Embrace of the Serpent at the CCA in Santa Fe

Embrace of the Serpent at the CCA in Santa Fe

Life of legendary ethnobotanist and Synergetic Press author, Richard Evans Schultes, portrayed in Academy Award nominated film, Embrace of the Serpent, starting March 25 in Santa Fe at the CCA.

An image from Embrace of the Serpent with Schultes in the background

An image from Embrace of the Serpent with Schultes’ character in the background

Embrace of the Serpent was Academy Award Nominated for BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM inspired by the real-life journals of two explorers: Theodor Koch-Grünberg and Richard Evans Schultes who traveled through the Colombian Amazon during the last century in search of the sacred and difficult-to-find psychedelic Yakruna plant.

Filmed in stunning black-and-white, SERPENT centers on Karamakate, an Amazonian shaman and the last survivor of his people, and the two scientists who, over the course of 40 years, build a friendship with him.

Embrace of the Serpent will be playing at The Center for Contemporary Arts , Santa Fe

Starting March 25

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vineofthesoulcoverRichard Evans Schultes classic book, Vine of the Soul, is published by Santa Fe based Synergetic Press.

VINE OF THE SOUL: MEDICINE MEN, THEIR PLANTS AND RITUALS IN THE COLOMBIAN AMAZONIA By Richard Evans Schultes & Robert F. Raffauf Preface by Wade Davis

Read more about the connections between Vine of the Soul and Embrace of the Serpent.

About the Book

This book is the story of a time that was—a time when the Amazon Indian was free to roam the forest and rivers, happy with their social institutions, unencumbered by acculturation or the cultural destruction of their ancient societies and virgin forests. The story is told through over 160 black & white photographs taken by renown Harvard ethnobotanist, Richard Evans Schultes during the ‘40s and ‘50s when he spent fourteen uninterrupted years living with the Indian tribes of the Amazon. Combining his scientific eye for documentation with a photographers eye for lighting, composition and character, he created an extraordinary record of the medicinal plants and flora of the Colombian Amazon.

Co‐authored by Robert F. Raffauf, an outstanding plant chemist, VINE OF THE SOUL contains some of the most significant photographs on this subject ever taken accompanied by detailed descriptions of the Amazon Indians use of medicinal and other sacred plant substances, with information on the bioactive chemistry and medicinal properties of the plants.

VINE OF THE SOUL (or ayahuasca) is a sacred drink used for millennia by shamans throughout the Amazon basin. This book is not just for readers interested in ayahuasca, and other psychoactive drugs; it is a remarkable record of a rich heritage that is in danger of disappearing altogether and should be examined by anyone interested in preserving the Amazon rainforest and the cultural heritage of its people. Thanks to attention drawn to the Amazon Indians by Schultes and others, the former President of Colombia, Virgilio Barco, in 1988 returned over six million hectares of land to the Indians for their exclusive use. The Colombian government further created a number of biological reserves, bringing the total area under protection to more than 20,000,000 hectares.

Dr. Richard Evans Schultes in Vine of the Soul

The second edition contains a Preface by Wade Davis, Explorer‐in‐Residence for the National Geographic Society; a Foreword by Sir Ghillean Prance, Former Director of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, England (Emeritus); and Epilogue by Michael Balick, Director of Institute of Economic Botany, NY Botanical Gardens.

Recipient of numerous national and international awards including the annual World Wildlife Fund Gold Medal, Schultes was awarded in 1983 the Cross of Boyaća, the highest honor offered by the Republic of Colombia. In 1992, Dr. Schultes was awarded the Linnean Gold Medal, the highest award a botanist can receive. Possibly more famous on the streets of Bogotá, Schultes was nevertheless the quintessential Harvard man, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a Bostonian, a gentleman and a scholar.

Co‐authors Drs. Schultes and Raffauf passed away in recent years. This reissue is in commemoration of the authors life’s work. Remarkable plants; remarkable people; remarkable men.

“The medicine men of the Kamsa and Inga tribes of the valley of Sibundoy have an unusually extensive knowledge of medicinal and toxic plants. One of the most renowned is Salvador Chindoy, who insists that his knowledge of the medicinal plants has been taught to him by the plants themselves through the hallucinations he has experienced in his long lifetime as a medicine man. It is such knowledge, fast disappearing, that we must salvage for the potential benefit of all mankind.”

Why is Ayahuasca so Popular Now?

As so many shifts are occurring on the planet and people look for ways to adapt their lives, more and more have been finding ayahuasca to be an invaluable tool in their transformation. We answered some questions about this mysterious brew and why it’s been getting so much attention.

ayahuasca reader

Drawing by Kathleen Harrison. In the Ayahuasca Reader.

What is Ayahuasca?

Ayahuasca is a sacred drink used for millennia by numerous indigenous groups primarily in the Upper Amazon and Orinoco basins for divination, healing, and other cosmogonic/shamanic purposes.

-from the Ayahuasca Reader

It’s known by many names throughout South America and is also known as yagé or yajé. The name ayahuasca translates to “vine of the soul” in Quechuan.

What is it made of?

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive brew or tea most commonly derived from Banisteriopsis caapi, a vine containing monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and the leaves of Psychotria viridis or other plant containing N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and often several other admixture plants.

-from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)

Why do people use it?

There are many reasons why more people are choosing to drink ayahuasca including:

  • spiritual and religious reasons
  • shamanic journeying
  • personal growth
  • medicinal and therapeutic purposes

What kinds of medicinal and therapeutic properties does ayahuasca have?

It’s been gaining attention around the world for its ability to heal a wide range of diseases and conditions. Thousands of people report emotional, mental and physical healing from a wide range of conditions. To contribute to the abundance of anecdotal evidence, there have been more clinical studies scientifically investigating ayahuasca’s healing properties, including recent studies showing the effectiveness of a single use in treating recurrent depression, significant improvement among participants in therapy for treatment of addiction, and possible antitumor effects.

Untitled, gouache on paper, © Marlene Lopes Mateus, (Cashinahua, Brazil). Collection of Elsje Maria Lagrou. In the Ayahuasca Reader.

What are the religious or spiritual reasons for drinking ayahuasca?

People report an expanded sense of connection with all of life through visions that reveal the nature of reality. Oftentimes during ceremonies, healing songs or icaros are sung to guide participants through their journey.

In indigenous groups in Amazonia, shamans drink ayahuasca for many reasons that have spiritual significance, including to travel to other realms, gather information, finding and treating illnesses, and to communicate with other beings. For more detailed information on these rituals, see Ayahuasca Reader and Vine of The Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazonia.

There are also several recognized churches that use ayahuasca as an entheogenic sacrament, including Santo Daime, Barquinha and União do Vegetal (UDV).


“Ayahuasca has a very insistent message. It’s one of those universals that almost everyone who drinks the brew sooner or later reports. It’s about the sacred, magical, enchanted, interconnected, infinitely precious nature of life on earth, and the interdependence of material and spiritual realms.” -Graham Hancock


Allen Ginsberg, speaking at the University of Pennsylvania in 1967. Photograph © by Roberth Hahn. In the Ayahuasca Reader

Don Ignacio, Shipibo shaman, Ucayali River. Photograph © Angelika Gebhart-Sayer. In the Ayahuasca Reader.

Who’s using it?

Indigenous groups in the Amazon have been using ayahuasca for thousands of years, with written records of ayahuasca ceremonies emerging in the early diaries of Spanish colonial priests.

In addition to the populations who have traditionally used ayahuasca, there has been a surge of interest among people all over the world. Many people including scientists, doctors, artists, musicians, writers, journalists, those who wish to be healed from disease and those who want to seek to go deeper within themselves.

Is it legal?

Ayahuasca is legal in many countries in South America. The United States Supreme Court has unanimously ruled in favor of the legal religious use of ayahuasca by the União do Vegetal, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed the Santo Daime Church’s freedom to use ayahuasca for religious purposes. However, ayahuasca’s principally active ingredient—DMT—remains a Schedule I controlled substance.

-from the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)

Why is ayahuasca so popular now?

At this critical moment in human history, we are seeing a remarkable increase in the use of Ayahuasca. This voice of this profound Amazonian plant teacher has been getting louder. It calls us to find balance with the rhythms of the planet. As we see the effects of consumeristic excess waging war on the planet, the message of ayahuasca calls us to raise our Earth consciousness by examining our lives and coming into a state of harmony.

“. . . the ubiquitous simultaneous therapeutic, religious, spiritual and medicinal roles of these plants have implications for understanding the nature of human consciousness and the spiritual.” -Michael Winkleman

How can I learn more?

Join us for a SYNERGETIC SYMPOSIUM & SALON on Earth Consciousness & Lore of the Amazon

Conversations on Ayahuasca, Ethnomedicine, and the Biospheric Imperative with

RALPH METZNER • DENNIS MCKENNA • RICK DOBLIN • ALLAN BADINERJOHN ALLEN • VALERIE PLAME WILSON • GAY DILLINGHAM • MICHAEL GARFIELD

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6 4:00 – 11:00 PM

Talks • Dinner • Visionary Art • Poetry • Music • Dancing

Synergia Ranch Santa Fe, New Mexico

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You can also find a wealth of comprehensive writings and images in Ayahuasca Reader, more ethnobotanical information in Vine of The Soul: Medicine Men, Their Plants and Rituals in the Colombian Amazonia, and a discussion of ayahuasca and Buddhist practice in Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics.

Synergetic Symposium & Salon with METZNER, MCKENNA AND DOBLIN

Synergetic Symposium & Salon with METZNER, MCKENNA AND DOBLIN

This year we are organizing a series of events to deepen our conversation with pioneers and visionaries working in an array of fields of study about the world around us and within us. Our first event is in Santa Fe is next month, details are below. Future events will be held in San Francisco and London.

01SP-home-slider-EventSOLD OUT!  We will prepare webcasts of the presentations in the near future for those who missed this event. Please sign up for our newsletter to receive notice of when they will be available.

SYNERGETIC SYMPOSIUM & SALON

on Earth Consciousness & Lore of the Amazon

Conversations on Ayahuasca, Ethnomedicine, and the Biospheric Imperative with

RALPH METZNER • DENNIS MCKENNA • RICK DOBLIN • ALLAN BADINER • JOHN ALLEN • GEORGE GREER • VALERIE PLAME WILSON • GAY DILLINGHAM • MICHAEL GARFIELD

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 6
4:00 – 11:00 PM

Talks • Dinner • Visionary Art • Poetry • Music • Dancing

Synergia Ranch

Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Program

Symposium 4:00 – 6:30 PM
Talks by Dennis McKenna, Rick Doblin and Ralph Metzner
Panel Moderated by George Greer
Dinner 7:00 – 8:00 PM (optional)
Salon 8:30 – 11:00 PM 
Earth Consciousness Roundtable with Ralph Metzner, Dennis McKenna, Valerie Plame Wilson, Gay Dillingham and others (TBA), moderated by Allan Badiner
Poetry with John Dolphin Allen
Music & Visuals by Lightlab with DJ Goz and other TBA
Dance performance by the Daughters of Lillith
A time during the program will be made for introductions and brief presentations from local leaders of communities and groups engaged in Earth awareness, in raising consciousness, spiritual studies, and frontiers in developing frontiers in medical research with entheogens.
The Symposium & Salon are designed to share the wisdom and inspiration of our speakers and artists, to generate ideas and insights, and to nourish our vibrant local community.
Tickets:
• Symposium  $40
Dinner  $25
Salon  $20
• Package  $75

Your hosts, Deborah Parrish Snyder and Michael Gosney, are happy to answer any questions, or provide further information at
deborah at synergeticpress.com
About the Speakers and Moderators
RalphMetzner
Dr. Ralph Metzner is author of many books, practicing psychotherapist and Professor Emeritus at the California Institute of Integral Studies including a book coauthored with Ram Dass, Birth of a Psychedelic Culture (Synergetic Press). Dr. Metzner has been involved in consciousness research for over fifty years, including psychedelics, yoga, meditation, and shamanism. He is co-founder and president of the Green Earth Foundation, a non-profit educational organization devoted to healing and harmonizing the relationship between humans and the Earth.
 [hr]dennis
Dr. Dennis McKenna is an American ethnopharmacologist, research pharmacognosist, lecturer and author. He is the brother of well-known psychedelics proponent Terence McKenna and is a founding board member and the director of ethnopharmacology at the Heffter Research Institute, a non-profit organization concerned with the investigation of the potential therapeutic uses of psychedelic medicines.

doblin
Dr. Rick Doblin is founder and executive director of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). His undergraduate thesis at New College of Florida was a twenty-five-year follow-up to the classic Good Friday Experiment. He wrote his doctoral dissertation (in Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government) on the regulation of the medical uses of psychedelics. His professional goal is to help develop legal contexts for the beneficial uses of psychedelics and marijuana and eventually to become a legally licensed psychedelic therapist.

Allan BadinerAllan Badiner is the editor of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (Synergetic Press), as well as two other books of collected essays, Dharma Gaia: A Harvest in Buddhism and Ecology (Parallax Press, 1991) and Mindfulness in the Marketplace: Compassionate Responses to Consumerism (Parallax, 2002). Allan is a contributing editor of Tricycle, and serves on the board of directors of Rainforest Action Network, Threshold Foundation and Project CBD. He has been a student of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh for more than 25 years.

john_allenJohn Dolphin Allen is author of Me and the Biospheres (Synergetic Press), poet, playwright who invented, conceived and co-founded the Biosphere 2 project – the world’s largest laboratory for global ecology. Biosphere 2 set a number of world records in closed life system work including, among others, degree of sealing tightness, 100% waste recycle and water recycle, and duration of human residence within a closed system (eight people for two years). Allen has also conceived and co-founded nine other projects around the world, pioneering in sustainable co-evolutionary development.

bioGreer
Dr. George Greer conducted over 100 therapeutic sessions with MDMA for 80 individuals from 1980 to 1985 with his psychiatric nurse wife, Requa Tolbert. Their review of this work remains the largest published study of the therapeutic use of MDMA. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and Past President of the Psychiatric Medical Association of New Mexico. He was also the Clinical Director of Mental Health Services for the New Mexico Corrections Department during the 1990s. He has been the Medical Director of the Heffter Research Institute since 1998.

Valerie Plame Wilson is a former career covert CIA operations officer who worked to protect America’s national security and prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Valerie sits on the boards of Global Data Security, a cyber security company that safeguards digital data, and Starling Trust, a predictive behavioral analytics company. She also serves on the nonprofit boards of the Ploughshares Fund, Global Zero, the Penn State School of International Affairs, the United Way of Santa Fe County, and Postpartum Support International. Valerie is affiliated with the Santa Fe Institute, a trans-disciplinary scientific think tank addressing the most compelling and complex problems in the world today.

dillingham_gayGay Dillingham is Co-Founder, former President and Chair of Earthstone International, LLC, an environmental IP company manufacturing recycled glass into an engineered “white foam glass.” Gay served as Chair of the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board for six of eight years of her tenure and passed historic greenhouse gas regulations in 2010. Gay owns a production company, CNS Communications, and is an award-winning producer/director. Her latest film, Dying to Know, celebrates the unique friendship of Timothy Leary and Ram Dass, exploring their extraordinary lives and perspectives on death. She is executive director of the Livingry Foundation, served two years as board chair for the New Mexico Association of Grantmakers, and currently serves on the boards of Santa Fe Community College, New Voice of Business, and the World Security Institute.

Michael Garfield writes music for the head and heart – intelligent, emotional performances that captivate attentive audiences and reward repeated listening.  Alternately tender and apocalyptic, simultaneously chill and energetic, his intensely technical yet vulnerable music reimagines folk and psychedelic rock alike, updating “solo artist with guitar” to suit an age of existential wonder, cybernetic systems, and emerging planetary consciousness. Michael’s music has been featured in the award-winning PBS documentary series Arts in Context, as well as on numerous podcasts (including Expanding Mind and The Psychedelic Salon).  Passionate about interdisciplinary collaboration, he frequently co-improvises with fire dancers, aerialists, live painters, and visual projectionists. 


Synergetic Press is proud to support and collaborate with Rick Doblin and his team at The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) This membership-based non-profit research and educational organization has been working for three decades to develop medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. We are honored to introduce Rick to our community here in New Mexico at this event. Here are just a few of the ways MAPS is working —
MAPS supports research into the safety and effectiveness of ayahuasca-assisted treatment for drug addiction. They also support conferences, meetings, and publications about the scientific, therapeutic, sustainable, and spiritual uses of ayahuasca, and serve as non-profit fiscal sponsor for organizations that support these uses. They completed the first North American observational study of the safety and long-term effectiveness of ayahuasca treatment for addiction and dependence. The paper describing the results of the study was published in June 2013 which you can download by clicking here: Current Drug Abuse Reviews

MAPS Anniversary Event in Oakland and Psychedelic Dinner Salons

MAPS will celebrate it’s 30 year anniversary on April 17, 2016, Oakland, California. Addresses from leading psychedelic researchers, participants in MAPS-sponsored research, forward-thinking philanthropists, acclaimed visionary artists Alex and Allyson Grey, and others. Keynote from MAPS Founder and Executive Director Rick Doblin, with a multimedia performance by  Android Jones and Phadroid, a visual musical performance by DJ Spooky. Tickets and information at: 30 Year Anniversary. More information on their series of Psychedelic Dinner Salons at Psychedelicdinners.org, a community outreach effort to support MAPS program of medical research with MDMA for treatment of PTSD.

 Forthcoming Titles

AYAHUASCA READER, Edited by Luis Eduardo Luna and Steven F. White, Second Edition (JUNE)
JOHN C. LILLY READER, Edited by Gerard T. Houghton and Craig Ingles
Vajravision by Alex Grey, featured in Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

Vajravision by Alex Grey, featured in Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

Nature of Mind (Panel 4) by Alex Grey, featured in the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

This passage was taken from the essay “Vajravision” by Alex Grey in the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

Startlingly clear inner visions often accompany our most profound and memorable meditative or psychedelic experiences. Distributed throughout Zig Zag Zen are images by extraordinary artists, offered to help visually contextualize the complex subject of the relationships between psychedelics and Buddhism. Some of the artists appearing in this volume have never done drugs, and some of these artists have probably never meditated. Nevertheless, their work is relevant to the themes of liberation of the mind, “altered states,” and depictions of transcendental emptiness, and includes nontraditional images of the Buddha or Buddhist-influenced iconography. The works of Odilon Redon, Mark Rothko, Ethel Le Rossignol, Francesco Clemente, Mati Klarwein, Ed Paschke, Robert Beer, Paul Laffoley, Michael Newhall, Mariko Mori, Ang Tsherin Sherpa, Robert Venosa, Dean Chamberlain, Luke Brown, Amanda Sage, Carey Thompson, Android Jones, Randal Roberts, Suhki Barber and Fred Tomaselli as well as pieces by my wife, Allyson Grey, and myself are woven throughout the pages of this book. Also presented are select examples from the Japanese Zen and Tibetan thangka traditions of Buddhist art. The connections and resonances between these diverse works are a quality of artistic consciousness I call Vajravision.

Perhaps one of the primary benefits of psychedelics is their capacity to make the subtle realms explicit. . .

The vajra is a spiritual tool, a thunderbolt scepter owned by the Hindu god Indra. It was adopted by the Buddhist sages as a symbol of the diamond-like clarity and brilliance of the mind’s true nature, and has come to stand for a special class of Buddhist teachings. These are known as the Vajrayana, which incorporate complex visualizations of deities, Buddhas, gurus, and sky-dancing dakinis. During carefully prescribed meditations, an exchange of transforming and enlightening energies takes place between the practitioner and the intensely imagined spiritual archetypes. Accomplishment in the Vajrayana approach depends on developing proficiency in opening the wisdom eye, navigating the subtle visionary realms, and confirming their luminosity, emptiness, and truth. Vajravision helps us see beyond the opaque material world to the spiritual reality behind appearances. A dependable way to introduce one’s self to the brightly colored and minutely articulated visionary inner worlds, to “see” with Vajravision, is through an entheogenic or psychedelic experience. Perhaps one of the primary benefits of psychedelics is their capacity to make the subtle realms explicit and inescapable to the percipient under their influence. To a consciousness familiar only with perception of the gross physical world, an immersion in the dynamic, overwhelming, and uncontrollable visionary imagination may result in ontological panic. Fear and paranoia then become infinitely magnified to hell-realm proportions; the classic “bad trip.” But given the proper set and setting, a vast panorama of mysterious archetypal beings and highly articulated heaven realms becomes accessible. Visions of both heaven and hell are frequent for the intrepid Psychonaut.

 . . . a vast panorama of mysterious archetypal beings and highly articulated heaven realms becomes accessible. . . 

Rainbow Body Padmasambhava photograph by Claudia Müller-Eberling, featured in the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

As with many contemporary artists, my first encounter with Buddhist art was through the paintings and statues I’d seen in museums and art history books. Buddha’s intriguing smile appeared even more mysterious than that of the Mona Lisa. It was only after I had taken LSD that the thangka paintings of Tibet and Nepal began to make sense, with their glowing beings surrounded by rainbow light and horrific many-headed, multi-limbed deities surrounded by patterned flames. My pursuit of the meaning of those images then began in earnest, with study of Buddhist scripture and my becoming familiar with the art’s unusual perspective on existence.

It was only after I had taken LSD that the thangka paintings of Tibet and Nepal began to make sense, with their glowing beings surrounded by rainbow light. . .

Thangka paintings interlace representations of the physical worlds with subtle visionary beings and geometrically dense mandalas that are familiar to those who have had psychedelic experiences. Only art in the visionary tradition begins to hint at the multidimensional glory the psychedelic voyager has experienced. Many people from the West who wind up studying Buddhism have had drug-induced altered state experiences that opened them for the first time to the infinitude and mystery of consciousness. Artists who have entered psychedelic states and are also practicing Buddhists are still something of a rare species, but are becoming less so. The confluence of these inspiring forces is helping fuel an underground artistic renaissance. Artists who have accessed deeper and higher aspects of their being via meditative disciplines or psychedelics are no longer content with the formal games and transgressionism of much contemporary art. A worthy subject is the most important discovery for artists—it’s the magnetic passion that burns at the core of their work, attracting or repelling us, and determining whether they will attempt to evoke what is deepest and highest in us.

. . . art in the visionary tradition begins to hint at the multidimensional glory the psychedelic voyager has experienced. . .

Visionary mystical experiences are humanity’s most direct contact with spiritual reality and are the creative source of all sacred art and wisdom traditions. The best currently existing technology for sharing the mystic imaginal realms is a well-crafted artistic rendering by an eyewitness. Mystic visionary artists distill the multidimensional, entheogenic journey into externally crystallized theophanies, icons embedded with evolutionary worldviews. Since mystic visionary artists paint the transcendental realms from observation, their work offers a growing body of evidence substantiating the divine imaginal realms and by extension, Spirit itself.

Consummation by Ethel Le Rossignol, featured in the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics

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Many thanks to visionary artist Alex Grey, for this essay and all of the art chosen for the new edition of Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics. For more third eye-opening art and mind-expanding essays, you can get your copy in our bookstore.

 

Interview With Tony Juniper: ‘No Nature, No People’

Interview With Tony Juniper: ‘No Nature, No People’

Tony Juniper was interviewed for Forbes by  to talk about about climate change, sustainability, and how nature is actually the basis of economic activity.tj 

Here are a few of the responses that Tony gave, and you can read the full interview here.

What were the most pressing issues now, and how have they changed?

For a long time, effort was necessarily devoted to gaining some agreement as to the scale of the challenge at hand, while making the case for what with hindsight looks like relatively narrow action to address some of the symptoms of it, such as pollution control laws and protection for some areas of especially important natural habitat. Today, the job at hand still embraces this kind of work, but is now also about making the case for completely new ways of looking at business, and indeed the economic system that determines which ones do well and those who don’t. There are also big questions of culture on the table, for example about what follows ‘consumerism’ as a viable and sustainable way of meeting people’s needs and desires.

There’s a growing body of research that suggests that when we fail to protect nature we end up with long-term losses, despite potential short-term gains. Why is that not only difficult to understand and accept, but also to act on?

One big reason why we fail to act in the face of overwhelming evidence is because of our human propensity for short-termism. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon and is manifest in politics, economics, and the media. Politicians have short terms of office. Economics works in part on quarterly financial results, while the profile of stories in the media is generally fleeting and very much about events, rather than the trends that shape the long term, such as climate change and ecosystem degradation.

On top of this is the fact of uncertainty. For while we know that there are long-term risks inherent in unsustainable behavior, no one can predict how they will unfold in the real world. Various skeptical voices have focused on this to create doubt as to the need for any action, nevermind decisive moves in the short-term so as protect more distant interests. Despite the blockages toward longer-term thinking, a lot of people are seeing the need for it and finding ways to do it.

The world’s climate scientists have explained how to avoid drastic global warming and… well, it’s not easy. But what is working best, and what do you consider to be our best hope for sustainability?

One thing we need to realize is that sustainability is not only about climate change. That is a big part of it, but there is a whole lot more. It is also about society and the economy, and how we can share the productive capacity of our Earth between even more people than we have now. That is a big political issue, and political issues tend to get resolved when voters demand that solutions are provided by the people they elected. This leads me to believe that a very big part of what is needed relates to the rather neglected subject of awareness and how to spread it. The more people know about what is happening, the more likely they might be determined to see solutions to protect them and their children. The fact that sustainability issues are rarely debated properly in the media is a serious cause for concern.

For more from Tony Juniper on recognizing and appreciating the value of the services provided by nature, check out What Has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow on Trees

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