December 10, 2002
Dear Sir or Madam,
Have we forgotten that half the life on this planet is vegetable? I am concerned that more and more we seem to be ignoring the other organic species that co-exist here, and in particular, the plant life. To continue down this road may be more that just typically rude human behaviour; it may also prove to be extremely dangerous.
Animal, vegetable or mineral? That was usually the first question asked when playing such guessing games as '20 Questions' or 'I Spy With My little Eye...' The object was for others to guess, after some deductive reasoning, what you secretly had in mind.
By asking, 'Animal, vegetable or mineral?', as your first of 20 questions, you could eliminate two thirds of the world's known objects because everything in the world is either organic (animal or vegetable) or inorganic (minerals, metals and manufactured goods).
Like you, I am not really concerned about the inanimate objects. Petroleum products, precious metals, plastic extrusions, paper currencies, automobiles... all these material things are just ..things; they are in-organic , they have no LIFE. But I have the sneaking suspicion most of us have forgotten that there are two organic groups; animals have LIFE and so do vegetables. We have turned our backs on plants, our other fellow life-forms.
We say we care about our animal friends. We pretend to love our fellow man. But what thought do we give to the plants that grow? To the jungle that overgrows the abandoned ruins of civilisations? How long as it been since you heard anyone have a kind word to say about a thistle or a tumbleweed? Trees give us shade, maple syrup and lumber - and how do we repay them? By grinding them into pulp for pop culture magazines, law books and toilet roll.
The number of plants that provide us with food, medicines and psychotropic experiences would fill a galaxy of explorations for an open-minded star-ship captain. And yet how many of us today give any consideration to our fellow organic beings here on planet earth.
Canadian, Wade Davis , Explorer-in-Residence 1
at the National Geographic Society (Washington, D.C.), who specialised in researching South American hallucinogens on a first hand basis for many years, loves to recount the anecdotal experience of a friend's vegetative epiphany:
'Wow man! Plants... They eat light! How cool is that.'
Wise words indeed, and well worth remembering next time you bite into a carrot or otherwise try to endear yourself to cows and pigs by substituting things-without-faces into your diet. Remember those wise words next time you munch into an apple or tear the skin off an orange. That banana you are eating used to consume raw energy in the form of pure light.
Hoping you will take these thoughts into consideration,
I remain your most loyal and least dutiful savant,
Extinction or Survival: The Global Biodiversity Crisis
The Healing Forest: Ethnobotany and the Search for New Medicines
The Art of Shamanic Healing: Ancient Traditions of Medicine and Magic
The Light at the Edge of the World: An Anthropological Journey from the Amazon to the high Arctic, from the forests of Borneo to the mountains of Tibet
In the Realm of the Inca: Sacred Landscapes of the Andes
One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rainforest
The March of Folly: A Critical Examination of the War on Drugs
Vanishing Cultures - Enduring Lives