Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest

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9780716731160: Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest

Nafanua is the author's account of the year he spent in a remote Samoan village researching medicinal plants. An eminent ethnobotanist, Cox succeeded in making some vital discoveries, including one that led to a drug now being tested for treatment of hepatitis and AIDS. He also launched an international campaign to save lowland rainforest from logging, and was honoured by village leaders with the title of the legendary Samoan goddess Nafanua. For his work in Samoa, Cox was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize, considered to be the Nobel Prize for the Environment.

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About the Author:

One of the world's leading ethnobotanists, Paul Alan Cox is the Director of the U.S. National Tropical Botanical Garden, a system of Congressionally chartered gardens scattered throughout Hawaii and Florida. He also serves as the King Carl XVI Gustaf Professor of Environmental Science at the Swedish Biodiversity Centre in Uppsala, Sweden. Named a "Hero of Medicine" by Time magazine, he was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize for his conservation efforts in Samoa, which he describes in Nafanua. Considered the "Nobel Prize of the Environment," the Goldman Prize is awarded annually to an environmentalist from each of the six inhabited continents.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Cox (Botany/Brigham Young Univ.) details the tribulations of protecting a small patch of unique forest in this story of his field days in Western Samoa. Spurred by the recent death of his mother from breast cancer, Cox decided to pursue ethnobotanical studies in Samoa, hoping to find indigenous pharmaceutical possibilities for treating cancer in the endemic plant community and in the traditional healing techniques of Samoan herbalists. He headed for the most remote village he could find to interview healers on their use of local plant life and soon found himself swept into not only the everyday life of the village (it didn't hurt that he was fluent in both colloquial and formal Samoan, which he learned during an earlier stint in Mormon service on the island), but also as a dedicated conservationist involved in the effort to save the island's remaining rainforest and its denizens. He knew that as the rainforest went, so too would go any hopes of tapping the potential of its singular plant communities. Cox chronicles his efforts, along with those of numerous others, to end destructive logging, gain endangered status for such unusual forest species as the flying fox, and raise money to provide schools that the timber harvest would have paid for. While Cox can be irksomely disingenuous (``I was astonished Rothman had heard of my ongoing effort to protect flying foxes--I had published only a few articles in addition to giving several lectures on the topic,'' he rather modestly notes), one can only admire the devout conservation ethic, and the deep immersion in Samoan culture, of this broadly curious ethnobotanist. Cox complements his record of the harsh specifics involved in struggling to preserve native species and cultures with the exegetic delineation of subtly important moments in Samoan culture--the kava ceremony, for example--that have no analogue in Western society. A lively, useful work. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Paul Alan Cox
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