Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest
Paul Alan Cox, Michael Rothman
Illustrated by Michael Rothman W. H. Freeman (New York), 1997.
I found this book in the Nature section of of a Barnes and Noblebookstore after reading about it in the latest Time magazine specialedition (Fall, 1997, Heroes of Medicine, is the title, I believe). TheTime special edition had an article about Dr. Paul Alan Cox and his workidentifying medicinal plants used by indigenous peoples and his work tosave the Samoan rain forests.
Since Dr. Cox is LDS and makes some mention of the church throughout thebook, I think is would be classified as Mormon literature by listmembers.
Dr. Cox is a world-class ethnobotanist, Dean of General Education andHonors and Professor of Botany at BYU, King Carl XVI Gustaf Professor ofEnvironmental Science, author of the Scientific American Library bookPlants, People, and Culture, and recipient of a 1997 GoldmanEnvironmental Prize -- the equivalent of a "Nobel Prize in theEnvironment". He served a mission in Samoa before the events in thebook took place.
Nafanua describes the experiences of Dr. Cox in Samoa where he hasdone research on medicinal plants used by indigneous "healers" includingthe identification of an antiviral plant extract called prostratin thatis being tested in AIDS treatment. He also played a key role in thecreation of a park in Samoa saving the Samoan rain forest from logging,and a key role in saving the endangered flying foxes that live in rainforests in that area.
I found the book extremely interesting and well-written for a man with abackground in scientific research. There is some science in it, but itis explained in ways that I think are compatible with general readerswithout scientific backgrounds. His methods that led to the discoveryof prostatin and some other medicines from plants have the potential ofbecoming a very important drug development strategy -- and a very, verygood argument for conserving forests and plants as sources ofmedications. The description of the Samoan culture, the land, and hiswork there were quite fascinating. He also describes how his family andSamoan villagers survived a devastating tropical storm.
My only complaint about the book is that in some cases, follow-upinformation on some of the people was not given. I wanted to know whathappened to the BYU student who was with his family during the storm,for example.
© 1997 Mike Adams < email@example.com >