Airdate: Jun 13, 2018
Scientist: Richard Evans Schultes
Lost Knowledge of the Amazon
A pioneering ethnobotanist worked with indigenous peoples around the world to discover useful plants. This archival program is part of Pulse of the Planet's 30th anniversary celebration. Richard Evans Schultes (1915 - 2001) has been called the father of modern ethnobotany. His story inspired the film "Embrace of the Serpent".
ETHNOBOTANY 1Celebrating three decades of Pulse of the Planet, here's a program from our archives.Scientists who are trying to uncover little-known medicinal uses of plants often travel to isolated areas of the world where people still rely on traditional remedies. But it's a race against time. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.Ambiance, rainforest"In our societies, we're so removed from the plant kingdom that most people wouldn't know a wheat field if they were driving by."Dr. Richard Evans Schultes is Jeffrey Professor of Biology, and director of the Botanical Museum at Harvard University Emeritus. He spent years in the rainforests of South America working with indigenous peoples and studying their use of herbal medicines."Primitive people know their plants and they have experimented over thousands of years. They know the properties of these plants, and they've bent them to their use.""There's a danger that this knowledge may not be passed on because it's lost with the arrival of missionaries, commercial people, or even tourists, and the availability of our drugs. Every road that goes in, brings in our civilization. Many things of the natives are lost. And one of the first things that's lost is this knowledge of plants that are useful as medicines." "Take the 80,000 species in the Amazon. If chemists are going to get material of 80,000 species and analyze them, they may never finish the job. We should concentrate first on those plants that the people who live there have found to have some physiological effect on the body. " Many Amazonian plants have been the basis of western medicines, as we'll hear in future programs.This archival program is part of our thirtieth anniversary celebration. Im Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet.