Kathryn George

I consider the Amazon the lungs of the earth. I was fortunate enough to visit Yausuni National Park in 2014 and will never forget the sweeping views of the rainforest canopy and the way the fog lingered on the treetops. I always feel that I am watching Earth breathe when I remember that scene.

Yasuni National Park, part of the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest, is argued to be the most biodiverse area of our planet. Yasuni’s wealth is not limited to its biodiversity of flora and fauna, as it also harbors an estimated 846 million barrels of oil. Two years ago, the drilling of Yasuni’s natural resources commenced, disrupting the once harmonious ecosystem. The president of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, ensures his country and the global community that the drilling of Yasuni’s oil will be done in an environmentally safe fashion. However, extracting all of Yasuni’s oil will take approximately 10 years and introduce roads, habitat fragmentation, hazardous material, and elevated acoustics to a once pristine area of our world.

The use of medicinal plants in Ecuador itself is astounding and Yasuni is home to a diverse array of these plants along with the people who use their unique medicinal properties daily. In 2014, I traveled to Yasuni to document a fraction of the medicinal plants found in the park by creating illustrative renditions of the plants. With the help of a naturalist and native guide, we were able to successfully identify 23 medicinal plants. These plant illustrations serve as a reminder to what nature has provided us and what we have learned from the simplicities as well as the intricacies of our natural world. Many pharmaceuticals used today are derived from plants and other organisms and it goes without saying that much remains to be discovered.