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"One River" - by Wade Davis

Davis, a compelling writer and intrepid ethnobotanist best known for The Serpent and the Rainbow (1987), proves himself a master of synthesis in this engrossing history of plant exploration in the Amazon. He alternates between accounts of his amazing adventures in the field and rich descriptions of remote Indian tribes and their plant-based cosmologies, tales of conquering Spaniards and missionaries, and dynamic portraits of his mentors: the pioneering genius Richard Evans Schultes, the "world's leading authority on hallucinogenic plants," and Timothy Plowman, another inspired plant expert and fearless traveler. Davis pays particular attention to Schultes' groundbreaking field research into the uses of such sacred plants as peyote, coca, yage, and the San Isidro mushroom, as well as his seminal work with rubber plants and arrow and dart poisons. But as he works back and forth in time, a terrible paradox arises: just as outsiders such as Schultes and Plowman began to recognize the tremendous sophistication of Indian knowledge about the medicinal and spiritual properties of plants, the Amazon jungle came under assault. Davis, acute and articulate, both marvels at the subtleties of nature and the inventiveness of human beings and bemoans the tragedy of cultural conquest and rampant industrialization.


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