In the latest issue of the Essential Herbal, there are a couple articles on ethical harvesting of herbs one of which I wrote. I was glad to see more than one person submitted articles like that. The ethics surrounding plant ecology and herbalism is so important to me that it is one of the things I study at school. Right now much of the focus of my research is on the issue of natives vs non-indigenous plant. It has certainly been an education for me. Previous to this semester of school, I weighed in heavily on the natives end of this debate. Since beginning my work my feelings on this are not so clear cut. In fact I am beginning to see some plants as the precious gift from Gaia, if we would just learn to listen more deeply to their message.
Regardless of where I land on this issue, one thing is certain. The use of medicinal plants contributed hugely to the disappearance of some plants in our native landscapes. In addition to being mindful of the way I harvest herbs, I feel it is my responsibility to grow and protect some of those plants that we have harvested to the point of endangerment. One way I think that herbalists can do this is to establish teaching gardens in our yards or communities. I certainly have seen plenty of beautiful examples to learn from. The idea of walking a student or a client through my yard to learn identification seems safer to me than traipsing around in delicate ecosystems, creating more human disturbance.On some levels this idea of inviting people into my space is unsettling to me. I have a very personal relationship with my plants and the idea of people poking around in my sacred place, is a little unsettling to me. I worry about the energy bringing people into my space will create. Knowing that I am not alone in my introversion, I can’t imagine I am the only gardener to feel that way. I have been thinking about this in the context of my environmental health studies which are currently focusing on the role sense of place has on well-being. I am thinking that this project will bring me personal experience in this area as well.
So while I mull all of this over, I am working to re-design my garden. My hope is that one day be a learning place; not only about herbalism but about the permaculture techniques I am studying, as well.
It will likely be my senior project; incorporating design, ecology, plant propagation and Materia Medica knowledge. Technically that is something I begin working with on in the fall semester, but it is something I need to begin planning now as I transplant wandering plants and introduce new friends in my garden this Spring. Someday maybe I will have the smallest sanctuary on the UPS list.
At least I already have a name for it.