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Re: News from the Jungle

  • Subject: Re: News from the Jungle
  • From: Betsy Feuerstein <ecuador@midsouth.rr.com>
  • Date: Fri, 18 May 2001 09:35:23 -0500 (CDT)

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.


Ron Iles wrote:

> Dear Jim,
> Your thoughtful advice is highly appreciated.   Smuggling breaks national
> and international law and rightfully invites re-tribution and deserves
> punishment.  "Ornamental" fish and other fauna are ravished for export greed
> and profit in astronomic quantities to "westernised" countries for peanuts
> for the usual profit and greed.  If I was a poor and exploited native who
> was paid peanuts to survive a sub-subsistence life in an origin country, I
> would be EXTREMELY hostile to "collectors" in my back yard, to those who
> clear and burn it for meats for the rich, and to ALL those who exploit me
> without humanity.   I might even be one of those who grow drugs in
> retaliation and resentment as well as for a little money from my leaders.
> For the sake of global stability and survival of ALL Nature, the collection
> of small SAMPLES of flora and fauna needs to be WELCOMED because it does
> backyard owners GOOD.   Until that perception is justified, "THEY" are often
> right to veto everything and extract the highest reciprocal price from the
> white devils.  When WE make it BETTER for them to keep their Jungle and use
> it for benign sustainable purposes then we might expect to be welcomed
> provided we BUY from them at fair market (at this desperate stage, very
> high) price.   We cannot expect to take thousands of rare plants worth
> hundreds of thousands of dollars, for little or nothing, or even ONE plant
> if it is worth multi-millions to the International pharmaceuticals or for
> the fossil energy exhausting billion acre greenhouse industry.  Costa Rica
> allows export of millions of farmed butterflies and sometimes maybe
> unendangered collected
> species because their history has been far more benign and civilised and
> their country has not been quite as ravished by heartless gringos.   One has
> with cause to pay premium price to compensate for our own mean uncaring
> greed for EVERYTHING from THEIR back yard.   No, its time for the privileged
> to get real and look at global ENVIRONMENTAL and poor countries economic
> balance sheets.  Stop expecting to TAKE after "giving" with the hidden
> agendas of massively taking.    Maybe a few people of widest vision and
> highest integrity WILL be able to get permission for Ark material to be
> BOUGHT and taken out of their countries.  Far from getting a free meal,
> Gringos will rightly have to pay through their justly bloodied noses for
> their privileges and lusts.  But ever increasing hordes of nominal
> "ecotourist" rampaging the backyards and taking FREE what they want.  No way
> and rightly so.   I am beginning to wonder if I should ask expert native
> BOTANISTS to collect and supply tiny samples for this Ark at FULL PRICE and
> when I visit their Countries to do so to observe, support THEM and help
> WITHOUT collecting.  Having listened to so many people who have first hand
> experience, I believe "eco-travellers" need most sensitively just to visit,
> watch, shut up and listen, or pack up ang go away.
> You gringos may not like this but if you want other Countries not to do to
> their Countries what you do to yours, then its time for your re-education,
> a traumatic change of heart and tiny mindset.   Poor (and I mean POOR in the
> money sense only people deserve a happy life too and rightly couldn't care a
> damn now about how you poor little rich people who want what they've got for
> their playpens.  You gotta PAY and PAY WELL as you always should have done
> so that they feel good about YOU.   The days of subserviant and compliant
> slaves existing for the First World are going.  If WE don't get this into
> our thick heads, then all of us gringos and our manic commercial mentors
> will go down in the sinking ship.  If you want to save the Natural Planet,
> without any more pussy footing, start REALLY caring, REALLY sharing, else
> everybody will very nastily and very soon go down fighting each other to
> swim in the sinking ship.   The richer you are the less you'll like this.
> Sorry, but sometimes things have to be said.  The collecting of treasures is
> rightly the responsibility of genuine experts, here professional Botanists,
> not profit motivated looters and speculative art lovers.   If you want
> treasures for yourselves, pay the proper price and make the contracts
> legitimate, truthful and open.    When I go to a Host Country I pay for the
> privilege as generously as I can and above that try to give of myself.  I am
> always welcomed back and my hosts and I like each other!
> Forthrightly
> Ron
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: <Lewandjim@aol.com>
> To: "Multiple recipients of list AROID-L" <aroid-l@mobot.org>
> Sent: Friday, May 11, 2001 9:52 PM
> Subject: Re: News from the Jungle
> | In a message dated 05/11/2001 2:44:33 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
> | edggon@hotmail.com writes:
> |
> | <<  Ron... In some places (including Brazil), sending living plants
> without
> |  the almost-impossible-to-have permits is now considered a crime, and
> people
> |  can be arrested for it. After March this year things have become
> dangerous
> |  around here. I has heard that things are now the same in Colombia. As an
> |  active plant collector (I also have a compreensive collection of some
> |  genera) I am not happy with this. I only want to make you know that the
> |  danger sometimes is not in the jungle... It is at the luggage inspection
> at
> |  the airports! Keep you eyes opened!!! >>
> |
> | Dear Eduardo, Ron, et al.,
> |
> | This list is an international assemblage but I wanted to add to what
> Eduardo
> | said above for the benefit of US citizens. Under a very broad-based Lacey
> Act
> | if you collect plants illegally in a foreign jurisdiction and return with
> | them, you have committed a criminal act in the US as well. The penalties
> are
> | fearsome both economically and in jail time.
> |
> | You are at risk of apprehension at both the departure and arrival airport!
> |
> |     Jim Langhammer
> |

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