Major Projects & Other Initiatives
In early 2020, the McKenna Academy lept into the virtual space, shifting “A Tribute to Terence McKenna” from a physical event in San Francisco, to a globally accessible online event. More than 10K registered and continue to register. With little indication that we would be able to do any physical retreats or conferences as before, we continued to organize virtual gatherings to continue our mission of educating the public on timely subjects.
The McKenna Academy embarks on a long term project, “BioGnosis” to be a catalyst in bridging ancestral wisdom, ethnobotany and innovation, for a thriving planet.
In 2021, filming will begin in and around Iquitos to create a short documentary — the launching point for a longer documentary series, learning modules, and the digitization of a significant herbarium in the Peruvian Amazon. Beyond this, Project BioGnosis has great potential to further illuminate the “gnosis” (knowledge) of all “bio” (life) on Earth that may bring us back to a more harmonic existence with all of Nature.
The use of plants in traditional ethnomedicine serves as a primary source of healthcare in most human societies worldwide (Hart et al., 2017). As such, globalization and the erosion of knowledge, habitat loss, climate change, cultural assimilation and language loss are primary factors that threaten biocultural diversity and traditional healing systems (Davis, 2007; Maffi, 2002; Pilgrim et al., 2009; Vandebroek & Balick, 2012). While it has been estimated the Amazon rainforest is home to approximately 80,000 species of plants, as few as 14,000 species have been taxonomically verified (Cardoso et al., 2017) to date. Juan Ruiz Macedo, curator of the Herbarium Amazonense at the Universidad Nacional de Amazonica Peruana (UNAP), is a local expert and repository for Amazonian ethnomedical information. He has aided the research of scientific investigators and botanical collectors for over 45 years, but little of his knowledge has been extensively documented. He is considered a living example of the adage: ‘when a medicine man dies, it’s as though a library has burned down.’
Juan’s repository of unique, richly diverse ethnobotanical knowledge combines scientific knowledge with deep appreciation of ethnomedical practices that bridges the less intuitive, reductionist mind, to traditional ways of knowing. This connection can help to illuminate the critical importance of a deeper biocultural understanding of the plant medicine renaissance occuring in Iquitos — a microcosm of a larger global movement that is bringing back the value of traditional ethnomedicine and our dependency on biocultural diversity — and a thriving planet Earth.
In collaboration with Hemmings House Pictures.
The "BioGnosis" film shares stories of people who study, use, protect, and ethically commercialize the healing plants that surround the Amazonian community of Iquitos, Peru at a time when the traditional knowledge is being lost as rapidly as the Amazon Rainforest itself.
We are contributing to the renaissance of the current transition in humanity — to LISTEN to the teachings of nature, our own nature as well as nature around us where the wisdom of wellness is abundant, particularly during a time when humanity is dumbfounded in the uncertainty of modern medicine. We learn that doubt does not exist in the system of traditional medicine. It is TRUST in the power of nature — a power that exists within all of us. But we are disconnected — lost. It is time to bridge the virtues of both traditional and modern medicine systems and embrace this potent synergy.
Through the micro lens, we have Juan Ruiz, a simple, humble and enthusiastic ethnobotanist who has had the opportunity throughout his life to learn from traditional practitioners as well as scientists. As the curator of the UNAP herbarium in the heart of the Amazon, he has exchanged knowledge with these vast and complementary repositories of knowledge.
Through the macro lens, he is the bridge connecting these repositories of knowledge to this renaissance that is currently discovering the power of the symbiotic relationship amongst all life on earth.
Through the film series, we look through the micro lens of Juan’s knowledge, to the macro lens of this renaissance led by local luminaries and discover the global message that the Amazon shares for the future of humanity.
During this Discovery Phase, we will explore this emerging renaissance and how it reflects the deepest of Nature’s teachings, the ‘Biognosis’ of symbiosis that defines Humanity’s ideal relationship to the planetary community of sentient species.
BioGnosis Project 2022
The launching of the short documentary will raise awareness of the importance of the digitization of Peru’s major Amazonian herbarium, the Herbarium Amazonense at UNAP. The Digital Herbarium has potential to serve as an online resource for anyone with an interest in the Amazonian flora, whether focused on medicinal resources, agroforestry, sustainable development of new crops, protection of habitats, etc. The short documentary will also serve to propose a longer documentary series that allows a deeper dive into the themes presented. And, for further learning on the subjects presented, each of the episodes is proposed to offer an associated learning module.
Click here to visit the BioGnosis Biologue webpage.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Academy envisions a long-term arc of development that will continue to create and offer educational materials and opportunities on a variety of fronts. What follows are brief summaries of what is currently ‘in the pipeline’ for the rest of 2021 and beyond. Sign up for our newsletter updates.
Ethnobotany Course with the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS)
The McKenna Academy is partnering with OTS, based in Costa Rica, to offer an accredited, graduate level online course in ethnobotany in September/October of 2021. Lead instructor, Dr. Michael Coe will teach this 15-lecture ‘intensive’ accompanied by guest lecturers, various renowned ethnobotanists including Dr. Dennis McKenna, Dr. Wade Davis, Dr. Paul Cox, Dr. Michale Balick, Dr.Luis Eduardo Luna, Dr.Michael Winkelmann, and others.
‘Stoned Ape’ Virtual Symposium
During the Fall of 2021, the McKenna Academy will present a symposium on the ‘Stoned Ape Hypothesis,’ in part to recognize the third printing of Terence McKenna’s classic book, “Food of the Gods.” Psychedelic luminaries will gather to consider new information that is reframing Terence’s hypothesis (1992) from being ‘plausible’ to ‘more than likely.’
Other online events include the continuing series of the View from the Far Side fireside chats by Dennis McKenna, inspired by his Visionary Blog.