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Posts tagged ‘Theodore Monod’

A biodiversity splash on your teeth

November 9th, 2009

A toothpaste to protect Nature.
foret de verveine
1200 different plants. This is what we found on the 100 000 acres where we work North West Argentina, in three weeks. In reality we found about 400; the botanist knows he does not see everything. When he spots a plant in the piece of nature he is studying for the first time, he knows that for each plant he finds, he misses two. The botanist is a sort of humble boaster.

1200 plants is 1/5 of all European plants. 6000 plants make the entire biodiversity of France, Britain, Belgium and Germany all together. On 6000 plants, maybe 2000 are eatable, 1000 are excellent. In a supermarket? You will get 27 at most. Abondant Nature and society of penury, a culture of poverty?

The last five years of his life, I used to meet, the more often I could, Theodore Monod, the famous naturalist as he left everyday his office at the Natural Science Museum of Paris. We used to stray and tease the absurd : all the jellyfish, shrimps and crabs along the Saint Louis Island, along the river Seine, to speak plant and liberty.

Biodiversity is a beautiful thing, so special that we want to protect it. A true family jewel hat we put right away at the bank in the depth of a tunnel in an island away from Oslo : the “Svalbard Global Seed Vault“, “the Noah Ark of our planetary biological inheritage” brags Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s prime minister. When you know that the inventors of herbicides participate in these experiences, where the hell is liberty hiding?

Noah’s Ark. After us the deluge. To live is to evolve. What is the point of taking away these seeds from life. A better way to preserve biodiversity would be to recognize it, use it, experience it, live it.

1200 plants in a domain which raises 7000 cattle, it is not the best way to protect Nature either. Why protect them anyway? Before we came nobody cared about these plants; they annoy everybody, the calves doesn’t eat it, it grows everywhere, invades the pastures. “Yuyus”, bad weeds. The realm of plants and the realm of farmers are two world apart, ignoring each other. Biodiversity frightens us, we fight it, eradicate it in order to have neat homogenous fields. Biodiversity? What is it? a great choice of mobile phones?

But when you are 3 hours away from the nearest supermarket and drugstore, what do you do? A single swelling river and you are stuck. Still everything comes from the city, except meat of course. If you are sick, you just wait until it stops.

Here, it used to be the land of the Calchaquis and Diaguitas Indians. In Argentina, it is well known, there is no native Indians left. The ones spared by the White Man have been cought back by influenza. In 1621, the Duke of Palota was already complaining to the King of Spain about the loss of work force, deceminated by the epidemies brought by the White Man.

The Native Indians of today does not recognize themselves in their ancestors. It is not fashionable to be a native Indian; as if everybody would be from Spanish ascendency. The White Man, Influenza, the other plague pointed by all archeological researches is tooth decay, tooth ache. Not a single Precolombian crane with decent teeth. When the new owners of the domain arrived here 5 years ago, nobody had good teeth. The priority was to bring a dentist.

Influenza, tooth decay? Here we have everything at hand to cure. But nobody uses them anymore. Old woman’s trick, Native Indian’s paraphernalia, no white blouse to look into your mouth, not serious.

Hopefully the money dedicated to research in pharmacology has vanished, the curiosity of people has risen, Claude Levy Strauss came to tell us that native communities could be as interesting as ours… a revolutionary “sans culotte” of the colonial spirit.

The Americans started a blocus on Cuba. In la Havane, bright doctors found themselves with no medicine anymore. The only salvation, to be witty; altenative knowledges, which they started to analyse with their scientific methods. Understand plants, listen to ancient herbalists… a little of ethnobotany can be fascinating : the encounter of botanic, medicine and its’ clinic tests, the ethnology of the local uses of plants. Man and Nature. A brand new world. The most brilliant brains of South America followed swiftly in the eighties setting the basis of a great evolution marching on.

There is maca, for the minerals and vitamins and a whole bunch of other plants to reeforce immunitary defences. Amaranth, with its calcium, magnesium, phosphorus…

Decay? Aloysia triphylla

Sensitive gums? Bulnesia sarmentoi

Influenza? Berberis buxifolia (against the virus of influenza A and B), the Eupatorium Ssp…

A sore throat? White Quebracho, Acanthospermum hispidum, Lomatia hirsuta, Turnera afrodisiaca…, Cough? Conyza bonariensis, Geoffroea decorticans…

Beware, you need to know how to use them. Apart from knowing them you need to study their toxicity; if they can cure, some can kill you. Without falling into a cheap psychose, you would better ask a specialist first.

The aim here is to have something available for first aid. Be selfsufficiant and not dependent from a faraway city. Understand biodiversity, be able to use it. For this you need first to put a name on each plant. It is the first step to protect it. After you have to learn the protocoles to be able to make plant tinctures to isolate the most interesting activ principles in order to preserve them and have them at hand to cure.

Tinctures, phytotherapy, Argentina, the world pioneer in transgenic soy, is not the better market to start with this sort of natural medicine. We need to think in something else more simple. While discussing with the adorable old man taking care of the vegetable garden, about the ancient ways to chew coca leaves, a plant came to my mind which could replace calcium bicarbonate, the base of toothpaste. This is it. We need to design a toothpaste; a product used everyday by everybody.

Telephon calls, meetings with the most respected dental lab in Argentina, then with the Dental University of Tucuman and the Foundation of Plant research in Argentina. It seems that they are all looking for an alternativ toothpaste to the Fluoride ones which are being critisized for their impact on the environment.

The deal is settled. Five formulas are created. The University and the foundation will study them and check their inocuity, the eventual counter indications. We are at the verge of releasing the first organic and fairtrade toothpaste. Probably one of the first product made from ethnobotany with the collaboration of the recipients of this ancestral culture, certified by modern science.

Everybody to your toothbrushes, Thanks to you 40 000 acres are going to stay preserved.

Monod the true African

September 24th, 2008

Theodore has created the first multidisciplary centre on Africa, the IFAN of Dakar. When the split of Africa was made after the Independence, he had prepared maps of each country, respecting the ethnic and cultural particularities. Nobody listened to him.

Big names of the African culture have been revealed by him like Amadou Hampate Ba, film makers like Jean Rouch…
Monod the African