The Amazon: What Everyone Needs to Know
Covers the whole Amazonian riverfront: the past, present, and future of a vast earth-supporting ecosystem Explores the variety of life found in the Amazon, from its tiny insects to its massive canopy system Vital to understanding human impact on the wor...
- Category: Investigations
- Pulication Date: 03/01/2020
- Editorial: Oxford University Press
The Amazon is a land of superlatives. The complex ecosystem covers an area about the size of the continental U.S. The Amazon River discharges 57 million gallons of water per second--in two hours, this would be enough to supply all of New York City's 7.5 million residents with water for a year. Its flora and fauna are abundant. Approximately one of every four flowering plant species on earth resides in the Amazon. A single Amazonian river may contain more fish species than all the rivers in Europe combined. It is home to the world's largest anteater, armadillo, freshwater turtle, and spider, as well as the largest rodent (which weighs over 200 lbs.), catfish (250 lbs.), and alligator (more than half a ton). The rainforest, which contains approximately 390 billion trees, plays a vital role in stabilizing the global climate by absorbing massive amounts of carbon dioxide--or releasing it into the atmosphere if the trees are destroyed. Severe droughts in both Brazil and Southeast Asia have been linked to Amazonian deforestation, as have changing rainfall patterns in the U.S., Europe, and China. The Amazon also serves as home to millions of people. Approximately seventy tribes of isolated and uncontacted people are concentrated in the western Amazon, completely dependent on the land and river. These isolated groups have been described as the most marginalized peoples in the western hemisphere, with no voice in the decisions made about their futures and the fate of their forests. In this addition to the What Everyone Needs to Know® series, ecologist and conservation expert, Mark J. Plotkin, who has spent 40 years studying Amazonia, its peoples, flora, and fauna. "The Amazon" offers an engaging overview of this irreplaceable ecosystem and the challenges it faces.
"Written in a clear and engaging style, Mark Plotkin's book on the Amazon comes at a crucial time, as more and more of Amazonia's forests are exploited and destroyed and as indigenous leaders, traditional guardians of the forest, are silenced. I could not recommend it more highly." -- Jane Goodall
Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice
The fascinating account of a pioneering ethnobotanist’s travels in the Amazon—at once a gripping adventure story, a passionate argument for conservationism, and an investigation into the healing power of plants...
- Category: Investigations
- Pulication Date: 8/4/1994
- Editorial: Penguin Books
For thousands of years, healers have used plants to cure illness. Aspirin, the world's most widely used drug, is based on compounds originally extracted from the bark of a willow tree, and more than a quarter of medicines found on pharmacy shelves contain plant compounds. Now Western medicine, faced with health crises such as AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer, has begun to look to the healing plants used by indigenous peoples to develop powerful new medicines. Nowhere is the search more promising than in the Amazon, the world's largest tropical forest, home to a quarter of all botanical species on this planet—as well as hundreds of Indian tribes whose medicinal plants have never been studied by Western scientists. In Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, ethnobotanist Mark J. Plotkin recounts his travels and studies with some of the most powerful Amazonian shamans, who taught him the plant lore their tribes have spent thousands of years gleaning from the rain forest. For more than a decade, Dr. Plotkin raced against time to harvest and record new plants before the rain forests' fragile ecosystems succumb to overdevelopment—and before the Indians abandon their own culture and learning for the seductive appeal of Western material culture. Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice relates nine of the author's quests, taking the reader along on a wild odyssey as he participates in healing rituals; discovers the secret of curare, the lethal arrow poison that kills in minutes; tries the hallucinogenic snuff epena that enables the Indians to speak with their spirit world; and earns the respect and fellowship of the mysterious shamans as he proves that he shares both their endurance and their reverence for the rain forest. Mark Plotkin combines the Darwinian spirit of the great writer-explorers of the nineteenth century—curious, discursive, and rigorously scientific—with a very modern concern for the erosion of our environment and the vanishing culture of native peoples.
"The thrilling account of the 13 years Plotkin, vice-president of Ethnobotany at Conservation International in Washington, spent in the northeastern Amazon's primeval rain forest is a first-rate travel and adventure tale in which scientific lore, passionate advocacy of conservation and literary gifts are combined. Thanks to the trust and friendship the author inspired among the declining number of powerful shamans ("witch doctors") and other Indians who considered him a "harmless oddball," they welcomed him at tribal rituals and assisted him in identifying plants (60,000 yet unknown species, used to treat ills from testicular cancer to earache). They even shared secrets for making curare poison and other hallucinogens (which he tried). The author has also succeeded in having the indigenous people share in the profits from their plant-derived wonder drugs, and encouraged them to preserve their heritage of botanic lore and customs. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc." —Publishers Weekly
The Shaman’s Apprentice
For thousands of years, in the jungles of the Amazon, shamans have passed their wisdom of the medicinal values of rain forest plants from one generation to the next. The Shaman's Apprentice tells the story of a Tirio Indian boy who dreams of one day being...
- Category: Investigations
- Pulication Date: 04/01/2001
- Editorial: HMH Books for Young Readers
In a Tirio village deep in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, the shaman Nahtahlah has a place of honor in his tribe. Young Kamanya wants to learn the healing secrets of the forest plants--he hopes that he, too, will become the tribe’s shaman, so that he can cure his people. When the villagers fall sick with an illness that Nahtahlah cannot cure, many lose faith in the shaman’s wisdom--until a foreign woman helps them understand its value while giving Kamanya an opportunity to realize his dream. Lynne Cherry returns to the rain forest with ethnobotanist Mark J. Plotkin to tell an important story about the healing plants of the earth-and why we must protect them.
"Cherry's watercolors are filled with flora and fauna and reveal her appreciation for this environment and its people." -School Library Journal
The Killers Within
A battle is taking place on the frontiers of medicine between rapidly evolving bacteria and the doctors struggling to outwit them. "The Killers Within" tells this horror story that just happens to be true....
- Category: Investigations
- Pulication Date: 09/02/2003
- Editorial: Back Bay Books
- Number of Pages: 336
Truly alarming report on the growing resistance of bacteria to once-effective antibiotics and the struggle of scientists to find new weapons against them.
"An exciting narrative....admirably clear and accurate."
Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature’s Healing Secrets
A world famous ethnobotanist scours the planet in search of new natural cures, unveiling the healing power in snake venom, leech saliva, rainforest frogs, and other natural sources. ...
- Category: Investigations
- Pulication Date: 03/27/2000
- Editorial: Viking Adult
- Number of Pages: 256
In Medicine Quest, Mark Plotkin moves beyond the Amazon rainforests of his classic Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice to describe the ongoing race to find new medicines for intractable diseases such as AIDS,cancer, diabetes, and tuberculosis in far-flung places all over the world. While highlighting the unlikely marriage of natural products, indigenous wisdom, and biotechnology, Plotkin details discoveries that are producing stunning results in the laboratory: painkillers from the skin of rainforest frogs, anticoagulants from leech saliva, and antitumor agents from snake venom. An entertaining and educational weave of medicine, ecology, ethnobotany, history, exploration, and adventure, Medicine Quest will thrill scientists, naturalists, and armchair explorers, and heighten our appreciation for the inexhaustible therapeutic potential of our natural world.
Plotkin expands here on his earlier work, Tales of a Shaman's Apprentice, by giving an overview of how plants and animals are being utilized to treat disease. Trained as an ethnobotonist (a scientist who studies how people use local plants), Plotkin has the ability to translate science into engrossing anecdotes that are accessible to the lay reader. And he's got good news: the natural world, he writes, has made and will continue to make enormous contributions to modern medicine. (Penicillin, he reminds us, was derived from a fungus.) He describes, for instance, the work of Dr. William Fenical, who developed a chemical from a soft coral that may prove useful in fighting cancer. Plotkin also provides an eye-opening account of the curative properties to be found in the sea, in insects, in snake venom and in plants. But he also delivers bad news: the promise of this vast natural pharmacopoeia is threatened by unchecked population growth, environmental depredation and the destruction of native cultures of tribal shamans (who, he points out, discovered the use of plants that have led to the development of "everything from codeine for pain to quinine for malaria to podo-phyllotoxin for cancer"). A very interesting investigation into nature's medicine, this book also makes a strong case for conservation. Author tour. (Apr.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. -Publishers Weekly
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