When DMT Equals Killing the Environment

By Nen & David Nickles on Wednesday, 01 October 2014, hits: 44395

1treeringbarked2As 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.

1acaciatreekilled1As 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.





+17 # Mustard 2014-10-02 00:46
And what's left will still contain DMT, though it will die and rot. For every tree killed in this way, for the sake of a few grams of DMT, how much more is just wasted? It could be whole ounces left in bark that will do nothing but wither and break down. All of which could have been had from twigs and leaves. How I loathe the uneconomic ignorant fools of this world.
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+11 # Changuar 2014-10-02 00:48
This post provides a good addendum to this article, illustrating the devastation wrought by the global Mimosa hostilis market.

For those who believe in sustainable MHRB sourcing.

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+7 # Nick Wallis 2014-10-02 04:35
This same sort of thing happens to our psilocybe fungal friends... I see areas devastated - both by pickers and by council workers. The mycellium is often destroyed and often other parts of the area are also destroyed.

Don't regret sharing knowledge. Esoteric knowledge breeds curiousity in those without the knowledge... but the curious with no answers will make their own way... stumbling in the dark, breaking things and often not even realising the damage they've done...
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+2 # Lobo 2014-10-02 13:39
The same happend in the amazon with Ayahuasca. I think we have to start looking to psilohuasca, more sustainable.
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+8 # Yage 2014-10-02 21:34
This is really sad and deeply hurts my heart. Thanks for your efforts and sharing.
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+12 # Danny DeVito 2014-10-03 04:18
Nen = The Lorax in real life

Keep up the good work. Sustainability must be the next step as more people find their way into the entheogenic experience.
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+1 # bitrat 2014-10-03 17:00
Same thing with plants yielding safrole for MDMA ...Simple solution - synthetics....n ot as elegant perhaps, but readily available with much less ecological mayhem....just have to get these materials legalized.....
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+3 # Pandora and Nemo A 2014-10-03 18:38
Tragic and so :cry:

But good to know.

Never regret the past folks - LEARN and GROW from it. The past 20 years have been interesting ones and as always, the times they are a changing but people are people.

Thank you for this article. Power is power but Knowledge is Self-Empowermen t!
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+3 # Clay 2014-10-07 18:49
Thank you for this article Nen. I had no idea this was going on and it deeply concerns me.

I'll be sharing it with my communities to ensure that to word continues to spread.

You really are The Lorax in the flesh and I appreciate the work you do to raise awareness about issues like this.
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+3 # Plants 2014-10-11 04:53


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+1 # confusa 2014-10-11 20:18
acacia confusa is considered invasive in Hawaii... I believe the govt. even pays to have it removed sometimes.

I've gotten Taiwanese bark too that supposedly comes from naturally-falle n trees. I don't know how import rules are for Australia. Personally I'd like to learn how to work with phlaris grass.
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+1 # scheduleverything 2014-11-08 05:46
If the law didn't prohibit import of Bark containing an illegal substance then we all could be buying from places like Taiwan & Hawaii. Government funded planting schemes and de-prohibition is the cure for this along with synthetics and psilohuasca.
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0 # Paul Beykirch 2014-10-29 22:16
This is really disturbing. I know that a ton of dmt extractions are sold on the black market. I don't know if the vendors sourcing are choosing ethical dealers.
If the stems and leaves can provide the gift that keeps on giving...then there is no wrong. But killing these stunningly beautiful and life-preserving trees in the name of 'consciousness' is about the most UN-conscious thing one can do. I'll put the word out all over. Thank you :)
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+1 # acuminator 2014-10-30 07:30
In WA, from Toodyay right the way through Northam and past York, so many areas have been decimated, it really upset me and my family as we wanted to see the beauty of the region, not trees blatantly uprooted by 4x4's on the roadside to have their root balls and bark removed. It's obviously done large scale too and such a shame to see when the Raspberry Jam Wattle is such an ally to the environment and ALL parts of the tree useful. I hope this message is shared and reaches those whose greed and lust for the $ overrides the damage done to a fragile ecosystem. It's bloody un-Australian! :sad:
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+1 # Keeper Trout 2014-11-09 18:09
It may be illuminating to read "Tragedy of the Commons". I disagree with its suggestion for solutions but the evaluation is spot-on and ties in nicely with Nen's observations.
It is almost too bad that we live in an era where it would be frowned on to find the culprits and treat them similarly. I suspect that in an alternate reality even one skinned plant thief on public display would probably go far as a deterrent?
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+1 # brush 2015-06-05 15:58
third breakthrough, sitting on my porch, looked down into my bowl and the resin screamed "helpmeee!"
simultaneously in my head, the images of shrink wrap melting. what am I to think
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