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Is Palo Santo Endangered? (Pt. II of III)

ENDANGERED: "The Future of Love" (Pt. II of III)
- The Socio-Cultural Issue -

Category Palo Santo / Published: Nov-04-2019 by Ian Elliott

​Part II of this mini-series will focus on the socio-cultural nuances of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) in its relation to the subject of “Cultural Appropriation.”

ENDANGERED: “The Future of Love” is a three-part mini-series that touches on each of the following topics in relation to our beloved botanical of Bursera graveolens, a.k.a. "Palo Santo."

  1. The Environmental Issue
  2. The Socio-Cultural Issue
  3. The Love Issue

We are sharing this information so that you as an individual may make your own informed & conscious choices. We do not promote fear-based narratives, nor do we perpetuate inaccurate information as fact. We're simply here to share a specialized knowledge obtained from our first-hand experience working & researching in this niche field for the past five years. Furthermore, the core intention of this mini-series is to call attention to the single-most vitally important message of all: that of Love.

You’re currently reading “The Socio-Cultural Issue,” so let’s get right to it…

PART II: The Socio-Cultural Issue

Palo Santo + Cultural Appropriation

At the most fundamental level, cultural appropriation is a term used to refer to the adoption of one culture’s practices by members of another. This term is often applied to a variety of cultural contexts including symbols, food, clothing, music, art, and other traditional customary practices. While it has been a topic discussed in select academic circles for a number of years, it has recently exploded in its re-emergence as a continuous dialogue throughout mainstream media. The question then becomes what exactly is "cultural appropriation" and what significance does it collectively hold in store for all of us?

One of the most important points to recognize is that cultural appropriation spans a wide spectrum in regards to the collective definition it holds. There are those who believe the use of any cultural symbol outside of its original source community is a form of appropriation, while others believe culture, by its nature, is not-so centrally-dictated. It is a topic that many people from all walks of life feel passionately about on both ends of the spectrum. For that reason, one must ask why exactly do we as individuals feel the way we do? It is essential to be able to empathize with others on a human level to first understand the source of our collective emotions, in order to then facilitate a mindful & civil dialogue around the topic.

Intention is one of the key aspects related to this idea of cultural appropriation. Often times, this appropriation occurs without any conscious intention of the actor doing the harm. This causes emotional distress, as those who feel they are the subjects of cultural appropriation believe these unconscious actors disrespect traditional practices regarded to be sacred within the context of their worldview, all-the-while doing-so without recognizing the perceived harm they are causing, adding a type of “insult to injury.” This in turn validates the perspective of those who feel they are marginalized, confirming their inner-feelings of a lack of consciousness in regards to the recognition of these traditional cultural practices, symbols, and products. This is full-heartedly understandable, as there exists not just a lack of awareness for the recognition of the cultural origins pertaining to products & practices, but a lack of awareness of something much more pressing in its immediate urgency at this moment in our collective history: the fundamental value of human life.

There exists an inherent respect for all life by the very nature of its creation. It is the continuous degradation of this self-respect that has resulted in the distortion we see today. We witness the continued outplay of the fundamentally inhumane treatment of our people and planet: be it racially, socio-economically, cuturally, or spiritually driven. This lack of mindful consciousness breeds hatred, which in turn continues to facilitate division among one another. Hatred is a disease. It originates from energetic damage to our original state of Love, which in turn causes energetic injury. It is from this injury that the pathogen of hatred begins to take root. If not properly treated, it will continue to envelop its host until it has taken full control. It can be spread, contracted, and willingly manipulated. Most importantly, it can be healed. Much like any disease, the amount of healing involved can vary depending on the severity of one's particular condition. Please know that it is always possible to reverse this cycle. Only through the recognition of our inherent oneness can we take the necessary next steps. When one understands that all life is merely a reflection of the same source energy, one can then realize the divine harmony of oneness that is Love.

The generational ignorance of oneness that continues to incite division among our global population is a collective sickness. There are many layers to this distortion and when a person loses this basic lack of respect for human life, the increased threat to our collective society supersedes in urgency, that of any threat of cultural appropriation. The loss of value for human life is the darkest form this distortion of hatred can take. A disturbing illustration of this collective disease is that of the tragic incidents of mass violence taking place around the world, right here & right now. When dealing with distortion of this severity, any threat of cultural appropriation simply does not match that of the immediate attention needed for the global healing of the collective consciousness. This toxic global disease of division and hatred has officially reached a collective code red hazmat status, with each and every one of us in the course of its poisonous path.

Human civilization has been battling over differing world-views since its inception. Energetic historical residues unquestionably exist and are present in every element of our global society today. It is only through the recognition, consolidation, & resolution of these pasts that the collective consciousness may continue to flourish in its return to oneness. Ultimately it is only non-judgmental, all-encompassing divine Love that will set us free as a globalized society. It is the recognition of oneness within the infinitude of forms among us. The nature of the "soul" is a purely divine essence: undiscerning of skin color, identified gender, socio-economic status, or traditional cultural traditions. There is a conglomerate of people around the world who have still to yet to recognize this intrinsic oneness. As a result of this continued blindness, the societal fragmentation continues.

Please step back and take a moment to consider who you are on a soul-level. Why are you here? How are you contributing to the betterment of life on this earth we call home? Are you aiding the global population into a loving harmonious state or contributing to its continued division? Do you know oneness?

Palo Santo Peru

“…harming indigenous communities.”

An important issue that needs to be addressed is the linguistic nuance of the word, “indigenous” within the latin culture of Ecuador & Perú. The term “indigenous” does not indicate “native,” rather it is a word used to refer to the populations that reside within the Amazon rainforest who live by traditional tribal practices within the Amazonian jungle. A “native” population does not necessarily indicate an “indigenous” population within this geographical zone of the world. We are only assessing this word from the relevant context of our post series (Palo Santo) and will not be deep-diving into the much larger and vitally important discussions surrounding the international issue of indigenous rights in our world today. The “indigenous” tribes of the jungle are distinctly different groups from the “native” populations of the rural zones outside of the Amazon who practice their own set of traditions, beliefs, and ways of life.

Often times the words “indigenous” and “native” are used interchangeably as if they are the same thing, which they are not. While the dictionary may define “indigenous” as “native” and vice versa, the subtle differences of the two are not typically taken into consideration. The misleading series of posts on social media that suggest “indigenous communities” are being harmed by the Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) trade are not clear in their language, nor their specific cultural context. Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) is deeply respected & praised by its local native communities throughout Ecuador & Perú, a.k.a. those who act as the gatekeepers of the forests. These communities are composed of multi-generational families who co-operatively manage vast tracts of private land in the thousands of hectares, while cultivating a number of bio-dynamically diverse crops including cocoa, mango, various herbs, and an array of other plants in addition to their work with Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens). These commonly owned forest lands are managed by their insular communities who maintain their own cultural traditions, schools, markets, & development of local infrastructure. All of these naturally-occurring forestry and food products generate economic livelihood for these communities, and allow them to maintain their financial independence. Many of these native communities are located in remote regions which do not otherwise offer ample economic opportunities. To suggest that the social & economical upliftment of these environmentally-minded native communities is "harming" them is simply the byproduct of misinformation at its most innocent, or deliberately fabricated to promote fear-mongering at its worst.

This fabricated notion that there is a “lack of access” of Palo Santo for the native communities because the international market absorbs it all simply is not true. Not only is Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) wood widely available in its many forms in both nations, it is typically used in quantities much greater than the miniature-sized sticks utilized in geographical zones outside of Ecuador & Perú. It is often burned in large concentrations throughout its source communities due to its common application as a mosquito repellent. Of the Ecuadorian & Peruvian populations that use Palo Santo, a number of these individuals utilize it exclusively for its practical insect-repelling properties. There exists a wide spectrum of applications for Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) wood and various personal beliefs surrounding its use, even within its own source communities of Ecuador & Perú.

“…gifted/blessed by a Shaman.”

Claims such as these reveal the lack of insight regarding the facts of the particular topic at hand. For those who are not familiar with the societal landscapes of Ecuador & Perú, the commodification of “Shamanism” is as widespread as any commercially capitalistic practice can be. There are established “retreat centers” throughout both of these countries charging thousands of US dollars to facilitate “expansion of consciousness,” targeted specifically at foreign travelers. While plant medicine is capable of allowing many to get a glimpse of a world unseen in our day-to-day lives, "enlightenment" is not a package that can be sold. Let's be clear: consuming external substances DOES not equate to wisdom.

Legitimacy of a Palo Santo product's origin has nothing-at-all to do with a shaman’s blessing. It has everything to do with the humane treatment of the individuals involved in its life-cycle. From the stewards and conservationists of the forest, to the villagers who trek through thick brush and sharp cacti to retrieve naturally fallen wood, the processors who hand split every single stick one-by-one, down to the drivers who make the multi-day trips required for the Palo Santo to continue its journey onward. Palo Santo is a provider for its people, and allows for its own physical medium to be used as a tool around the world while increasing the quality of life for the native communities from which it originates, when done so in an environmentally sustainable manner.

“...they’re a company and are only looking to preserve their interests.”

Businesses are platforms. As with most platforms, they can be used to either help or they can be used to harm. The notion that all businesses are ill-intended entities working to harm the planet by promoting unethical business practices is an archaic position. We are living in a time where conscious companies and their socially-responsible business models are thriving. The traditional model of depleting natural resources to promote the bottom dollar is gradually becoming an outdated system. It is being replaced by the new mode of “conscious consumerism” which continues to displace these generationally-incumbent enterprises year after year. It is the consumers, who ultimately act as the fuel to power these businesses to determine those that shall perish & those who will flourish.

One of the most powerful elements of conscious business is how positive of an impact we can have on our producers, our consumers, and on the world at large through this recognition of being more than another cog in a traditional capitalist machine. We also know that there are a number of actors both at the source and in the global marketplace who are looking to preserve their economic interests exclusively, without any regard of the greater environmental or socio-cultural implications. One Love Holistics originally began as a passion project that quickly grew into its unique position of becoming an established participant within the global trade of ethical Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) products. Our team works across numerous dry forests located throughout Ecuador and Perú. We have been blessed to cultivate personal relationships with many of the most knowledgeable people in the trade, allowing for an even greater insight into the inner-workings of this niche micro-industry. It is this unique position that allows OLH to be a transformative symbol for a holistically-sustainable Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) trade that works to empower both its producers and consumers.

So is there truly an interest to protect? Believe it. The interest of Palo Santo. The environmental interest of the dry forest regions from which it natively grows, & the socio-cultural interest of its native communities that it helps to economically empower and uplift!

Please understand that the points above are true only when the inherent business model is one conducted in a holistically conscious and loving manner to benefit all stakeholders. This is not true of the unsavory actors who merely use this language as a disguise to conceal their true intention and motives: accumulation of profit at the expense of environment and humane treatment. As with all products, we encourage you to know your source & advocate for companies with real solutions in their respective niches. We must always honor and respect our collective culture. It is this lack of respect, and thus, lack of Love...that we can all ultimately agree is the problem.

Cultural Context

The fluid and ever-shifting nature of culture evolves in its form every single day. We are living in an earth society that is not only globally connected, but fully interwoven into this modern form of connectivity with every passing moment. The furthest reaches of the world are a click of the button away, as the digital heart pulse of the internet pumps through the fiber optic cables buried in our earth & the wireless signals orbit our daily life. While maintaining our worldview of an intrinsically unified global population, we are particularly mindful of the reason so many of us feel strongly about this topic and its socio-contextual background. We consciously recognize the unique cultural backgrounds of all pockets of the planet and the beautifully diverse portrait of humanity we collectively compose. It is, in fact, this celebration of these unique “differences” that bring to light the undeniable visibility of our divine oneness. We live parallel experiences through each one of our infinitely unique human forms, yet we all still require the same necessities to sustain human life. Each one of us requires water, food, and sleep to survive. Yet to flourish, that which we need is Love.

Music, food, and artwork are three of the most fundamental staples of any society’s cultural framework within this human experience. In the global society, we do not selectively pick and choose what elements we deem acceptable to “appropriate” and those we do not. We exchange literature, artwork, food, & rhythm, just as we can respectfully exchange mother earth’s aromatic gifts in healthy conscience. Incense, aromatic resins, and essential-oil bearing plants have been utilized by human beings since the dawn of civilization & will continue to be-so until its sunset.

Plastics choke our waterways & our Great Barrier Reef continues to rapidly deteriorate as you sit here reading this. The ocean does not distinguish between the geographical origin of the various groups who have mindlessly abused her as a landfill. The earth does not assess your socio-economic status during a wildfire & the model of your vehicle has no bearing on the positive impact left by your soul during its time on this planet. Genuine Love recognizes itself across all forms and does not promote the division of human sisters and brothers based on the respectful and consciously-loving appreciation for an element of culture outside of that which their current physical form originates.

It is dangerous to generalize entire global groups by using this blanket term of “cultural appropriation.” Nor can it be selectively applied to the adoption of any particular cultural practice that does not fit into one’s own individual worldview. This generalization of stereotypical labels and prejudicial assumptions is part of the problem, not the solution. This is especially so when the circumstances surrounding our global society’s collective future present a much more dire outcome if the frequency of Love is not imminently restored. While there will simply never be any universal agreement of what is, or what is not “Cultural Appropriation,” there are still certain truths that many of us can collectively agree on:

Be a kind, compassionate, and soul-driven person during your time on this planet.

Deeply value, respect, & cherish all life.

Embody Love.

Despite the contemporary global political narratives, this world is still filled and vastly over-flowing with an abundance of Love and compassion in every pocket of the planet...a truly eye-opening contrast indeed. Do not subscribe to these illusory fear-driven perspectives aimed to cast shadow over your spiritual journey. Deception and manipulation of information are always used in attempt to densify the true resonance of Love. Let Love be your guide!

One Love Holistics: The Palo Santo Company works exclusively with native communities who support the permissive cultural exchange between their source communities and the unified global collective at-large. This system of permissive cultural exchange works to directly empower the source communities from which our divine botanical gift of Palo Santo (Bursera graveolens) originates!

...Love one another.

John 13:34


ENDANGERED: "The Future of Love"
Pt. III of III - The Love Issue -

Category Palo Santo / Published: Nov-04-2019

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