Plea to conserve home of the peyote cactus
Save our mescaline! It's a surprising call to come from a respectable international organisation, but that's the message from the UN Environment Programme as it launches a fund to protect the sacred lands of the Earth.
UNEP has given pride of place to a stretch of the Chihuahua desert in northern Mexico, where the Huichoi people go on an annual pilgrimage to find the peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii). Peyote is the source of mescaline, the hallucinogenic alkaloid that allows them to commune directly with their gods. "There is clear and growing evidence of a link between cultural diversity and biodiversity, between reverence for the land and a breadth of often unique and special plants and animals," said UNEP director Klaus Toepfer, launching the fund on 18 March at a meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Curitiba, Brazil.
Also included in what Toepfer calls a "sacred quest" are sacred forest groves in India and crocodile-infested swamp islands in Guinea Bissau where the Bijagos hold their initiation rites.