A few weeks ago, I finished up a great book called the Light at the Edge of the World by Wade Davis, Harvard’s star ethnobotanist who spent time with indigenous cultures in Tibet, Kenya, the Amazon, Canada and the Andes.
The core of Davis’s book is that these cultures along with their thoughts, beliefs and knowledge, especially their knowledge of plants and nature -- are being eliminated in the name of progress – although Davis would clearly never call it that.
What was most fascinating to me is what might be called the scientific precision in which these cultures can manipulate plants and other natural resources into medicine (among other things) and in ways that more technologically advanced societies still haven't imagined.
Instead of seeing these people as a hindrance to progress, Davis sees them as scholars. And as mainstream medicine seems more willing to consider and to some extent fold alternative or natural treatments into more conventional treatment, these cultures may possess irreplaceable experience that Davis sees as threatened.
A few examples of Davis' experiences include witnessing shamanistic rituals, ‘zombification’ in Haiti and the use psychotropics from the Amazon.
It's a short book packed with insight and a great read if you've ever had an interest in learning more about how botany can interact with the human body.