Saturday, February 15, 2014

What is meant by the word "Natural" when it comes to Land Management?

We are now living in the times of definition shell games, terms being muddled and where gray areas and a world of no absolutes are championed. Mostly I find all this later day murkiness to be a mere marketing ploy, not only of business in the conventional sense which we all understand, but also religious institutions and political entities when it comes to push or wanting to justify various doctrines, schemes or policies. Funny how that word natural can be manipulated and promoted as having meaning beyond it's original creation, purpose and intent as it has been traditionally understood for ages in the real world. Take for example the illustration at the right here. Would you find it absurd, maybe even asinine if an obese man justified his condition as being natural, rationalizing that obesity can also found many places in the Natural World ? Interestingly, many with hidden agendas do manipulate that term for selfish reasons. The word natural has been further exploited in other ways by the addition of unique words to exaggerate or embellish the original meaning. "All Natural", "100% Natural", "Natural Fire Regime" etc. Take a look at this very humorous and illustrative play on the word "Natural" by our world's big business interests. 

The manipulation and advertising of common words/terms through game playing by the giant Corporate Industries in our world I think we all understand well, but it's when the Scientists who work for or with them is where much of this goes wrong. These are actually the very people who should know better, at least from the higher educational backgrounds we are constantly told they have, hence deserving of our respect and trust. The big problem is they have screwed up so many times lately, that like religion and politics, they appear to be on the same lower level of suspicion. Take the Industrial Science-Based agricultural giant located in the San Joaquin Valley called Harris Ranch Beef. They have an interesting motto or clever statement on their website.
Harris Ranch Beef Company, "Beef the way nature intended it to be."
(SERIOUSLY ???) The way Nature intended it to be ? Anyone who has traveled Interstate 5 in the San Joaquin Valley on the west side and driven through Coalinga is well aware of dust cloud hell you have to endure with no relief for at least 15 to 20 minutes of fast driving. It's almost impossible to breath and how that dust gets into your car with the air conditioning turned on to recirculate is beyond me. Yet not only is Harris Ranch's business model promoted as natural, but also sustainable, which is yet another one of those interesting seemingly fuzzy words with definition problems. Montana Ranchers for example find the existence of Wolfs, Mountain Lions and even Buffalo as things which make their business model unsustainable. Seriously, a quote from an article yesterday in Yahoo Financial News about the government having to "Yellowstone bison slaughter begins" . A quote in that article says it all:
"But Montana's livestock industry has little tolerance for bison because of concerns over disease and competition with cattle for grass."
There is also a similar attitude from another science-based agricultural entity like the Industrial Forestry (Timber) business model which has an intense hatred of the western landscape's native chaparral. In their irresponsible scientific worldview, they mistakenly promote Chaparral as impeding the regrowth of what they consider proper plant species worthy of being called a forest. A forest which they intend to harvest for future profit. They also manipulate words in their irresponsible land management policies and programs to promote their industry and livelihood. They also no doubt manipulate political ties to get what they want. In the land management industry there are also other business entities when it comes to mastication and control burning and you can bet there are a significant amount of profit to be had by folks who are hired by that industry as this video from 2012 shows: 

Interestingly, "Pioneer Forest Products" did not live up to the original agreement and barely thinned 1000 acres and did not have the finances to build that promised sawmill for producing wooden products which would have supposedly boosted the local & state economies. However last summer 2013, another company called "Good Earth Power" was said to be in line for the new contract. See link AZ Central: "New forest-restoration contract, same old problems" . Unfortunately for Nature and the environment, this company is huge and powerful with large business venture operations in Africa and financing is said to be coming out of the Middle East and China. Bottom line is, it's all about the money and to justify the money angle, the word term "Natural" and play on the emotions of the public is the usual strategy. They've come up with a term or phrase called "Natural Fire Regimes".  In so using this term, many large Industrial Forestry people and US Government land managers are utilizing a ongoing romanticized myth about Native American use of fire for land management and how much the natural world will benefit from this regular burning practice. Of course were are talking about the modern practice of "Control Burns" or "Prescribed Burns" which are more of a political hot potato solution solution to appease an otherwise upset public concerned with our present later day climate change enhanced wildfires. Actually, the debate is however whether Indians (Native Americans) should be considered as a part nature. I have previously written about Native Americans here in a post called: Dances With Myths: Indigenous Native Peoples and Fire Ecology and my opinion of course is that they are as equally human as any other peoples around our globe. But many fire defenders don't have that exact view of them. Why they were considered the ultimate eco-greenies when it comes to sustainability and conservation. But were they really ? Yes they no doubt they knew how to live off the land, but interestingly not all were successful. The most successful were those in large groups who cooperated with each other and that wasn't always the case. There is also another proposed movement which is now championing many of the much larger native civilizations empires throughout the Americas who are likewise romanticized today for their sustainable agricultural practices and how this art and ancient knowledge has been lost. (As a side not, there is presently also another kooky proposal scheme to story tell how this ancient knowledge was given them by ancient aliens, but I'll not go there. Many know what I'm talking about with the major so-called science entertainment channels) Does anyone out there appreciate that these civilizations are long extinct as successful Empires ? For example, I never ever hear this next subject brought up in discussion. From several centuries BC up until the 12/13 centuries, both the Anasazi empires of the western USA and the civilization which built the huge pyramid-like Cahokia Mounds in the eastern USA were far more advanced than the Natives the first Europeans encountered when they finally came to North America centuries later. So what happened ? Isn't the story told of how for 15,000 years the North American Natives were simple wildlife conserving cultures with an almost uncanny ability encoded within their genetic makeup to be the ultimate in everything eco-green ?  Why it's in their blood. The true facts reveal more and more that those Native American Empires overused and abused their surrounding lands and in so doing brought about a miniature localized climate change in the form of sustained droughts which led to their downfall. They also had problem with distrust and carrying on war with each other (hmm sounds very European to me) and no doubt would even used fire to war on their enemies. As European influence made inroads into the North American landscape, they actually influenced the natives who took up European technologies. Rather than rejecting the foreign invader's less than eco-green policies, they actually embraced them. Horses were not natural to the natives, as they hunted and chased prey on foot. So observing the huge advantage the Spanish brought with them, they adopted and traded for the ways of the horse. Please consider this, what native would have been willing to turn back the clock and chase Bison on foot in championing a more eco-green cause ? Hardly! What natives would opt for leaving the Winchester Repeating Rifle and going back to more eco-green hunting tools made from natural earth friendly materials like Spears, Bows  Arrows in the cause of their genetically encoded Eco-green preferences ? Again hardly! Why ? Because the early Natives were Human Beings equal to the Europeans they encountered and that is what all humans do. They advance to make room for more comfortable living conditions and survival a little easier. Eco-World had nothing to do with it. So there is no doubt they used fire just like every other culture on Earth had used it for thousands of years. No doubt there may have been some intent for creating better forage of berries (as the website below suggests) and possibly to facilitate an easier time of chasing herbivores on foot over cliffs with fire, but such strategies are not necessarily conservation nor does it explain fire's ability to create and maintain as well as other more *cough-cough* "Natural" components rarely mentioned.

Now for a change of thought here, take a look below at some of the more iconic picture comparisons being used from one website showing how natural it is to employ fire as a conservation and preventable wildfire practice. The website is and has this to say about it's backers.
"A People of Vision... The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are comprised of the Bitterroot Salish, the Pend d'Oreille and the Kootenai tribes."
On another page under the subject of "Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation" it has this to promote about it's people. 
"The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have always been good stewards of the natural resources. Today we strive to achieve good stewardship through excellent Fish, Wildlife, Recreation, and Conservation Program Management."
"Our efforts include continuing our cultural traditions, interdisciplinary consultation, setting high standards and professional qualifications, providing due process and public involvement as part of the regulation development process." 

Photo: Brady Hall
One major cultural tradition which is greatly referenced through story telling is the Native use of fire for conservation. The US Forest Service champions fire as the great ecosystem molder and creator of healthy wildlife and plant habitat creation. Why ? Because that's what the Indians did and no one was more one with the land as the Native Americans. It dedicates much photos and storytelling behind them to paint a picture of their great understanding of the natural world. But never once does it touch on animal influences on an ancient pristine landscape nor does it attempt any honesty with regards human error when it comes to lighting fires. For example, as humans, we all have our own predisposition to making mistakes. But no reference is made to this on the website. Things like Waring with neighbouring tribes who were considered enemies by means of fire, or irresponsibly leaving a campfire improperly left unattended with the possibility of an afternoon Santa Ana-like wind phenomena kicking up a wildfire which got out of control only to burn itself out eventually or at least until seasonal rains came back. Times would be similar back then to modern humans now. No mention of kids playing with daddy's flint stone to try and see if they too could make fire behind that hill outside the camp, only to get out of control. You all know kids, right ? The reasons for fire are many, just like today, but only the myth of conservation is dealt with on that site. Any idea of the effects of mistakes on the ancient landscape back then ? They also seemed prone to embellishing the Fable about themselves on that site. Now for any who wish to go down the road of , well you are making fun of them and therefore a bigot, seriously, don't even try and go there. I have a great fondness for their history and a strong dislike for the hand they were dealt by the Europeans. But I am also a realist, I view Native Americans as human beings equal to all other human beings on Earth, even those native Americans of the historical pre-European encroachment era.
Update (2015) - The image below and text quoted from the Saltish & Kootneai website can no longer be found. The text and many images used in the glorification of regular use of fire for management have been removed.


(Photo: Grant Rolf/Higgins Storm Chasers)
Personally, I don't find either of the two fire pictures settings  above to be natural. However I would define the one to the right here as a natural occurring fire ignition event often found out in Nature. I have to admit the website was interesting and in some cases compelling in it's arguments, but there were also some other clear flaws. For example, many of the historical photographs were from the 1920s and 30s and were compared with today. One has to keep in mind that by the 1920/30s, the Europeans had already had a major out of control natural resources obsession impact effect on the landscape's environment. These were also times when for the most part there were no rules as to conservation and rehabilitation with regards the landscape. Early white pioneers were out to make a killing financially based on rumors of the west and would have done what ever irresponsible thing they could to obtain that goal. Could much of those bare spots in the photos been European influenced ? Unfortunately we cannot go back much beyond 150 years to get an accurate visual of what the natural world was like or what influence the Natives had on a pristine landscape centuries prior. Hence at best all we have is story telling in the form of myths and fables to go by and taking things on faith. There is also clearly no way to defend a practice which 150 years ago did not have the climate extremes we experience now with climate change or shifting. The website brought out the regions which seem to show more open grassland ground than today's present denser tree and chaparral cover in the same locations. The site claims that they did this to provide grassland grazing areas for their herbivore prey. 
Possible historical alternative to wildFire as an Ecosystem maintenance component and ecological landscape creator

illustration: Karen Carr Jefferson

image: Smithsonian
One of my major problems with much of this justification for such the continual usage of fires for modern conservation is that animals are never taken into the equation as landscape modifiers or transformers and they clearly were a HUGE factor as modern outdoor lab examples testify to. Especially where the now extinct Mega Fauna are concerned. Questions arise everywhere like, "What roles did very large herbivores like Giant Ground Sloths play in the maintenance of chaparral ecosystems ? In every single artist conception of the Giant Ground Sloth the animals are always browsing trees and shrubs. From mummified dung samples taken from caves it is apparent that they were heavy browsers of Chaparral shrubs, forest trees and other high desert plants like Joshua Tree and Mormon Tea, some of the most rangy fibrous foliage that could be consumed by any creature.

These animals among other mega fauna lifeforms like Glyptodon (Giant Armadillo), Mastodons etc etc etc who were not grazers, but heavy browsers of leaves, branches, twigs etc. Take a look at the photograph of fossil teeth below comparing a Mammoth tooth to a Mastodon tooth. Modern Elephants and Mammoths have low, highly enfolded teeth for grazing, while Mastodons have high crested teeth for browsing tree and shrub branches, twigs and leaves. The modern Elephants and Mammoths are tall, while the Mastodons were shorter and stout with more massive bodies which could easily allow them to move through ancient type of chaparral plant communities, much the way the now extinct California Grizzly Bear once did.


Clues from modern day examples of how animals shape and maintain ecosystems which conflict with the "Burn Baby Burn"  mentality as a cure all solution.

Credit: OPB

Probably one of the greatest examples of a major factor other than fire as a plant community maintainer is the prime example of the Elk effect on plant life within the National Park called Yellowstone. It is said that in the early 1990s Elk numbers were close to 15,000. The countryside was more open and Alders, Willows, Cottonwoods and Aspen woodlands were kept in check by these large browsing animals. Wolves were introduced back then and the numbers are now said to be around 9,000. Now the young aspen trees are just finally recovering in the Yellowstone National Park, after wolves that were re-introduced in 1995 which helped to limit elk browsing that had been killing young trees. The older trees seen here date to the last time there were wolves in the park 70 years ago. Seriously, watch this video of how wolves changed Yellowstone's landscape. The researchers also noticed how when Elk and Deer numbers dropped and behavior changed, the narrator pointed out that most of the bare of bald spots in Yellowstone changed to a heavier vegetation cover than previously. This is the exact opposite of what the storytelling myth or fables invented by those in charge tell us on some of these use of fire conservation websites who credit fire as the fix it all answer. 

Okay, once again, the main point of those before and after photos on that Native American website is that the open space was the result of consistent regular Native American Control Burning with Fire, for which the website is a champion. However from this video you just watched and listened to, the modern "Natural" example in Yellowstone and the effect on vegetation by large browsing herbivores, is it not more clear that it was they who had a much more profound effect than admitted or discussed by anyone when it comes to the Prescribed Burning Policy. The subject of wildlife being used in land management is never brought up in hardly any discussion and it should be. If we are to believe the other scientific literature about not only Elk, but also Bison and Pronghorn Antelope, these creatures are said to have each numbered into the millions before the Europeans came. Ponder this for a moment!  What possible effect did these millions animals have in shaping the landscape ? If 15,000 unhindered unmolested Elk had a major effect on the Yellowstone ecosystem (creating open bald regions), what did millions upon millions of these herbivores have on the whole of North America ? Unlike Domestic Herbivores, the Pronghorn will eat many chaparral species of which many are toxic to the domestic cattle who won't touch them. Again, nobody ever factors this into any equation.

image courtesy of
Ponder for a moment the devastating megafires happening everywhere in the west. While climate change certainly contributes, others also blame the rampant unbridled killing of forest trees by various bark beetles. But could the elimination of thousands of bear (both Grizzly & Black Bears) who hunt and forage a number of downed trees and rotted logs for ant colonies and pupae and grubs from bark beetles have perhaps provided one measure of checks and balances which no longer exist ? Even if their didn't dine on every single grub from a ripped up log, other scavengers could have come after and cleaned up what was left over. Did this potential scenario  provide a type of checks and balances for forest bark beetles populations which appear to now be exploding out of control ? Who knows, but the beauty here of the Yellowstone example is that it is not something from way back in history where the need for myth manufacturing or fable fabrication needs to be employed as an embellishment or exaggeration to justify a belief system used for promoting an idea, policy or flawed program of land management. It actually did happen before the eyes of many modern day human beings present today who can read and watch what has been documented just a mere decade ago. It truly is an example of a real life natural occurrence of how nature's various mechanized components work in harmony when restored properly to their former position in the Natural World's cleverly engineered ecosystem system irrespective how ideologues of both sides of debate believe they got that way in the first place. Remember the old time saying, "If it's not broken, then why fix it ?"

Especially when Chaparral Biologist Richard Halsey brings all these points up to public debate. Surprisingly, he's often attacked by even his own followers who otherwise support his California Chaparral Institute's mission for bringing up this very subject. There are clearly those who just cannot give up this old time cherished religious dogma, hence the use of the terminology such as "faith statements" by those championing such control burn causes based not on actual science but rather a flawed gut felt myth motivated by heart felt belief in and reverence for an unfortunately mistreated people and culture. The main point behind Richard Halsey's research is very simple, Observational Science backed up by utilizing a discipline called Biomimetics resulting in Biomimicry or replication of Nature for restoration ecology. That is what we can truly call "Being Natural" 

Credit Richard Halsey

Native American Burning & Natural Fire Regimes

By all means please read the very informative article referenced above from the Chaparral Institute's website. Now for another change of thought. I'd now like to straighten up a couple of other points here. I am not totally against using fire as a necessary tool and for that matter neither is Richard Halsey, if it's respected as only as a tool and used properly. The general problem I have always observed with the US Forest Service's attempts at forest restoration is they attempt to bypass several "Natural" rules in forest re-establishment by cutting out several necessary progressive steps and accelerating tree growth which will be used as future profit. I also find most programs which are use as an attempt to re-establish trees after a catastrophic wildfire are as a rule done way too late, often times 3 or 4 years after the event. Anyone know how long "Nature" takes to repair and mend the environment after any kind of disruption ? That's right, immediately! Unfortunately most Forest Service projects wait until scientific environmental impact studies can be done and starting times are at best two or three years later. At that point chaparral has grown back and suddenly war is declared on this plant community as if it were an alien invader. The fact is Nature actually start trees off immediately during the first winter rainy season. In fact most seeds germinate in the ground long before Spring with seedling emergence quite often pushing through snow. That's called a clever head start. I know, because I experimented with various pine seed by actually outplanting them in the soil on my own acreage at the beginning of winter up in Anza California to see what would happen as opposed to Spring planting year old seedlings. They out performed by means of the head start because of a more advanced already in place functional root structure prior to the onset of summer. The companion chaparral that also sprouts up with it is actually an ally not the enemy. It could well be considered a nurse plant or mother tree. Without going into much detail again, an excellent example of successful nature-based reforestation where trees live along side and within chaparral was a 1982 fire event where the results of nature-based reforestation came off successfully at Mountain Center California south of Idyllwild. Nobody replanted anything nor cleared any chaparral. The area which is mostly private land was left to it's own redevelopment.

The result is more trees than previously and larger by comparison than many of the land stripping programs in Garner Valley to the east where chaparral was obliterated and also soils are much deeper. Yet even the trees from the Forestry sponsored plantation project up the road on Hwy 74 near Keen Summit which is forest land from Mt Center are not nearly the size of the same age trees. They actually stripped acreage for a sterile planting bed and maintained it a couple years after by use of a water wagon, I know because I commuted past there for almost 20+ years. See the article: "1982 Mountain Center Fire & the Forest's Regeneration" (Article Link) also see the article I wrote about a similar 1983 project I did utilizing biomimicry in forest establishment which left about 40% to 60% of the native chaparral down in lower elevation Terwilliger CA where rainfall is even less. This was a property I care took for free rent. The chaparral plants are the main heroes for this success, not me or the property owners. I also inoculated the trees with symbiotic fungal spores found in higher elevation forest areas which also enhanced the root infrastructure under the ground. Many of these trees are larger than even the Garner Valley tree plantation sites and some equal to the Mountain Center trees. See the post: "Establishing a Forest where the Experts said it would Fail" (Article Link)

Old Dawson Place Terwilliger CA
Now in the event of wanting to establish forest using fire, fire should be used responsibly, along with the site remaining untouched and unmolested of it's native chaparral that following rainy season. In other words, don't remove these plants by further mechanized  or chemical destruction of all other plant roots, considering these as competitors. Then plant already pre-existing nursery raised trees immediately not waiting and wasting precious months or years as has been the conventional method. I have also written about pesticides and herbicides and I while do have a strong dislike of them, I also have used them properly and only under desperate circumstances to create and immediate eradication of an overwhelming scenario of weeds or pests, then you can establish a healthy ecosystem whether it's in the wild or urban landscape utilizing beneficial bacteria and fungi. Once the successful system is established and in place, the future need of such chemicals will be unnecessary if maintained properly through replicating the Natural World's version of maintenance. 

Does the chaparral habitat scenario above really look to you as an overgrown brush wildfire hazard that we are all treated to in News Reports which is promoted as an example needing eradication by fire in order keep folks safe and provide better habitat for wildlife and livestock ? Hardly!

Sad to say many myths about Fire are hard to erase from people memory and deep internal psyche. I read comments by average citizens in News item articles on the subject where fire is championed as necessary for Nature to survive, exist and/or even reproduce. Why is that ? Because the average person not familiar with such natural mechanisms take it on faith that our world's modern day experts actually know what they are talking about. Especially are such question important in why such ignorant talk comes from a group of people like Scientific Researchers who are promoted to the public as above all of such ignorance ? Below is an interesting couple of articles you should take up and really read which came out last years which beautifully examine what is at the heart of irresponsible belief systems and wrong understanding of our natural world. The first article is how scientists tend to employ story telling as a tool to educate, but often times go to far with embellishments and exaggerations which tend to mask the reality of the natural world. It was published in Nature magazine in October 30th 2013 and titled: "Should scientists tell stories?" Here are some excellent quotes:
"Everyone loves a good story, and writers of many kinds use narrative techniques to get their message across. A recent Points of View article (Krzywinski and Cairo, Nat. Methods 10, 687, 2013) described how techniques of storytelling, such as a structured story arc, can effectively guide the presentation of scientific data in figures. But as pointed out in a Correspondence by Katz (p. 1045, this issue), the notion of communicating scientific information by storytelling can be taken too far."
Sadly this is where myths and fables about Native Americans have been etched in stone and hard to eradicate. But again, why the scientists ? Seriously, of all people, why Scientists who are supposed to know better ? We all get an easily manipulated and ignorant public believing this stuff, but why Scientists ? This next article from the website "The Conversation" published back in December 13th 2013 posted an excellent article titled, "Scientists falter as much as Bankers in pursuit of Answers". Here are some awesome quotes:
"Bankers aim to maximise profits. Scientists aim to understand reality. But Mike Peacey of the University of Bristol suggests, based on a new model he has just published in Nature, that both professionals are equally likely to conform to whatever views are prevalent, whether they are right or wrong."
In the past decade scientists have raised serious doubts about whether science is as self-correcting as is commonly assumed. Many published findings, including those in the most prestigious journals, have been found to be wrong. One of the reasons is that, once a hypothesis becomes widely accepted, it becomes very difficult to refute it, which makes it, as Jeremy Freese of Northwestern University recently put it, “vampirical more than empirical – unable to be killed by mere evidence”.
 “vampirical more than empirical – unable to be killed by mere evidence” 
Isn't that a beautiful quote ? I tell you, I just eat this up with a spoon. It doesn't get more illustrative than this. People everywhere need to train up their powers of perception. For human beings they don't come naturally. Blindly believing any word out of some Expert's mouth because they claim to wear some self-described badge of authority isn't good enough. You have to determine what is truly "Natural" otherwise known as the  real world and what is artificial and manipulative. I don't have anymore references to post as you have plenty above. Please read the references and make it real by burning it down into your memory through practical application of what was said or learned by means of reading. It will actually take getting your back side outdoors and making practical application. Practical experience is what helps you understand the truth of what is and what is not "Natural".
Maybe this is a good time to consider Murphy's Second Law: 
“No matter what the experiment’s result, there will always be someone eager to: (a) misinterpret it, (b) fake it, or (c) believe it supports his own pet theory.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Plagiarizing Nature & Cutting Out the Middle Man for Profit

Take Note: I will periodically update this page with recent relevant News as it is released, please scroll to the bottom for these ongoing updates. 
Wow - Pharmaceuticals - where to begin. Well first off, I actually work for them indirectly. There is no end to the self-promotion by the Pharmaceutical giants proclaiming their great genius at inventing drugs to save mankind or the usual collection of fringe ideologically motivated defenders of this industry who insist that anybody against these  chemical manufacturing giants are Anti-science. Funny isn't it ?, this is the same failed cowardly tactic used by the powerful GMO industry & their defenders towards their critics. Don't like out products ?, then you must be anti-science. I'm sure people back in the 60s/70s who protested with "No Nukes" & the Nuclear industry in general were branded with  the same cowardly label. Seriously, look where the Nuke profession has brought to the natural world today. Fact is people are NOT anti-science when they protest something, they are simply just anti-corruption anti-profiteering science which bypasses responsible testing. There is no doubt that a great number of people out there take comfort in blindly assuming that scientific integrity is somehow assured; that there are safeguards along the way or if not, that mystic self-correcting nature of Science often chanted in the form of a religious affirmation in any debate will somehow kick in like some artificial immune system and remove the bad corrupting influence, thus preventing fraudulent research from harming patients. In our modern world, scientific misconduct has become a very serious and so widespread problem that it threatens the entire paradigm of science-based medicine (or for that matter science-based anything) unless changes are made inside these industries. Unfortunately self-correction is not the nature of such giant powerful business entities (unless they are exposed & forced to), hence little people around the globe protest and publicly express their mistrust of such monopoly run business models. The pharmaceutical industry (& Chemical industry in general) has lost it's scientific integrity, and without it, "science-based medicine" is just a term without substance. I know because I work behind the scenes with regards pharmaceutical data research collection by means of interviews with Doctors, Specialists, pharmaceutical researchers or other associated scientists and even some of the big Pharma Executives themselves depending on the subject and/or campaign I'm involved with at any one time. Over here in the Europe Union, there are laws created that demand the Pharmaceutical Industry conduct regular ongoing studies on all their drugs for various medical procedures, practices and reporting of any and all side effects related to their usage. Now, this doesn't mean that I am totally negative about pharmaceuticals as they can have their place and some benefits as to their real worth or value, but many times there is another side of the story. Most of these companies have never really invented anything from scratch, rather they have plagiarized what originally has existed for countless thousands of years out in Nature.

So where do I start ? Hmmmm, well presently there is another Flu scare going around the globe and if you want to save yourself you are informed that you need to accept your flu vaccine. If not, then you are demonized as an anti-science Luddite for not putting faith in the Ecclesiastical Hierarchical Scientific structure that says so. I could tell you the horror stories about the unquestioning faith of millions of native Swedes here who as a culture generally are  programmed from youth onward not to question authority when it comes to National Health agendas like Flu Shots. There was that 2009 Swine/Bird Flu hybrid strain said to have originated down in a Mexican Industrial livestock operation which was promoted as the next global pandemic by a British Researcher with a vested interest in a pharmaceutical company which was developing an unproven untested Flu miracle drug only to have over 800+ Scandinavian children acquire Narcolepsy as a vicious incurable side effect result. I could tell you about a good close friend of mine who works for a pharmaceutical company here in Göteborg Sweden for which taking vaccines goes without question and a colleague of his whose pregnant wife took this untested junk vaccine only to become paralyzed from the waist down even to this day. But what good would such negativity accomplish. Believers will line up anyway. BTW, Poland refused to believe the hype and rejected spending millions of dollars for this miracle vaccine and opted for regular cold weather flu season treatment and not one person died or received any severe side effects. This latest round of publicity while sounding scary because of the (last count) 149 deaths in USA over this flu strain, but what you are never told are the health and lifestyle choice conditions of those who died. Even if some were seemingly healthy, there is no guarantee. One of the biggest responses I get from Doctors and Research Specialists I interview is a little something called patient compliance & lifestyle changes. Whether we are talking about Type II Diabetes or Hepatitis B or whatever the subject of the data research collection campaign I am involved with, getting a patient to change lifestyle is near to impossible for most doctors. Interestingly, Docs are pushing this more, something they traditionally in times past never use to do, with the except of a few. Most of the response when they do advise patients about making lifestyle changes is anger & outrage from the patient. As one Doc told me, "A woman who smoked 50 cigarettes a day fired back at me with, 'You are the doctor, fix it. That's what I'm paying you for'." Okay, now that's out of the way, let's talk about plants.

Ancient Chinese Medicine
There is something most people need to understand about much of the history of modern pharmaceuticals which are presently flooding the global markets with their synthetic wares and that is that many of the original seemingly magic healing and/or symptom correcting chemical compounds originally came from plants found in the natural world. Long before our modern terminologies were invented, like the disciplinary practice we call Science, there were those from past civilizations who for whatever motivation or reason actually used what is now coined the 'scientific method' for discovery. In attempts to discover the healing properties of plants, I have to believe there was most likely a whole lot of trail and error, with some patients paying the ultimate cost with their lives. Nevertheless over centuries of time, you have to figure some did get their discoveries correct. (BTW, many of the world's flavourite Liqueurs enjoyed today were originally medical herbal Elixirs for the Royalty of Europe) Many of these herbal remedies for example were even long registered in the American Pharmacological Directory or perhaps better known by the term The US directory of Pharmacopoeia,  (literally, "drug-making"), in its modern technical sense, was a book containing directions for the identification of samples and the preparation of compound medicines, and published by the authority of a government or a medical or pharmaceutical society. Many well known plants were long listed through the 1800s into the early 20th century until such references to them became unscientific in the modern usage sense. The change seems to have come through the growth of power by large commercial interests. The plants were discounted as being of little worth or value as modern Pharmaceuticals and the University educated Scientists who slave for them found ways to synthesize these same natural chemical compounds in the Lab. Doing so allowed for patenting a product. You see, the main historical problem for the pharmaceutical business model is something called Patents and being able to milk those precious royalties for all their worth before the Patent's expiration date. Once that happens, every crude bathtub operation around the globe climbs on board to manufacture their own version of the junk, some with dire consequences. The historical problem is you could never Patent a plant, as no one could legally own something anyone could obtain seeds for, plant and use themselves. It would be virtually impossible to police. Of course that was before GMOs came along. The modern Biotech Industry has solved that legal problem through specific genetic manipulation. This really exposes the true reason for GMOs. Seriously, GMOs were and are a strictly business decision and has nothing to do with the producing better product than what nature accomplishes when replicated properly. However, as stated previously, Big Pharma has attempted to pursue a course of synthesizing these same Nature constructed chemical compounds in Labs which do offer them a more direct route towards acquiring those precious Patents and the lucrative profits they provide. Plus, there are no expensive labor intensive farming to be involved with and no middle men commodities brokers to deal with nor any wealth sharing legal and/or ethical obligations. 
image: Frederick Cenci 
Now to be perfectly honest and fair, while I personally like a more natural approach to healthcare by means of the original herbal remedies, many times I can also become skeptical of some in the Green industry as well. Why you ask ? How often we have seen or read an article in some popular Organics magazine or some other natural healthcare website exposing the imperfections of the Pharmaceutical industry along with pictures of pills and money illustrating the greedy motives behind the evil Drug Biz and yet at the same time that site trying to shove down my throat their own natural brand of organic wares for me to purchase with ads all over the page. Often times these natural tablets are just as expensive as the synthetic chemical drugs they are attempting to demonize. So the greed game doesn't really work to convince me either. But let me get back to plants for which this post is really about. Over a century ago, mankind derived much of it's medicines from herbal sources found out in the wild. Also many of these plants were actually listed in the Pharmaceutical guides or registries as I've stated before. Gradually these were removed as Patents for chemical synthetics replaced these. It also helped the pharma biz model to demonize and label as pseudo-science anyone and anything which didn't measure up to the supposedly more enlightened standards created by these industry giants. Chemical Industry strategy for combating anyone promoting or using natural herbal solutions are dealt with by the usual name calling by using such derogatory terms as Shamanism or witch doctors and labeling folks wanting a more natural approach as anti-science. Again as stated before, this is nothing more than an effective damage control smoke screen to protect a powerful business model by demonizing people who clearly are NOT anti-science.
Photo by Michael L Charters 
Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)
Garner Valley, California
For me personally, one of the main things that got me interested in Southwestern Native plants & Botany in general in the first place was the knowledge and ways the Native Americans utilized them. Clearly for 1000s of years these people no doubt went through and experienced a lot of trail and error until they got it right. Now what triggers my post here is something I read lately about plants in the Artemisia family. I've written about Artemisia cana & tridentata (Silver Sagebrush) before on this blog. I'm fascinated by it's function and importance in the wild and also the early usage of this incredible plant by early human residents. There are many uses for various Artemisia, like Artemisia absinthium from which well known products such as it's use for flavouring in some spirits and wines, including bitters, vermouth and pelinkovac. A common name for the plants of this family are also known as Wormwood. But another variety of Artemisia came to my attention recently and that is Artemisia annua. The article was making claim to this plant's ability to Kill 98% Of Cancer Cells In Just 16 Hours. Now I'm not going to focus on these claims of killing cancer. Such claims are a dime a dozen and yet they may even have some merit. However, I did find one viable usage which even the big Pharmaceuticals are taking note of. This is the ability of this plant to produce an important and effective anti-malarial compound. The compound is called artemisinin.
Photographer: Emmet J. Judziewicz 
One of the companies I have done work for here in Europe in my employment is the French based Sanofi. On 11 April of 2013, the Paris-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi officially launched a new production facility in Garessio, Italy, to make artemisinin – the precursor to artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the most effective drugs against the deadliest malaria parasite. This fascinated me even more since my wife who just last Friday came back from a three week stay in Ghana West Africa was required by law to take anti-malarial drugs prior to, during and after her visit there. Of course there were other drugs required to take such as those for yellow fever and other possible encounters with diseases from the tropics. Oddly enough the positive effects on this natural compound have been well known for some time. Another friend from India and colleague who is a micro-biologist at Salgrenska Hospital here in Göteborg Sweden said he knew very well the health benefits of Artemisia annua. While such news is good, there are also some negatives. Unfortunately, Sanofi is utilizing a genetically modified yeast for the synthesizing of the Artemisinin. That in itself is a possible negative in itself, but it's the other side effect of Drug manufacturing which will hurt numerous people and that is the little farmers who make a living  growing the plant itself. 

Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

A farmer harvests sweet wormwood trees in Youyang, rural Chongqing, China, 2006. (see article link below)
"In the constant fight between microbes and people, attempts to rein in the malarial parasite have just taken an interesting turn. On Thursday the founder of Amyris Biotech triumphantly announced production of 70m doses of the anti-malarial compound artemisinin. This sounds like good news for poor people but may be a step backwards – the start of a new hi-tech assault on farmers."
"There is no doubt that artemisinin is important. Artemisinin combination therapies are the World Health Organisation's drug of choice for battling malaria – which caused an estimated 660,000 deaths in 2010 – and other artemisinin-based approaches also exist."
"Yet the good news stops there. Until this week, artemisinin for drugs was sourced entirely from the delicate leaves of artemesia annua (sweet wormwood) following sustained efforts to develop artemesia growing as doubly beneficial: a source of livelihood for African and Asian farmers, and a public health good. What makes Amyris's breakthrough significant is that its version has never been near a wormwood shrub. It comes from an industrial vat of bioengineered yeast."
"Making this possible is a controversial technology called synthetic biology (synbio). This artificially builds DNA strands in labs, using those strands to re-engineer microbes to behave as tiny factories. Ordinary yeast might ferment sugar into alcohol. Instead, this re-engineered yeast turns sugar into a precursor of artemisinin. This technical breakthrough, nine years in the making, was enabled by $53.3m (£34.6m) from the Gates Foundation. It is held up as the poster child for the brave new world of synbio."
And yet 
"Vat-grown artemisinin is highly attractive to large pharmaceutical companies such as Sanofi Aventis (pdf). They will now avoid the complexity of sourcing from thousands of farmers and 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) in Kenya, Tanzania, Madagascar, Mozambique, India, Vietnam and China. As for artemesia farmers, this announcement is an assault on their livelihoods."
"Speaking at a conference in Cambridge this week, the key synthetic biologist behind the project, Jay Keasling, said "moves are afoot to replace the entire world supply" of the compound. Asked whether this means that all natural artemesia production will be replaced, he said: "Early on, it was not about replacing the agricultural form … and now I think it's nearly inevitable that it will shift over." Keasling proffered that artemesia farmers might switch to growing wheat and potatoes instead."
"Keasling argues that putting artemesia growers out of business accompanies a laudable public health move: some growers sell to producers of questionable artemisinin monotherapies, which in turn may give rise to artemisinin resistance. If a single source from a vat replaces the diverse botanical supply, it would be easy to control the market and eradicate monotherapies. Farmers are unfortunate collateral damaged."
"Keasling's remarks are an astonishing late admission of what experts and civil society groups have feared all along. In 2007, the Netherlands Tropical Institute warned that just the prospect of synthesised artemisinin could destabilise prices and dissuade farmers from planting. Keasling and his partners rejected such concerns with assurances that there would be no discernible impact on farmers. Later, they argued that synbio production would only be used to "supplement" production when botanical supply was flagging."
"Now it turns out that artemesia farmers are dismissed as entirely expendable. The rejoinder of "let them plant potatoes" seems dismissive of farmer knowledge: farmers understand markets well and those now growing artemisia annua do so because it helps them bring in income. As for the argument that synbio is necessary to eradicate malaria, the botanical approach was already producing more than enough artemisinin to address malaria." 
(you get the idea, more in link below in references)
I feel sad for the Artemisinin farmers in China and Vietnam and other poorer countries who not only have to contend with this take over competition by giant corporate power houses who are for the most part disconnected from the humanity end, but even those commodity broker middle men who control the market they are tied to and dependent upon. Jay Keasling admitted that a gradual introduction of synthetic Artesiminin would be necessary at the beginning to avoid driving conventional producers out of business at least as he puts it, “until we have enough installed capacity to take over the entire world supply”. How pathetic is that ?

Wiki: photo - US Botanic Gardens - 2012
It's a pity that such profiteering is still the main player which drive economies for a privileged few. But that is our world and how it is defined. Colonialism and Imperialism are officially gone and removed, but the industrial country's M.O. of exploiting these poorer nations with their abundant rich resources still continues. But closer to home in the west, there are still some long known traditional herbal native plants that still have potential. Ever here of Valerian ? (See link to below) There was an interesting link to Valerian and it's potential use as an herbal remedy for anxiety and sleeplessness. While there are some positives research, some results have been inconsistent and, in many cases, the study methods have been flawed. More research is needed to make definite conclusions about its effectiveness. But it is interesting that the herb doesn't work for everyone as the research revealed. What you won't hear about is that this is the same result or effect with all synthetic drugs. Everyone has a differing genetic makeup and results will differ, hence the data collection I work with. I had one Doc who apparently switched drugs with one patient 8 times. Not because he found something better each of those eight times, but because he didn't know what a newer drug would do, hence he used "Dice Theory". "Let's see what this will do", not giving a second thought to harmful side effects. The obligation of any and all Doctors is to keep constantly updated with the latest findings, but I find not all do. Many have no clue as to possible side effects and yet there are a handful that do. One of the biggest problems are sales reps from Drug companies, in fact this generally is one of my questions to the Docs. Let's face it, for all the promotion of caring about fellow man, it's still a big profit producing business and always will be despite the sugar coating. 

Wiki: Photo from Sue in AZ
Then there is a native southwestern shrub closer to my homeland area. In the herbal Botanical world they call it "Chaparral", but that is actually a plant community. It's common name is Creosote Bush or Larrea tridentata. It is a common sight along the desert highways of the southwest, but most folks probably never pay it no mind. The wonderful refreshing smell after a summer monsoon thundershower is from the biogenic volatile organic compounds (VOCs) which emit from this plant and it is these same compounds for which a tincture with alcohol or a tea is made. The usage by the early natives was for a blood purifier. At one time the United States FDA with approval of the AMA had a ban on using Larrea tridentata S saying that it was toxic and dangerous. Yes, the alkaloids this plant manufactures can be toxic in a high dose concentrated form, but so can any drug if a medical doctor doesn't know what he is doing. Sure enough in the correct safe dosage (you really need to know what you are doing) it can have a toxin removal effect from the body. Many have claimed that it cures cancer, but like drugs, nothing cures cancer. It's ridding your system of toxins and your immune system brought back online that fights the cancer cells. Of course most modern science-based conventional medicine opts for a procedure of poisoning and irradiating cancer cells as opposed to boosting a person's immune system function to battle the mutated abnormal cells. Dr Richard Schulze of American Botanicals actually did this on what I call throw away patients. You know the type I'm referring to, after Hospitals or Clinics exhaust a cancer patient's medical benefits and other insurances of all of it's funding, they are told that there is nothing else can be done. So Hospice is the next journey. The news of his success with these patients and their life threatening diseases spread. His clinical success became an embarrassment to the medical community, and his patients were thriving instead of dying became embarrassing living testimonials to the failure of much of the conventional science-based modern medicine. He was arrested and his clinic was boarded up back in 1994. They came into his clinic with SWAT with automatic weapons where nothing more than sick patients were staying. He was arrested and condition of not remaining in prison was to never open a clinic in the USA ever again. Using Chaparral (Larrea tridentata) was the loophole the FDA used for the shut down his clinic. I really don't want to go on more here with this subject as his work is a post all to it's own. But maybe later at a future date as I used to travel and listen to his weekend long lectures. 

Dr Richard Schulze
It should be noted that all drugs have side effects. It should also be admitted that so do most all natural herbal compounds, for example some plant chemical compounds can cause a type of anemia and lack of ability for one's blood to clot if injury happens like in an accident, you could be in serious trouble. A truly educated herbalist would know these things as a conventional doctor should know their drug prescription business. This is why you need to do your homework no matter which direction you choose. You also need to do homework on doctors you choose. Having interviewed hundreds, there are only handfuls I'd trust to work on me. Learn more about the natural herbal remedies, but also learn to weed out the often time bizarre crack pots that go too far into the New Agey direction. Mainly, please understand that the scientific genius that claims to invent miracle wonders has done nothing remarkable than provide a less than perfect cheap imitation to what was originally found in nature to begin with. I'll post something later for all the outdoorsy hiking sunshine types, especially with regards combating skin cancer and the herbal compounds that deal wonderfully with ridding you of that problem. 

As a concluding note, I'd like to say that the Chaparral Plant Community is probably one of the most misunderstood and untouched resources for possible uses of plant biogenic chemical compounds around. While the chanting by activists to "Save the Rainforests" is certainly a noble one because of the potential for pharmaceutical resources as many have claimed, Chaparral has possibly as equal or maybe more potential and closer to home. Well that is if you life in SoCal. *smile* 

(Very Important Update February 18, 2014)
The headline reads: "Colorado pot aids kids with seizures, worries Doctors" Link: Yahoo News: Medical Marijuana & Kids, a New Frontier

Here are some of the relevant quotes by the experts which illustrates the attempt at damage control and a preview of the coming offense in the protection of a monopolized business model in big Pharma industry which Docs get commissioned for pimping their wares.
"Doctors warn there is no proof that Charlotte's Web is effective, or even safe."
 "We don't have any peer-reviewed, published literature to support it," Dr. Larry Wolk, the state health department's chief medical officer, said of Charlotte's Web.
Most people seriously understand what is going on here. This makes inroads into an industry which jealously guards it's business model and it's precious synthesizing chemical patents. Until they find answers as to how to synthesize their own copyright property , they will fight tooth and nail for squash any natural means of medicating the public. I'm sure their scientists are creating genetically engineered organisms to rapidly synthesize their own chemical junk to push on the public with FDA blessings. The self-righteous bogus outrage of expressions like "we have no proof" and "don't have any peer-reviewed literature to support the claims" rings hollow. How much more proof does anyone need than the kids vast improvement and recovery ? Is there some vast conspiracy with these kids to fool the adults about their condition ? Hardly. Count on far more vicious attacks as more and more successes come from naturally grown and raised plants and their extracted compounds prove their worth and throw a glaring light on the failure of the present expensive chemical synthesized junk being pushed off on families now who otherwise have no hope. Like the Chinese and Vietnamese Farmers growing Artemisia annua (Sweet Wormwood), the Stanley Brothers and other growers in Colorado need to be watching their backs as powerful filthy rich Corporate entities with a vested interest in their precious monopoly business model will be covertly working behind the scenes and assaulting from the front with personal attacks to put them out of commission permanently.
Update April 15, 2014: From the World Agroforestry website:
Rising demand for herbal medicine can increase cultivation of medicinal trees 
 NAIROBI, Kenya (14 April 2014) -----Formalizing trade in herbal medicinal products has the potential to increase the demand for on-farm grown raw material and raise the level of cultivation of medicinal tree species in smallholder farms.
A study carried out by the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Kenya shows that trade in herbal medicinal products is rising in the urban areas and formalization in terms of better hygienic packaging and labeling of the products is likely to increase cultivation of these tree species.
The study published in the scientific journal, Forests Trees and Livelihoods, says that In Kenya, the majority of traditional medicines are sold as wild plant parts, but in urban areas, demand for traditional medicines is rising and this is leading to increased formalization of the market, with traditional medicines now found in powders, liquids and creams. 
 The selling point and benefits ?
“Cultivation would not only provide a sustainable supply of medicinal products but also increase the incomes of poor smallholder farmers while addressing current problems of over-harvesting and resource degradation which have reduced the abundance of wild materials.” 
Those who preferred farm-sourced material said this was because of expected higher quality from good crop husbandry, increasing scarcity in the wild, and for some, a deliberate choice to conserve wild resources.
“While these types of formal enterprise are fairly recent in Kenya, we found that they are all experiencing annual growth and demanding more uniform raw materials which cultivation can provide,” says Muriuki
Now this is the way it will always start out with benefits to both the consumers and indigenous peoples being finally able to make a respectable living. That is until other global business (Pharmaceutical Giants) entities get wind of the change to their bottom lines, no matter how minuscule. Arguments will be made that they can synthesize the naturally occurring substances far cheaper than the Farmer can produce and if that doesn't work, a smear campaign through bogus research or smear campaign articles making fun of people who want a more natural approach to medical care as being nothing more than New Age anti-science Luddites will one day be forthcoming. And then there is always that great fall back that the genius behind those who run science can improve upon Nature which as we all have been informed in the past, is a bad designer anyway. Seriously, we are told to just ask any Engineer. It will be propagandized that science can design, build a bigger and better machine. Don't believe me ? This is what you get when science is abused, misused and practiced out of line with that Utopian dogma of what it's supposed to be. It's anything but self-correcting and to believe otherwise is to actually take up a religious position. It's been going on that way for the past 100+ years now:
 A Paradigm Shift (revolutionary science) or More of the Same ?
 Science: the religion that must not be questioned
More Interesting Reference Reading
Sanofi launches malaria drug production 
Synthetic anti-malarial compound is bad news for artemisia farmers
Medicinal Plants of the Southwest
Synthetic biology’s malaria promises could backfire 
Why Synthetic Artemisinin Is Still a Bad Idea - A Response to Rob Carlson 

Something not known by most folks is how our bodies actually metabolize drugs. Here is an article explain just how our organs filter these chemical compounds. In fact, in my interviews with researchers, we are looking for side effects with regards toxins accumulating in organs. As a side note I have asked docs about the toxicity of gmos like Monsantos BT Toxins. They said they are watching accumulation effects of the toxin buildup in organs and potential health side effects yet to be realized. Like cigarettes, no one dies during the first few years of smoking, but years of repeated use are what cause eventual organ failure. Same with BT Toxins. While some may have a rare immediate allergic reaction, , just like to can and do with natural foods like peanuts, most won't show effects for years to come. No amount of such years of testing has been done by GMO companies since profits are demanded by investors yesterday. Here is the article:
Metabolism of Pharmaceutical Drugs and Xenobiotics 
American Cancer Society: "Valerian"

No doubt with the new laws passed legalizing Cannabis for use in the medical sense which I have even previously ( written about ), you can bet Pharmaceuticals gave it the blessing to pursue their own version of synthesizing and genetically modifying their own patented version to push on the public. BTW, I found an older article on famous scientists who were known drug users during their research years. Much like the music era of the 1960s/70s, too bad people have to rely on such artificial means to be creative and damaging their health at the same time.
Meet The Science And Tech Geniuses Who Got High And Solved Amazing Problems  
For my further personal views on where science has taken the wrong direction as a result of the people who run and now control it, please read my post called:
A Paradigm Shift (revolutionary science) or More of the Same ?