamans and Apprentices" program, elder shamans pass on their expertise of medicinal plants and healing rituals to apprentices -- children who are otherwise increasingly distant from their culture.

The Nature's Path contribution, which comes through its EnviroFund program, will go towards expanding the "Shamans and Apprentices" to include grammar school-age children within villages. EnviroFund grants support programs dealing with endangered species, habitat conservation and environmental education for kids around the globe.

For full story, please see:

Indigenous people and forest care

Source: Md. Mahfujur Rahman, The Daily Star, 9 November 2007

Indigenous communities use the forest with restraint because it provides for their basic needs -- food, shelter, water, medicine, fuel and clothing. The Bambuti people of the Congo refer to the forest as mother or father, and hold it sacred: a deity to ask for help and to thank. The Yanomami of Venezuela and Brazil believe that the natural and spiritual worlds are united: the fates of all people and the environment are inexorably linked. So when people destroy the environment, humanity slowly commits suicide.

In Borneo, the Penan harvests the sago palm, a fast-growing tree whose pithy trunk is loaded with starch used to make flour. Only the largest trunks are taken, the smaller shoots carefully preserved for future harvests. They call this molong, meaning never taking more than necessary. When the Haida people of Canada fell a red cedar, the bark is made into a textile for clothing, ropes and sails, and the wood is used to make dugout canoes, ceremonial masks and boxes, and to build communal longhouses. Smaller branches are used for smoking salmon. Passing on information is the key to a successful forest lifestyle.

For full story, please see:

Scientists receive $2.5 million to study Amazon forests and climate change

Source: University of Arizona News (press release), USA, 16 November 2007

A University of Arizona-led international team of scientists has received a five-year, $2.5 million grant to answer the question, what is the future of Amazon forests under climate change? and to train the next generation of culturally experienced scientists. The project combines international collaboration with interdisciplinary training in earth system science, remote sensing and modelling. The National Science Foundation-funded project is called the Partnership for International Research and Education-- Amazonia, or Amazon-PIRE. The grant includes $1.5 million for stipends and fellowships to support participating students and early-career scientists. PIRE students will take a field course in Brazil's Amazon forest about tropical ecology and biogeochemistry, conduct related experiments within the tropical forest biome at UA's Biosphere 2 and work with Brazilian scientists and students through exchanges at Brazilian scientific institutions.

"Our project has a globally important scientific goal -- which is to figure out how climate changes affect Amazon forests. And there's an educational goal -- to help transform science education so the next generation of scientists will be successful in an increasingly globalized scientific community," said principal investigator Scott Saleska, an assistant professor in UA's department of ecology and evolutionary biology. "The purpose of NSF's Amazon-PIRE program is to change how education works in this country by supporting new models for international collaboration and training. The educational goal is especially critical in environmental science, where cultural barriers can reinforce the disparity in knowledge between the most studied ecosystems, generally those in North America and Europe, and the ecosystems about which new knowledge and data are most needed, such as those in the tropics," Saleska said. "Because the forests of the Amazon basin form the largest contiguous, intact tropical forest on Earth, Amazonia is a storehouse of carbon whose fate will influence the fate of climate change globally," said Saleska, also a member of Biosphere 2's science steering committee member and of UA's Institute for the Study of Planet Earth.

For full story, please see:

Cameroon: Scientist fears extinction of medicinal plants on Mt. Cameroon

Source: The Post (Buea), 23 November 2007

Cameroonian scientist and senior lecturer at the University of Yaounde I, Dr. Isaac Njilah Konfor, has said the rich medicinal plants found in the Mt. Cameroon region might soon be exhausted owing to unsustainable harvesting. Njilah, a volcanologist and an environmental geo-scientist was speaking Monday, November 19 to the press at the Limbe Botanic Gardens on, after the opening session of a three-day workshop on the theme, 'Endangered Species of Mt. Cameroon and Ecological Succession on the Recent Lavas.'

The Cameroon Ecological Society, CES, in collaboration with the British Council in Yaounde organised the workshop. "Sooner or later we will have a problem where the forest of Mt. Cameroon, which is very precious, not only to Cameroon but to the rest of the world, will be exterminated," Njilah said. The seriousness of the problem rallied some 70 Cameroonian scientists from several research institutes, universities and secondary schools who brainstormed on possible ways of helping to curb the trend of the disappearance of the medicinal plants. Among the endangered species of this region is the Prunus africana; a plant reportedly used for the treatment of prostrate cancer. By dint of its high demand, it has become one of the most sought after. Dr. Njilah said this species was one of their concerns, for it may soon become exhausted from the forest if measures are not taken to propagate it. The workshop also ascertained the effects caused on these plants by past eruptions in the region with the most recent ones being those of 1999 and 2000, which damaged hundreds of hectares of natural forest.

The Head of Projects and Services of the British Council, Emmanuel Ngungoh, in an address said he hoped the workshop would develop initiatives to enhance the biodiversity of the Mt. Cameroon area. He noted that the British Ecological Society, BES, was providing funding for the Cameroon Ecological Society. At the end of the exercise, the participants resolved to, among other things, create a Journal of the Cameroon Ecological Society.

For full story, please see:

Brazil: Government to discuss endangered species list of Brazilian flora

Source: O Estado de S.Paulo, 7 November 2007

The Ministry of the Environment (MMA) is to schedule a meeting with botany experts to reassess the endangered species list of Brazilian flora. The list was submitted to the government two years ago by the scientific community, but never published. Ministry technicians disagree with assessments of scientists regarding the majority of the species on the list. The MMA believes that only some 400 of the nearly 1,500 species listed are truly endangered. The situation was revealed last week in an article in the Estado newspaper. Researchers from the Biodiversitas Foundation, who prepared the list, and the Brazilian Botanical Society (SBB) are requesting the immediate publication of the full study. The current list dates back from 1992 and has only 107 species and, according to scientists, is completely outdated. The first review was submitted to MMA in December 2005 and listed 1,537 species as endangered. The Ministry contested the findings and requested another assessment. A new list was then prepared and submitted two months ago, with 42 species less than the former (1,495). The MMA was still not satisfied. According to the Secretary for Biodiversity and Forests at the Ministry, Maria Cecília Wey de Brito, information submitted on many species was insufficient. "We need to sit down together and clarify the logic used to include all of these species", she said. "We want an official list that is solid, without any risks that it will have to be changed two days later."

Some 300 researchers participated in preparing the list. The Biodiversitas Foundation, an NGO based in Belo Horizonte (MG), coordinated the work through a contract with Ibama. The review of the endangered fauna list took place through the same partnership and was published in 2003. At the time, the MMA held publication of the aquatic fish and invertebrates list for one year because of the impact classification could have on fishing activities of certain species. Researchers believe that the high number of plant species may have 'frightened' the ministry. Maria Cecília denies it. "The numbers are not the problem, it is the reliability of the information", she said. She raised the concern that some species may have been included more through overcaution of researchers than due to any concrete evidence of endangerment. "There is no doubt that we are behind schedule in this process (of publishing the list), but we must clarify existing doubts before making a decision." She said that she intends to schedule a meeting with the researchers before the end of the year. The Technical Superintendent at the Biodiversitas Foundation, Gláucia Drummond, approved the idea. "It is precisely this dialogue that has been lacking", she said. "If there are any doubts, the experts are ready to clarify them." She said that there are scientific justifications for all of the species on the list. "If the MMA disagrees, it should put forth its scientific arguments." Most of the species considered endangered are in the Atlantic Rainforest (45%) and the Cerrado (savanna) (34%).

For full story, please see:

Coasta Rica: Debt for Nature Deal will secure science based forest conservation in Costa Rica

Source: Nature Conservancy

The Nature Conservancy has brokered the largest debt-for-nature swap under the Tropical Forest Conservation Act — a deal that will secure long-term, science-based conservation for Costa Rica's tropical forests:
The United States will forgive $26 million in debt owed to it by Costa Rica. This move will in turn provide necessary funds that will be used to finance forest conservation in Costa Rica over the next 16 years, protecting one of the world's richest natural treasures for future generations. And science — the Conservancy's hallmark — is at the center of the deal. "This debt swap is unique in that it utilizes scientific analysis to determine the sites towards which the funds will be directed," says Zdenka Piskulich, program director for the Conservancy in Costa Rica.
Read full article

Farmers Call for Suspension of Seed Treaty
Governments fail to meet minimal Treaty obligations UN conference told

Source: ETC Press Release 1 November 2007

Farmers' organizations who were invited to attend a United Nations meeting on the Treaty that governs the exchange of crop seeds for research and plant breeding late yesterday told the assembled governments that the Treaty would have to be suspended. Speaking on behalf of 30 farmers' and other civil society organizations, Ibrahima Coulibaly of ROPPA (regional farmers' organization of West Africa) said that, "the Treaty, hosted in Rome by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), must halt the exchange of crop germplasm - the critical material for plant breeding. The suspension should remain in effect until governments meet the minimal obligations of the Treaty including its core financial arrangements", the African farmer leader concluded. Read full story :
South Africa: Continent Must Patent Traditional Medicine

Source: Boksburg BuaNews (Tshwane)8 October 2007

African medical practitioners have been urged to use their intellectual property rights in order to patent and protect traditional medicines and indigenous knowledge. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang made this call on Monday, at the Africa regional consultative meeting on Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property.

Read full article:

RIGHTS: Indigenous Congress Demands Teeth for UN Declaration

Source: IPS - the story underneath

LA PAZ, Oct 12 - Indigenous leaders are holding a regional congress in Bolivia to discuss strategies to oblige governments to take on board as state policy the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 13. The U.N. declaration, achieved after a 20-year struggle, recognises the right of the world’s 370 million indigenous people to autonomy, self-determination and control of their territory and resources for their own benefit. However, as a mere declaration, it lacks the legally binding nature of U.N. conventions, which form part of the framework of international law. This is the goal that the leaders of native peoples are now pursuing.

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Corporate Greed, Intellectual Property Laws and the Destruction of Human Civilization

Source: Friday, October 05, 2007 by: Mike Adams

Did you know that if you have children you are an international criminal? You have violated intellectual property laws by infringing on the copyrights of companies that have been granted patents on the human genome. You have replicated that gene sequence by having children without the permission of the owners of those gene sequences. As bizarre as it sounds, it's absolutely true: having children is a violation of patent law.

This has come about because those at the U.S. Patent Office seem to have lost their collective minds. They have allowed companies and individuals to gain ownership of intellectual property that should never have been granted to a private organization or individual. Some things belong to nature -- like the gene sequence of a human being. Man didn't create it. There's no Einstein who created the human gene sequence, put together some DNA and made human beings. People are not an invention; they are a creation.

Intellectual property, and patents in particular, are intended to cover inventions; things that we were the first to create, not something we stumbled across because we have the right equipment to detect them in the natural world. Clearly, genes are already in existence. We did not invent them; nature did. And yet, people and organizations have been granted patents on seeds from nature.

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Jan. 7-18, 2008

Plants in Human Affairs
South Kona, Hawaii

"A lovely retreat center in South Kona". a living laboratory of rare plants and biodiversity, provides the perfect setting for this course, Led by renowned ethnobotanist Kathleen Harrison and ethnopharmacologist Dennis McKenna, this 12-day, four-credit intensive taught amongst tropical and rare plants of Hawaii, will introduce students to the fascinating science of ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology and the role of plants in human affairs through lectures, field trips and presentations by local experts.

This course is open to the public, UMN students, and students at other universities. It will provide participants with cross-cultural perspectives on humanity's age-old relationship with plants, medicines, and an appreciation of the contributions that indigenous plant wisdom has made to the evolution of medicine and the discovery of new medicines from nature.Course fee of $2,200 includes lodging, meals, and field trips.(Tuition and airfare not included). For information and to register, contact Carla Mantel at email: or phone:(612) 624-5166.

Sep 9-14, 2008

4th World Congress on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants–Using Plants to benefit people
Cape Town, South Africa

In a meeting of the Secretariat of the International Union of Biological Sciences (IUBS) in Paris, nine international organizations decided to establish an international non-governmental body entitled: International Council for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (ICMAP) [] with the general objective of promoting international understanding and cooperation between national and international organizations on the role of medicinal and aromatic plants in science, medicine and industry, and to improve the exchange of information between them.

One of the functions of ICMAP is to arrange a world conference on medicinal and aromatic plants [WOCMAP] every five years. The first was in Europe [Maastricht, Netherlands 1992], the second in South America [Mendoza, Argentina 1997], and the third was held in Asia [Chiang Mai, Thailand, 2003]. Due to the geopolitical situation the participation was remarkably lower than at previous WOCMAP conferences, nevertheless more than 600 attendants were present. The proceedings of WOCMAP III were published in six volumes of Acta Horticulturae of the International Society for Horticultural Science.

ICMAP Bureau has invited the Leader of the Phytomedicine Programme at the University of Pretoria to organize WOCMAP IV in South Africa in 2008. We expect in the order of 1200 delegates for WOCMAP IV.

For more information, please visit:

Jan 26 & Feb 23, 2008:

Women's Wisdom Workshop
Vacaville, CA

Women's Wisdom Workshop: Health and Wellbeing for the Female Cycles of Life. Vacaville, California. Explore the use of herbal medicine to support optimum health through menstruation and menopause. For more information please visit Web Site:

March 1, 2008:

Lloyd Library Initiative Historical Research Center for the Natural Health Movement
Cincinnati, OH

Lloyd Library Initiative Historical Research Center for the Natural Health Movement. Cincinnati, OH. Lloyd Library is launching a new initiative to establish the Lloyd Library and Museum as the principal repository worldwide for the archives and personal papers of all individuals, groups, organizations and associations, schools and colleges, businesses, etc. involved in both scientific and grass roots endeavors to bring natural health into the mainstream. For more information, please visit

*Note: ABC's Mark Blumenthal will be a guest speaker.

March 29 - 31, 2008

The 3rd International Congress of Complementary Medicine Research
Sydney, Australia

The Third International Congress on Complementary Medicine Research will be held from 29 to 31 March 2008 at the Sydney Convention Centre in stunning Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia. ICCMR 2008 represents a major worldwide event that will bring together an international network of researchers, practitioners and industry leaders from around the globe in the area of complementary medicine. For more information please visit Web Site: .

May 31-June 2, 2008:

Medicines from the Earth Herb Symposium Black Mountain, NC

Medicines from the Earth Herb Symposium. Black Mountain, NC. Traditional and scientific approaches to botanical medicine are offered in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Speakers to be announced. For more information, please visit Web Site:

June 25-30, 2008

11th International congress Of Ethnobiology, Cusco, Peru;

Call for Participation and Contributions we invite written, video, artistic and other contributions on the congress theme: Livelihoods and collective Biocultural Heritage please submit a 500 word description of your contribution by March 05, 2008 to:
Program Chair ICE 2008 via E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it :


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