plants db - indigenous

Toby Hemenway hemenway at
Mon Dec 31 12:49:01 EST 2001

Andreas wrote:
> I heard that about 8000 Prunus Africana trees have
> practically been stripped naked in the mount cameroon forests.

The same happened here in the US northwest with yew trees, whose bark has a
cancer-treating compound; now the big yews are gone. The sad part was that
the damage was all done by local people, destroying their own trees to get
the money paid by drug companies. I suspect the same happened in Cameroon.

1earth permaculture at permaculture1 at wrote:

> This poor, and great, woman has seen the genocide of the Tasmanian
> Aborigine and has experienced first hand murder, rape, torture, slave
> labour . . .

Context is everything, isn't it? If a drug corporation withheld access to a
new and promising medication because they might lose control over it, we'd
be screaming bloody murder. But when an indigenous person does the same, we
bow our heads in respect. Of course she has the right to withhold her
knowledge, but from my perspective--admittedly postcolonial and western--it
seems like a claim that her people are more worthy and right-minded than
others are. Who is wise enough to decide when unknown others are "ready" for

Whether it's justifying a tribal secret or carpet-bombing an impoverished
nation, the claim that one's own group should act against the common good
because they are wiser or more right than another's has been the cause of
too much suffering already. I wouldn't force my point of view on her, or on
anyone else, but her actions certainly go against the precepts of caring for
people and sharing the surplus. I realize how complex this woman's situation
must be, but to me, whether it's by corporations or indigenous people, the
Earth's wisdom is better shared than hoarded.


More information about the permaculture mailing list