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Mark Plotkin - An ethnobotanist who helps Amazon Indians
By Christa Maas



Dr Plotkin has spent part of the last 25 years living with Shamans (medicine men) in the Amazon Rainforest. He ethnobotanist, a writer and the Founder of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT).

Over 25 % of the Amazon territory is supposed to be protected as Reservations for Indians, but the mining and illegal logging companies don't respect this! So ACT had a really great idea. They are teaching Indians how to use the Internet and especially Google Earth. Now the Indians can use technology as a surveillance system and can see where new gold mines are popping up or where they are being invaded. Then they go, check it out on foot and advise the local government to take action.

Indians also mark where they get materials for houses, bamboo, specific vines, places where they find honey and wood for canoes, anything they eat in terms of palm nuts, Brazil nuts, Açaí -- rich palm fruit, but they also mark the historical, sacred, spiritual or mythological sites, watersheds and areas with a lot of biodiversity which they have always protected. They use hundreds of medicinal plants, and now guard these secrets, some of which have been stolen from them in the past by biopirates, who then sold them to pharmaceutical companies for a lot of money. The Indians never received anything in return!

Plotkin tells a very interesting story about a two headed jaguar he saw as a drawing on a map and when he asked the Shaman what that meant, he has told that two-headed jaguars are invisible and dangerous so no Indian goes to his territory. Later he found out that the area marked with the invisible jaguar was a strict no-hunting zone, which was preserved to ensure a breeding refuge for forest wildlife. This was the shaman's way of saying that it was a protected area where hunting was not allowed.

Now Indian kids can surf the Internet jus t like you do and still protect their culture and way of life! Preserving the old ways by using the new technologies- only superheroes could think of that!

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