‘ Primitives ‘ tell us what we should do

‘ Primitives ‘ tell us what we should do


Adalberto Val scientist’s words: “traditional knowledge contain wide range that science would take a long time to take ownership and need to have that intention.” Photo: Andrew Newey

by Washington Novaes

By the time it came back up discussions in Congress about the Legal framework biodiversity – with restrictions made by those who saw it as detrimental to traditional and indigenous communities, which would receive payment of companies and institutions that use their traditional knowledge – study of Stanford University, Princeton and California (Yahoo, 25/6) indicates you are experiencing the sixth mass extinction of biodiversity species-considered the largest wealth of the planet. The rate of extinction is 100 times greater than in any other period. And would be fed by deforestation, climate change and pollution. Only in the area of animals, for example, the International Union for conservation of nature (IUCN) says that 41% of amphibian species and 21% of mammals are already threatened by extinction.

Not by chance, are coming out, at this time, important books for the awareness of the society about the problem. The encyclopedia of traditional medicine Matsés people, for example, documents in 500 pages, compiled over the years by five born in Brazil and shamans in Peru, the rich biodiversity of its areas and the valuable possibilities in traditional medicine. The text details how each species in the area offers resources to face the variety of ailments. But only in the native language, “to ensure that the medicinal knowledge” is not stolen “by companies or researchers”, as has already happened. And there will be a translation. The compilation was also one of the ways to attract the attention of young people who resisted the traditional processes of formation of shamans, that take years and require many abstinências and sacrifices. It is a text that teaches, still, how to recognize each disease by its symptoms, what plants to use, how to prepare the medicine. And there’s a photo of each.

Another important publication in the area, and which also has just come out, is the Traditional Yanomami Remedies Manual, second volume of the series Know the forest Yanomami, fruit of the partnership between the Hutukara Yanomami Association and the Instituto SocioAmbiental. Brings researchers studies yanomami about several areas of knowledge and research from other sources. It’s a job that brings together ethnobotanical research William Milliken, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the anthropologist Bruce Albert, of the Institut de Recherche pour le Development (IRD), about traditional plants in that culture. The publication was delayed by the need to find legal protection to knowledge formats. In the years 2012 and 2013 there have been workshops about this.

The relationship, in the book, problems that can be treated with species of biodiversity is impressive. And it is worth quoting at least some of them: diseases of the skin, itching caused by contacts like spiders, ticks, thrush; a toothache; diseases and infections in the eye, the ear, the head and lumbar spine; body aches; stings of stingray, Scorpion, snake bites and tucandeiras; bugs standing; lesions; Burns; intestinal diseases, diarrhea in children; worms; rhinitis; inflammation in the throat; the flu; chest pains; vomit; dizziness; lack of appetite; menstrual cramps; inguinal hernias.

And there is a millenary knowledge associated with each drug. How to write in the book Justin Yanomami, nothing is random: “My own mother collected these meds and told me ‘ I will choose carefully, I’m not going to give soon something else which is not, I’m going to look for slow and find! ‘ And finally, I thought. Then she said: ‘ These things here are riori wekixi! ‘. That’s how in the old days we showed real remedies. Not show some affinity, showed those who were real. These riori wekixi are difficult to recognize. Only someone who knows them, looking for much, turning leaves, you can find and bring them “. That’s exactly what the book does.

With so much knowledge compiled, you need to know what are we going to do with these places is much of the biodiversity – and who loses. In Legal Amazon, desmatamos 248 thousand square kilometers between 1997 and 2013, according to the IBGE (20/6). At least 15% of the Legal Amazon have been cleared. The Atlantic forest has already lost 85.5% of the forest area; the pampas, 54.2%; the Cerrado, 49.1%; the caatinga, 46.6%; and the Pantanal, 15.4%.

And we’re going to do, in many places indigenous people continue to be murdered (138 last year), to commit suicide (48) and being persecuted for who wants their land, no matter if with they lose invaluable knowledge about the native biodiversity? On the recent visit of the Pope Francisco to Latin America , the Indians asked for help. As Claude Lévy Strauss says in his book Saudades do Brasil (1994), “those who peruse in this book should guard against another delusion: believing that these Indians completely naked (…) offer the image of a primitive humanity (…) The people of Central Brazil and other parts are the resídule of highest civilizations and more numerous .

It is also worth remembering the words of scientist Adalberto Val, a researcher at the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia (Inpa/MCTI): “traditional knowledge contains a wide range that science would take a long time to take ownership and need to have that intention.”

But how to do it, in much of the country continue to dump pesticides in unbelievable numbers, to decimate the biodiversity? Are 6.9 kg per hectare/year – were 2.7 kg in 2002. IBGE says that the most used are dangerous (64.1%) or very dangerous (27.7%).

The theme is very strong: says the UN Biodiversity Convention, that losses in this area amount to $ 1.4 trillion (equivalent to 5% of the world economy) per year. Which would not be possible without these losses, only in the area of health, for example? 

Washington Novaes  journalist.

Originally published on the site the Estado de s. Paulo.

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