Seeing the Forest and the Trees

By Mark Antony Rossi

 The notion of communion with nature declined steadily moments after the first sizeable city was founded upon cleared forestland, slaughtered buffaloes and Native Americans nearly extinguished in the crossfire of broken treaties and mad gold rushes. “Taming the Wild Frontier” is an ugly misnomer invented to soften the uglier realities of environmental rape and ruin. Non-human life was meant to be thriving and living its wild existence in the biosphere we know as Earth. But reckless scientific and geographic alterations cause dangerous imbalances only recently understood.

 The damage if not reversible may darken the destiny of countless species including our own. Billions of trees, the largest examples of plant life, are this planet’s major source of oxygen production. Yet they are being razed quicker than replacements can be grown. Whole species of untested plants, with potential medicinal value, are burned to ashes to accommodate ore-mining operations around the world. The quality of ocean and drinking water is repeatedly questioned as correlations to birth defects in fish and mammals increase.

 Ever since the very first city was built man has wondered if artificial surroundings pose a threat to mankind and nature. Sociologists and philosophers theorize that tension, stress, and crime rates soar because city dwelling disconnects humanity from nature; thus sanity. Those interesting examinations only focus on human psychological and spiritual liabilities of modern dwellings; not external environmental disturbances or the threats to non-human existence. But the Atom Bombs ending WWII changed the debate forever and science started seriously considering the ramifications of modern developments upon the whole of our environment.

 What science discovered through intense study and observation is so shocking that various corporate industries fight to deny those discoveries with every trick and dollar at its disposal. Giant holes in the highest reaches of the atmosphere allow ultraviolet radiation to burn beams to the earth. The rapid corresponding rates of skin cancer in light skinned people seal their findings. Soil erosion from massive forest clearing threatens to kill the very building blocks of life: the microscopic bacteria needed to grow crops. Early tests of rescued plants reveal medicines that may lead to breakthroughs against deadly diseases and painful ailments.

 Pilocarpine from the South American rain forest plant, Pilocarpus jaborandi, is widely used to treat glaucoma. Artemisinin from the weed, Artemisia annua, was discovered in China to be an effective agent to treat drug-resistant malaria. Club moss from the plant, Lycopodium serratum, is an alkaloid huperzine currently being studied for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Extracts from the vine, Tripterygium wilfordii, is used in Asia as a standardized treatment for severe cases of arthritis and other autoimmune diseases. In Thailand, Plaunol, isolated from Croton sublyratus, is being used as an anti-ulcer drug in Japan. The Indian Snake Root, Rauwolfia serpentina, produces ajmalicine and reserpine, used for circulatory disorders, and high blood pressure. Calanolide A, an extract from the Malaysian tropical rain-forest tree, Calophyllum lanigerum var. austrocoriaceum, is currently in pre-clinical development for the treatment of AIDS in the United States.

 Studies of laboratory animals with melanoma have reported dramatic inhibitions when treated betulinic acid isolated from the Zimbabwean tree, Ziziphus mauritiana. The leaves of the Maidenhair Tree (Ginkgo biloba) are already widely used around the world as a treatment for memory loss, and a preventive agent for stroke. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated that extracts of Echinacea angustifolia can improve the immune system and can prevent or make less severe the symptoms of influenza—still a very deadly killer of millions. Possible treatments and cures people desperately require may exist among hundreds of plant species exterminated each year. Human suffering continues as healing plants (prayers) are burned away; never to return again. Mankind once feared a nuclear weapon exchange would destroy all human civilization. In the current post-Cold War climate that threat is severely minimized. Concerned citizens are wiser to direct attention towards threats arriving from modern industry: the factories churning out chemicals poisoning our vital natural resources.

 Thousands of years ago mankind thought the stars were gods. Thousands of years later technology has empowered men to become gods and believe all things are possible with microchips and semiconductors. Recent revelations regarding the manufacture of semiconductors cast reform, better personal hygiene and a modest measure of temperance. The 20th century was a political century dedicated to removing unreliable superstitions and bogeymen in order to erect strong institutions capable of directing masses towards high standards of liberty and justice. It erected hallowed halls and stable governments but is considered partially successful in moving humanity towards a fair and fruitful existence.

 At the close of the century racial hatred and societal decay is somewhat worse than five decades ago. Politics, the 20th century’s bet on advancing progression, was found to be fickle, too reliant on half-truths, testy emotions and age-long exceptions to an insensitive majority. Social successes seem greater now, but I predict it shall be judged harshly by history. Racial minorities and women found a hazy equality and a questionable destiny, nuclear war became an afterthought due to the collapse of the Soviet enemy, and medicine increased the health and life of the average person. Mankind has relied on Religion and Politics to make the world a better place, and will surely expect Science in the 21st century to invent or discover better devices and drugs to reduce war, hunger, hatred and general social discord. As in the two centuries before it, the 21st century will have its successes, but whether or not, our species witnesses a 22nd century, will be entirely in the hands of the average person. Dwelling in bus driver and biochemist is the Problem and the Solution. You don’t need to be scientist to realize the road to a healthier future must include respect for the environment.

About the Author: Mark Antony Rossi is a poet, playwright and author of the bioethics volume “Dark Tech” now available from Amazon. His most recent plays have been produced in Liverpool and New York.


  1. It’s an excellent eye opener to one and all. It’ll be beneficial to us, the human beings if we take care of our environment before it gets too late and then are left with nothing but sitting and repenting in leisure!

  2. Well said. Please continue to join me in this column going forward.

  3. my previous message has escaped not sure how
    kudos for the very timely warning
    the Romantic poet Wordsworth was right when he claimed that God, Nature and Man were one, and which led to his theory of Pantheism, akin to the Indian myth and theory.
    With growing population across the world and more so in India, forests are being slashed and slain to build houses The lands which once belonged to the wild animals is being snatched away , trees are being ruthlessly mutilated and chucked aside for ulterior motives and gains
    it is time nations came together not only against the arms race but creating awareness about the environment Remember … you reap what you sow… and that what goes around comes around Take heed

  4. lands are being snatched away (not Is, sorry for the mistake )