On April 19th, the weekend before Earth Day, as part of Bosque Medicinal, we had the pleasure of presenting at the Universidad de Azuay in Cuenca, Ecuador. We were there to present the importance of conservation to the students of both tourism and psychology. Preservation of the rainforest was examined from many angles, including its social, economic, and global importance. The discussions focused on the local rainforests of Ecuador, and why it is necessary for fields as diverse as biology, tourism, and psychology to maintain them.
Professor Fredy Iván Nurga began by explaining the El Paraiso protected park. This protected park was initiated by the local community in order to conserve the abundant life in the cloud forests and rainforests of El Paraiso. The protected territory is nearly 560,000 hectares large, and ranges in altitude from 1-2000 meters. As this is one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, the field of biology benefits greatly from its protection. It is this territory that we are helping to protect, by purchasing neighboring land with the foundation Bosque Medicinal.
Bosque Medicinal presented on the sociological importance of the role of nature. In a study conducted by the Universidad de Azuay a variety of metrics used to measure psychological well-being were improved with a single trek into the raw jungles of El Paraiso. Bosque Medicinal also discussed the some of the traditions and beliefs of some of the local indigenous populations. Often these traditions remind us of the lessons we can learn from nature, and how they persist in being culturally significant in the modern world for our health and happiness.
Continuing the discussions, we also spoke of the long-term benefit of maintaining healthy rainforests for commerce, particularly as it relates to tourism. The opportunity the rainforests present for new forms of tourism stand to greatly benefit the local economy, if rainforests of Ecuador are preserved. Interest in experiencing these large jungles in a primal form has been increasing from multiple disciplines. Eco-tourism is on the rise, as is scientific interest in studying rainforests from an anthropologic, psychologic, and biologic perspective. Conservation and projects like the refuge being co-constructed by Bosque Medicinal and Forest.ink will help these opportunities blossom.
The role rainforests play was also discussed as it relates to a larger system, that of our planet. The impact the rainforests have had on modern life are numerous and extensive. For example, many common household fruit, vegetables, spices, and nuts originated in the rainforest, with the vast abundance having yet to be explored further outside the region. One quarter of modern medicine has origins in the rainforest, and science has only just begun exploring the huge volume of the plants and life of the rainforests. Furthermore, we are continuously discovering new marvelous ways that these ecosystems influence climate of the planet. Recent discoveries have shown that rainforests themselves create conditions that attract and generate rain. They have a further impact on the entire planet, influencing rain and wind patterns globally. Protecting these ecosystems, vital components of the planet, benefits us all.
The session concluded with a small tobacco ceremony, available to the students and teachers that attended. Tobacco is one of the many plants that we do not understand or use properly in many modern cultures. Knowledge of a different connection and use with tobacco has persisted with indigenous cultures of the rainforests. We had the pleasure of sharing this different understanding and experience with the students and faculty brave enough to join us. Yana gifted us with her beautiful voice and musical talents, brining song to complete the ceremony.
The entire event went over so well, that we were invited back for a second round with more students and faculty later that evening. All of us from Bosque Medicinal were thrilled to be invited and delighted at the reception to our perspective and tales by the students and faculty of the Universidad de Azuay. We are already looking forward to returning soon.