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Alliance at Alliance at
Wed May 20 01:36:00 CEST 1998

hardy  Aroids)" <ARISAEMA-L at NIC.SURFNET.NL>
From: Alliance at ARCTAZONIA.ORG
Organization: The Arctic to Amazonia Alliance
Subject: Re: imports
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As a "rabid environmentalist" and a persistant organizer, but also an
obsessive plantsman, I find myself once again on the shores of a
dilemna. It is most likely certain that much or most of plants from
places like China and India are wild-dug for export to folks like us,
ie: the monied in the industrialized world. It is also quite true that
the pace of deforestation, dam building, mining, etc. in such countries
is faster than that of the wild collectors (not discounting such
horrific possibilities as collecting within reserves, but hey, in
Ecuador for instance, the government is selling oil extraction permits
within Indigenous and biological reserve areas as fast as they can get
to the bank). So here we sit with our elevated consciences, and our
relatively elevated checkbooks, trying to make sense of all this
conservation-or-not from a distance. While supporting wild collection is
unconscionable to many, standing around and watching development destroy
the same flora in situ is hardly better.

Might there be another way? I think so. The problem is that it will
require more commitment, more effort, more risk, and more investment
from our end. In design school many years ago, my motto for the year was
"there is no free lunch". It still applies. If we wish to continue
growing exciting plants from a wide gene pool, and we wish to ensure
their happy homes remain to accommodate these same plants, then we must
get involved on the production end as well as the acquisitions end of
the cycle. I am sure their will be many ideas worth trying along these
lines, but my initial thoughts involve putting together some sort of
partnership between industrialized and industrializing nations; between
gardeners and plant providers, where standards of collection,
propagation, identification, and distribution can be maintained to the
benefit of both sides of the exchange. This would require an investment
from our end: to travel to areas where desired plants are now collected,
to work with collectors and exporters, within their everyday realities
of economic and political constraints, to assist in setting up a
transparent process for creation of local nurseries, etc., etc., where
the resultant products can be verified as to species and origin. It will
undoubtedly cost more per plant in the end, but the other benefits of
habitat protection, higher quality plants, more local jobs created, and
greater economic stability in a too-volatile world are all more than
worth the effort in my opinion.

Sure, this is way over the top for most of the AEG and other
import-interested groups, like IBS, but I bet their are at least a
handful of folks with vision and energy enough to,er, seed (sorry) such
an effort. There are funds availiable through various conservation
organizations and international development projects to help set up
local programs focused upon economic betterment and habitat protection.

What we need, in my opinion, is a working group to begin figuring out
how to turn a lamentable situation into a positive effort. Or, we can
all stick our heads back in the sand and keep complaining. Any takers?

Erik van Lennep
Ivy, VA

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