Monday, April 12, 2010

Wiping out Natural Medicine

I just read a most disturbing article that states that 93% of the plants used in Indian traditional medicine are threatened with Extinction.  That is an astonishing number and an indictment of the careless way we treat the natural world. 

I cannot imagine I even have to argue what an ecological crime this is.  Wiping out 93 percent of any group of organizms is a terrible blow to any environment.  It is almost hard to imagine that mankind has that power.  Alas, we do and we weild that power with the thoughtless destruction of a child stamping through a flower bed.  We can do such incalculable harm to a ecological system and it doesn't even make it to the headlines.  One has to hear about it on a green blog.  We need to be ashamed, but I fear shame is as out of fashion as stewardship and responsibility.

But, I would argue that another crime is being committed.  We are not only destroying nature, we are destroying a natural way of dealing with the world. Indian traditional medicine or Arurveda is an ancient set of herbal treatments which have been used to maintian health in India for centuries.  It is time honored and respected by hundreds of millions of people.  Modern science can judge it as it will, but that does not change the fact that it is a system that people desire to maintain. 

Wiping out the physical basis of Aruvedic medicine is a cultural crime of unspeakable dimensions.  Who are we to interfer in this way.  These are not simply isolated plants, they are a coherent whole that constitutes thousands of years worth of folk medicine and cultural traditions.  Wholesale extinction of these plants will result in the destruction of an entire branch of natural medicne.

I can argue that it is also an economic crime.  Without access to natural healing, many people in the world will then have no access to any healing at all.  A villager in remote India may not have physical or economic access to a modern pharmacy.  More importantly, he may not want access.  But we will deny them any natural alternative.  The only choice will be to suffer without any treatment or to buy corporate medicine.

In a world where man's sins seem to pile up daily, this matter will probably flash by our concious and be lost in a sea of other horrors.  But if so, if no one acts to prevent this, we will have lost a treasure house of knowledge that none can replace.  Many people currently and possible even more in the future will need to depend on medical aid that can be derived from the local environment.  Herbal medicine is the choice of billion of people and commonly the only choice available to them.  Depriving the world of these plants is a sin and an indictment of human excess.  Simple living is not possible if we do not allow the natural world to simply live.

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