Ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin
As president of the Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), Mark works in partnership with Amazon Indians to protect their ancient healing traditions and the forests they inhabit. "We've been practicing Western medicine essentially for 200 years," he says. "These people have been practicing their shamanic medicine for 50,000 years, so certainly there's something we can learn from them."
Rainforest medicines have already provided modern society with a variety of cures, Mark says, and it's likely they contain many more secrets that could help eradicate illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and AIDS. He says the conservation of biodiverse ecosystems ranging from the rainforests to the coral reefs are critical if new drugs are to be discovered. "We destroy Mother Nature at our own peril," Mark says.