As knowledge of DMT has spread and unprecedented numbers of people have sought out DMT experiences, “sustainable” sourcing has become both an urgent focal point and a cheap buzzword. Living within a paradigm of industrial capitalism, many “sustainable” actions are perhaps best described as either “less damaging” or "greenwashed" rather than truly sustainable. Any “sustainable” product or endeavor that requires global systems of capital, industrial infrastructure, extractive processes, and global transportation likely carries costs that exceed—at least for some group(s) of people—the threshold of what most sane people might consider sustainable. With that said, the local sourcing of psychoactive plants and compounds presents an arena where each of us is capable of acting in ways that, on a small scale, can promote truly sustainable practices for ourselves, our fellow human beings, and our bioregions.
As ever-growing numbers of people proclaim their awe of psychedelically-facilitated experiences of nature, ranging from novel understandings about ecological integrity to deep-felt connections with the natural world, we must ask whether we are engaged in action rooted in our understandings or if we are merely paying lip service to these experiences. We should be able to understand what we have learned to value as a result of our psychedelic experiences and engage with it in the world in a manner that defends it from that which would see it destroyed. If we come to the understanding that ecological systems are sacred to all life, then we must find ways to defend them against those who would liquidate them in the name of profits.
In late September of this year (2014), Australian acacia expert, Nen, was confronted with one example of the potential ecological costs of the skyrocketing interest in DMT. The following is his account of what he encountered:
What I saw yesterday has left me sickened and shocked.
I took the Nexian, Spice Sailor, to see a very special and pristine nature reserve in a national park where there were large mother seed trees of Acacia obtusifolia. We went simply to enjoy the presence of the trees and the bush. This was a sacred site, too sensitive to touch, I would have thought.
To our dismay, every single mature tree was either dead or dying. They had been completely stripped of bark, or had so much taken that they could no longer live. Every one of them was bare—maybe 50-60 trees—except for some very small saplings not yet ready to produce seed. At the rate these trees grow in the wild, they would have been between 20-50 years old. A few were older.
I understand that there are greedy and ignorant people out there, but this is the worst case I have ever seen.
If the perpetrator(s) were ignorant, then let me say yet again that taking bark kills trees! Then it is another 15-20 years before other trees grow to such a large size. As stated several times, the small twigs have the same percent alkaloid content as the bark. There is no need to cause long term harm or kill these trees. As I've said, if you're growing trees, you realize that killing them for trunk bark is wasteful and stupid…you can prune a branch.
Please stop and think about what you’re doing. Nature reserves are there to protect the plants!
If the people who did this acted out of greed, then they have stupidly destroyed what was a tremendous sustainable supply. The amount of bark taken indicates very large-scale dealing. Please, if you care about the future of these trees and the environment in general, don't support the sale of DMT; you are inadvertently supporting this kind of environmental carnage. The people who do this are as callous as mining companies and have no qualms about harming the environment.
These trees were part of the ecosystem; providing shelter for numerous birds and other creatures, and maintaining the soil. More than just the trees are harmed by this thoughtless act. Even worse, all of the seed-producing trees in this area are now gone. How will this arboreal community ever repopulate normally? This once pristine area will now be severely affected for decades. A place where the acacia naturally thrived is now unlikely to do so for a long time. If a bush fire takes out the saplings, these trees may never come back.
Seeing this devastation makes me wish that I'd never been involved in efforts to spread knowledge about acacias, in case my doing so increased the likelihood of this happening. If trying to increase awareness of psychoactive plants leads to this, it isn't worth it. When we first started exploring acacias, we took time to describe the potential damage to these species presented by harvesting bark, and to insist that increasing species diversity as well as growing new trees and harvesting sustainably were crucial. But to what avail?
So savage was the destruction I saw, I have to put it down to more than ignorance. It's a level of greed approaching evil. There are such people in this world who have no issues wreaking such environmental havoc. We see them in a myriad of forms around the world; the extractive energy companies, the industrial production and refinement facilities, the drug cartels in Mexico or elsewhere. The main ways to stop them are to not support their trade and to disrupt their ability to act with impunity. Share the knowledge of what is going on and find ways to take action to prevent the atrocities with which they are so comfortable.
So, Australians (and anyone else) reading this, the situation is now serious for this acacia, and it is the direct result of the selling and buying of DMT. I doubt the people who do this even take the substance much. The Nexus has lots of information on sustainable and easy to find sources of DMT, strains of Phalaris for instance, as well as great examples of growing acacias. Use them!
Other than trying to increase awareness of this sorry situation, which shames the Australian entheogen community, the other action I'll take is to inform the national parks authority about what is going on in that particular area (in NSW) so they can monitor it more closely. If anyone else has any other ideas, we would like to hear about them. And if there is more of this horror going on elsewhere, please speak up and let us know.
I can't believe that in 20 years I've watched beautiful pristine areas turn into graveyards due to people looking for a molecule that is meant to expand their consciousness! It's a crime against nature. If anyone reading this has any idea of who did this, please try to educate them as to the harm they've caused—not just to the environment, but to their own future options. These are dark days for DMT, indeed, when DMT means death and habitat destruction.
For those growing the trees; thank you deeply. This work goes hand in hand with utilizing the compounds they provide.
One more time, for the ignorant: don't take trunk bark. It will kill the tree and—in the case of A. obtusifolia—they are not fast growing in the wild. It’s so sad that I have to have to say this again. I thought we were getting somewhere.
Interested in sustainable approaches to ethnobotanical specimens? Check out Share the Seeds, a resource for collecting, sharing, and preserving plants and seeds of ethnological significance along with the wisdom, folklore, customs, and cosmologies associated with these organisms.