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The Forest is Alive
JASMINE MAH It’s almost time! As the last rays of sun disappear behind the mountain tops near Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia, a hazy mist descends from the forest into the village. The diffuse twilight dwindles, and soon it is night. We gather in the dark, with only our small flashlights and hiking boots to separate us from the unknown darkness. Led by the “Birdman,” a local guide who knows this wilderness like his own home, we tread single-file into the jungle on my first forest night-walk. We’re not alone. The montane forest is alive with the voices of numerous creatures, and only the night knows whom they belong to. The only thing we can see is pairs of legs in flashlight spheres, behind the black silhouettes of leaves and vines, zigzagging through the darkness. Punctuating the night are calls of “root ahead!”, “hole!”, “boulder!”, “missing bridge plank!” that then seem to echo as the warnings are relayed to the back of the line. “Everybody stop!” The Birdman scans three hundred and sixty degrees in slow suspense. He tells us in a low whisper to turn off our lights. We fall silent, and the sounds around us seem to amplify twofold: chirping, buzzing, clicking, and croaking. But piercing through it all comes a mysterious hollow whistle like a magical flute, painting colour through the noise. Who is it? There’s a whole world that wakes up when the sun sets that we didn’t even know existed. We continued in the pitch blackness . . . or so it seemed. The Birdman gestured to the bushes surrounding us, and we realized that our flashlights weren’t the only things that could glow. As if by some supernatural power, green glowing shapes emerged out of the black as our eyes adjusted. Peering through the vines and moss were bioluminescent ferns, letting off a mystical glow as they decomposed. I guess the glowing plants in Avatar really did have an earthly basis. In fact, there are also bioluminescent mushrooms in Singapore; similar to the bioluminescent plankton found around coastlines all over the world. The mystery to be found in nature is so vast and untold. We never know what we will find; or on the other hand, what we will never find if we carelessly develop our forests. Countless species like the exotic birds, butterflies, and glowing plants are not going to thrive in our concrete jungles. Preserving their home, the natural rainforest, is crucial if our future generations are going to be able to witness the beauty of these precious rainforests. On that note, I’d like to send a huge thank you out back home to Ken Wu and TJ Watt, and every single person who working hard to protect BC’s scarce old growth forests. Thank you as well to the B.C. Government, which “expand[ed] Protections to 39,000 hectares of oldgrowth forests on northern and central Vancouver Island, and 1,600 hectares of rare Coastal Douglas Fir ecosystem.” Change is possible! Jasmine Mah is a UVic student currently on a year long exchange at the University of Singapore. She had the chance to visit Fraser’s Hill in Malaysia as part of a three day trip with the National Parks volunteer organization.
ESSA Update Fall 2010 Bedouin Herbalism: Discovering Antiseptic Plants in Israel’s Negev
JulIA BENNEtt SArA FrAlIN AMy HArtzENBErg JoSH lAMBErt This semester the Environmental Studies Student Association (ESSA) has expanded, with new members and fantastic events. Throughout the fall, our weekly Tuesday afternoon meetings were held in the sunshine on the ES patio. We have been actively working to connect students with various environmental activities both on and off campus including: public events in Victoria, panel discussions at UVic, and online polls to save B.C.’s Salmon. Students can learn about environmental events through ESSA’s weekly e-mail and on ESSA’s newly updated website: web. uvic.ca/~essa/. Back in September, devastating floods hit Vancouver Island residents in Kingcome Inlet. ESSA held a bake sale fundraiser for the victims of Kingcome Inlet and matched all of the funds raised by students. In October ESSA hosted the popular and fun ES Meet and Greet, which brought students, faculty and staff together through challenging team bonding games and delicious food. We have continued to offer communitystyle yoga to encourage self-identification with the ecological world. The Compost Education Center gave ESSA an informational presentation on indoor and outdoor composting. Students became acquainted with red wiggler worms that help break down food into soil. In November ESSA joined the wilderness skills club on an adventurous Nature Walk up Mt. Doug guided by UVic grad student Abe Lloyd. The “Dialogue with Professors” series brought ES undergraduate advisor James Rowe to our meeting to discuss his views on political ecology and the future of humanity in an environmentally unstable world. James provided insight into the small pleasures in life and on how he stays positive. Recently ES student Skye Augustine shared her experiences from the Redfish School of Change, an ES program that incorporates experiential learning in a leadership-based field school. Over reading break ESSA went on a restoration trip to TLC’s South Winchealsea Island off the coast of Nanaimo. During the day students removed large amounts of invasive Scotch Broom and Himalayan Blackberry that was encroaching on endangered lichens. At night we got cozy around a woodburning stove playing Jenga, stargazed, and reflected on the wonders of nature. Students gained practical experience in ecological restoration and spent time with like-minded people. In the new year ESSA is excited about more dialogues with professors, hands on workshops, and helping with the TLC Outreach Club’s Beers for Beaches fundraiser to save the CRD’s wild hills and beaches. To get involved with ESSA follow us online or come to our meetings Tuesday at 4:45pm in the ES common room SSM b247. CourtNEy roBINSoN In the spring of 2009, I had the incredible opportunity to put words into action by designing my own independent research project in Israel’s Negev desert. I had the priviledge of staying with a Bedouin family in the township of Tel Sheva while studying the antiseptic properties of four plants the Bedouin commonly use for medicinal purposes: Ballota undulata, Anabasis articulata, Majorana syriaca and Pituranthos tortuous. I studied the plants by interviewing Mariam Abu-Rayek, a Bedouin herbalist, and then cross-checking my findings against previous surveys of traditional Arab herbalists, as well as other scientific literature. Bedouin herbalism is a part of traditional Arab medicine. While it was once widespread, the number of Bedouin traditional medicine practitioners within Israel is dwindling, along with their immense store of knowledge. Three of the four plants I studied turned out to contain antiseptic properties; suggesting that there is much to learn from Bedouin herbalists. Unfortunately, not only is the traditional ecological knowledge at risk, but so are the plants themselves. Surveys of Arab and Bedouin practitioners conducted between 1981 and 1999, identified 600 plants as medicinal and still being used for treatment. By 2002, only 129 plants were still in use. If Bedouin traditional knowledge is not studied and maintained immediately, valuable information for potential pharmaceuticals will be lost. There is currently no framework for preserving this knowledge in the Middle East. In the conclusion of my research project I therefore proposed the implementation of legislation for the protection of medicinal plants. As well, I recommended the implementation of a practitioner’s union to encourage the sharing of knowledge while providing a framework for creating a comprehensive database of TEK for future generations. Below are some of my findings: Ballota undulata (Samwa :)ﺳﻤﻮﻩused for skin diseases and cuts. By boiling the
leaves in olive oil it is made into a topical oil. The oil is rubbed on an affected area and used for one to two weeks, or until wounds are healed. Anabasis articulata (Ajram :)ﻋﺠﺮﻡ used to make antiseptic soap. The soap is made by burning the plant to ash, putting the ash in a cloth, and then using it to scrub wet clothes or the body. It is also said to be used as an antiseptic to treat ectoparasites and eczema. The most common preparation, other than soap, is a decoction made by boiling its green leaves and stems in water, and then applying this water externally with a washcloth. Majorana syriaca (Zataar :)ﺯﻋﺗﺮused to treat inflammation, usually around the throat or lymph nodes. The leaves and stems are boiled and then drunk or used topically to wash the body. Pituranthos tortuosus (Zaguh :)ﺯﻗﻮﺡ used to treat and deodorize water. This is done by simply dropping the fresh foliage into a container of water. P. tortuosus is also used as an antiseptic to treat endoparasites and halitosis. This treatment is administered with an infusion of branches in water, which is taken orally 2 to 3 times daily until improvement. 3/27/2009 - So here I am in Tel Sheva. Amazing. Sort of what I expected, and also not. There are goats . . . camels . . . we spend a lot of time sitting on elaborate cushions . . . But this place is huge! 14,000 people live in this township. It is full of houses (not tra-
ditional tents), schools, businesses . . . it is truly a small city. I’ve been trying my best to let everything sink in. Mariam’s mother is amazing. Clearly from another generation. She speaks only Bedouin Arabic, dresses very traditionally, wears a white scarf on her head (sort of like a gypsy), and another larger white scarf over top. She looks quite different from the modern Bedouin women Mariam’s age who wear hijabs and black dresses and skirts like many modern Muslim women. Without even thinking I am covering my hair along with them. I think they find it strange, but they have no idea what it feels like to be a white, blond woman in an Arab community. 3/28/2009 - Breakfast of olive oil and honey, sheeps cheese, and ‘abud (Bedouin bread) — surprisingly filling and energizing. I watched Mariam’s sister Maha make the ‘abud. She works so quickly — spinning the dough and throwing it onto the sajj. Kindly, she offered to let me try, which of course resulted in a doughy mess containing more holes than nice bread. Fortunately she didn’t make me feel bad about it. 3/28/2009 - While walking towards the end of the township to the open desert, where the wild medicinal plants can be found, we stopped to drink camel milk at a neighbour’s. I thought she had said “camomile” at first, but then found myself sipping fresh camel’s milk! It was sweet and thick and tasted very much like cow’s milk. Where am I?
essa members at south winChelsea island.
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