|Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Conservation Team
PEACE & LIGHT
On his frequent trips to Suriname, on South America’s northern coast, MARK PLOTKIN, G87, stays in remote villages, visiting old friends he’s made throughout his decades of ethnobotanical research there—people
who hunt with bows and poison-tipped arrows and rely on jungle plants
for food, medicine, and rituals. In 1995, concerned about their future,
he cofounded the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), a nongovernmental organization
that works with indigenous groups to protect both their culture and their
lands. Through its flagship Shamans and Apprentices program, elders impart
their knowledge about native plants and medicines to the next generation.
ACT also supports indiginous-medicine clinics, which operate alongside
Western-style clinics. And it has provided tribes with handheld GPS units
so that they can map ancestral lands, marking villages and other important
features for the first time. Such maps could aid in staving off illegal
logging and other development-related threats.