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  Re: News from the Jungle
From: Betsy Feuerstein ecuador at midsouth.rr.com> on 2001.05.18 at 14:35:23(6506)
My blood pressure just rose about a thousand points. I feel like I have just
been told what I should do and that the collecting should be left to botanists.
If there were enough botanists in the world to collect what is left that would
be fine, but there are not. Many botanists refuse to share what they collect and
grow and many don't collect living material. Then the question of paying is a
legitimate question, but when Big Brother, The World Bank, and others
promulagate that all must be left in country, one who knows, who has been der
done dat, is aware that slash and burn, cut and farm for a short time, clean the
side of the roads, leaves a terrain with nothing that resembles a rain forest.
Little is left of what was, little has been collected by botanists AND
collectors, of what was, and even less is in living form of what plants there
were. Now, commerical or greed, strip collecting is another thing. I totally
agree that such be stopped and made unprofitable. I have seen this done in
orchids and cycads, but not in aroids. Remember downed tree areas do not remain.
If not collected at that very time, within six months almost nothing of what
was, will remain. Is there harm in harvesting such material or is there
potentially great benefit in taking that material, sharing with the botanists
with appropriate honest collecting data and with other plant collectors? Now if
money passes hands to make that possible, so be it. I have had many say to me
that plants did not cost me anything because I just took them from the ground
and I have learned to control my anger and just walk away. Anyone that stupid,
needs a head check. My time, my travel expenses, my efforts to re-establish a
collected plant, my money spent to get appropriate help in the process, and then
my efforts to keep records for the botanists ALL require great effort and a LOT
of money. Say anything about the great cost of maintaining the home front while
one is gone by paying others to love your collection as you do. Now mention the
medical expenses of recouperating from the collected body ailments that accrue
from international travel from the runs to ameobic dysentary and worse. And what
about the cost of maintaining a greenhouse, a shade house, a plant collection in
general, from potting soils, to insecticides, to snail and slug deterrant, and
so on. You get the message, you could not pay me enough on the scale that I do,
to make this a truly break even endeavor.

Would I prefer to do collecting with permits from the country of origin? YOU bet
I would!!!!! Would I pay dearly for the privilege? YES! If all was being left in
situ just as pristine as nature provided, there would be no reason to collect
because it would potentially be there forever. Taking my head from the sand for
just a moment, it all is disappearing at some gross rate beyond human
perception. Look at a space photo of what is left today and then look again
tomorrow and six months down the road.

The little guy in country is generally not deprived by anything I take. Now, the
drug companies certainly would be more than willing to get the information from
the shaman and bring home the plant material, refine so patentable, and leave
the little guy sitting high and dry. No question, these people have by tradition
preserved their observable information. When great money and power are in the
equation, the little guy is nothing. Do I agree with that one? Absolutely not!
If, as a society, we were smart enough to use the natural products, not
patentable, with its few or no side affects, the source could be the little guy
and his jungle, but no, the drug companies want a patentable product so it must
be altered and refined into a poison, with major side affects. When we, the
little people of the home front, find the way to insist that we honor nature in
its raw form, which we have started to do, we will begin to unlock the little
guy who lives from the jungle as his resource. Society often says, slash and
burn, grow grass for cattle and in a very limited time, very little but sedge
grows and the little guy moves on to new and usable territory. In the process,
all or most of the unknown botanical material is LOST.

Now, give me permits to collect and charge me for that permit, gives each
country ever so needed income for their debt ridden coffers. Put limitations on
that permit to a time limit, to a number of plants, to make herbarium specimen
and deposit such at designated repositories. Whatever, but accept the reality,
it won't be long and it won't be there for historical heritage or the world. I
am not talking tomorrow, but I am talking TODAY. Why not take advantage of an
asset with whatever limitations seen fit and allow what can be preserved and
maintained for future generations. And let it be done with integrity instead of
bribe. Now, I just put my head back into the sand, I realize. Bribery, is a
cultural reality in many if not most of the rest of the world and perhaps
here/USA also. The old expression, 'when in Rome, do as the Romans,' may just
have to be part of the equation for anything to work in much of the world.

When I am in country, I use as much help as I can get, use the products and
resources of the country and pay far more than is normally received in ordinary
commerce in the country. That has its good and its bad perspective. If I pay
more than is normally paid in country, then the workers come to expect more from
the in country trade and certainly, when I return they demand more and more.
Difficult to determine if it is better to stay within the norm or to be generous
by our standards. Perhaps it is even more important to respect what we see as
help. Appreciate their assistance and do not look down on what they do. Our
society often sees manual efforts as less than. Perhaps it is time to appreciate
all help not by looking down, but as equal. You see, there are still answers to
be worked out.

Okay, I just blew my top. I love to collect and grow plants. I love to think by
sharing I have helped in the process of botanical collecting and preservation
not only in dry form, but in living form. Perhaps a collaborative effort between
the sometimes very arrogant seclusive botanical world and the little guy who
loves to grow, see things in the wild, and who would love to be a part of making
what is now, be here down the road, might be very advantageous for all. We are
going to have to learn a mutual respect and to learn to work together. I am
fully aware that in the middle of the equation there is a greedy commercial
factor that wants control of the genetic material, especially in orchids. I have
not dealt with them, but for the picture to clarify, they too will have to get
into the collaborative mode. There are those whom, I have known, who would not
tell a botanist where they collected anything correctly. False information is a
control/power factor and one I would like to see avoided. Perhaps if we could
eliminate one upsmanship with I have what you do not or you can't get, and we
learn to work together for the good of all, we might take a step forward. Will
any of this happen in my lifetime? I hope so. I am not holding my breath.

Many may say she just has her head in the sand all the time. And maybe I do.


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