Friday, January 04, 2013

Someone Asked about Ayahuasca's Sustainability

Someone wrote to me asking what I thought about the ayahuasca vine's sustainability, given the number of people utilizing it not only in the dozens of retreat centers in and around Iquitos and Pucallpa in Peru but all over the world. My answer was short and sweet--or sour, really. This is what I wrote:
Dear X: You've hit on one of my sore points. In terms of ayahuasca use, god forgive me, but I am responsible for a lot of this. It would have happened without me, but would have taken 20 more years to start and might not have evolved as it has since I invented Alan Shoemaker and he invented Iquitos.

    No, ayahuasca is not sustainable the way it is going. Not by a long shot. In the old days, I'd just cut enough vine for Julio and I for ceremony. These days, with sometimes 12 guests, we need 20 pounds of vine. That's a lot. That might be 30 feet of 7-year-old vine. 
   Now my team has planted hundreds of vines and within the next few years they will be able to harvest a ton or more. BUTTT.....they are being asked for 20 sacks a month by the ayahuasca retreat centers in and around nearby Jenero Herrera and in Iquitos--about 1000 pounds. So for the wild ayahuasca, they are stripping it all for miles around. And they're just a few of the people collecting to provide the retreat requirements.
   Still, people will plant and there will be enough. But wild animals and wild fruit and wild vines have a strength that fostered animals/fruit/vines just don't have. 
   So if your real question is why are these novices opening ayahuasca centers when they don't have the right experience, well, I'm with you. I have met lots of people who have ceremonial centers who have never spent a day in the jungle. I'm not happy about that but I'm not the boss of the world. 
   So I'm hoping for the best, but not necessarily expecting it.

If I had not responded simply out of anger, I might have added that the value to the lives of those who have taken ayahuasca has often been immeasurable, and those changed/charged humans then go back to daily life and probably positively affect those around them. So while I'm not thrilled personally when someone with little experience decides to cut primary forest to build a camp that will probably be abandoned in a year or three, and then contacts people like my team to provide them the medicine they need for those camps, the better half of me understands that the net result, while bad for the jungle, might be very good for the world at large. Bit of a conundrum, but if people are a bit more careful, not one that cannot be fixed. Those people who open camps should plant ayahuasca before they ever start cutting forest. That might give vines several months head start on taking hold. And ayahuasca will grow quickly once it's taken hold. Then those people would be less dependent on people who know the forest to collect wild vine--a process which by it's nature disturbs the forest and habitat near those vines. That would certainly be a beginning to correcting the balance. 

1 comment:

Richie Benaud said...

Nice post, thanks for posting this.

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