A group of more then 60 academics and other experts publicly launched a statement in rejection of the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council’s (ESC) methods and goals. The ESC has currently raised over $90,000 in a campaign to introduce ayahuasca use to a market-driven “certification” system based on discourses of “safety” and “sustainability”.
We believe that rather than ensuring the sustainability of ayahuasca and the safety of those who use it, the ESC approach is actually damaging ayahuasca sustainability and practices, and that something urgently needs to be done about this.
The Statement outlines the following reasons:
- Alarmist campaign tactics;
- Unsupported claims that lack of safety, breakdown of traditional means of control, and lack of regulations might cause governments in South America to forbid the use of ayahuasca;
- Lack of indigenous representation and insufficient assessment of impact of their work on Amazonian indigenous communities;
- Unrealistic and inappropriate goals to “clean up sorcery”, and certify ayahuasca retreat centers;
- A market orientation, commercial language and promotion of ayahuasca tourism;
- Unsubstantiated claims calling for conservation and protection of ayahuasca plants and admixtures in order to avoid their disappearance;
- Overall lack of scientific evidence and rigor and problematic representation of expertise in the field;
- Lack of transparency about financial benefits and processes;
- Misappropriation of the voice of ayahuasca.
We urge the ESC Board and staff to re-direct their sweeping goals with respect to the stewardship of ayahuasca and turn their skills towards educating foreigners who are interested in the ayahuasca experience.
Declaração Criticando o Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC)
Um grupo de mais de 60 acadêmicos e outros especialistas lançaram publicamente um manifesto rejeitando os métodos e objetivos do Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC). O ESC levantou até agora mais de US$90.000 em uma campanha para introduzir o uso da ayahuasca em um sistema de “certificação” voltado para o mercado, baseado em discursos de “segurança” e “sustentabilidade”.
Acreditamos que mais do que garantir a sustentabilidade da ayahuasca e a segurança de seus usuários, a abordagem do ESC está, na realidade, causando danos à sustentabilidade e às práticas da ayahuasca e que algo precisa, urgentemente, ser feito contra isso.
Esta declaração destaca as seguintes razões:
- Táticas de campanha alarmistas;
- Alegações injustificadas de que a falta de segurança, a quebra dos meios tradicionais de controle e a falta de regulamentação poderiam levar os governos na América do Sul a proibir o uso da ayahuasca;
- Falta de representação indígena e avaliação insuficiente do impacto do trabalho deles sobre as comunidades indígenas da Amazônia;
- Objetivos irrealistas e inapropriados para a “remoção da bruxaria” e para certificar os centros de retiro da ayahuasca;
- Orientação voltada para o mercado, linguagem comercial e promoção do turismo da ayahuasca;
- Alegações sem base pedindo a conservação e a proteção das plantas envolvidas no preparo da ayahuasca, a fim de impedir o seu desaparecimento;
- Falta geral de evidência científica e de rigor, bem como representação problemática de experiência no campo;
- Falta de transparência sobre os benefícios e processos financeiros;
- Apropriação indevida da voz da ayahuasca.
Instamos o Conselho e os funcionários do ESC a redirecionar seus objetivos abrangentes com respeito ao controle da ayahuasca e aplicar suas habilidades na educação de estrangeiros interessados na experiência da ayahuasca.
Declaración Criticando el Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC)
Un grupo de más de 60 académicos y otros expertos han lanzado públicamente un manifiesto en rechazo de los métodos y metas del Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council’s (ESC). El ESC ha recaudado actualmente más de noventa mil dólares en una campaña que introduce a la ayahuasca a un sistema de “certificación” con orientación de mercado, basado en discursos de “seguridad” y “sustentabilidad”.
Creemos que en lugar de garantizar la sostenibilidad de la ayahuasca y la seguridad de las personas que lo utilizan, el enfoque ESC está realmente dañando la sostenibilidad y prácticas de la ayahuasca, y que algo urgente debe hacerse acerca de esto.
La declaración describe las siguientes razones:
- Tácticas de campaña alarmistas;
- Afirmaciones sin soporte sobre la falta de seguridad, la quiebra de los medios tradicionales de control, y falta de regulaciones podrían causar que los gobiernos de América del Sur prohíban el uso de la ayahuasca;
- Falta de representación indígena y evaluación insuficiente del impacto de su trabajo en las comunidades indígenas de la Amazonía;
- Metas poco realistas e inapropiadas para “limpiar la brujería”, y certificar centros de retiro y consumo de ayahuasca;
- Una orientación hacia el mercado, lenguaje comercial y promoción de turismo de la ayahuasca;
- Afirmaciones sin fundamento que piden la conservación y protección de las plantas de ayahuasca y plantas aditivas con el fin de evitar su desaparición;
- Ausencia en general de evidencia científica y rigor y la representación problemática de su propia expertize en el campo;
- Falta de transparencia sobre los procesos y beneficios financieros;
- Apropiación indebida de la voz de la ayahuasca.
Instamos a la Junta y al personal de la ESC para volver a dirigir sus objetivos radicales con respecto a la supervisión y “protección” de la ayahuasca y a convertir sus habilidades para educar los extranjeros que están interesados en la experiencia de la ayahuasca.
The ESC’s response
January 9, 2015
Dear members of ayahuasca drinking communities:
The main purpose of the ESC is to engage in dialogue toward consensus on responsible plant use.
We are doing this work because interest in sacred plants is growing fast, which puts pressure on
traditional safety and sustainability approaches. Though most people seem to be benefitting greatly,
some people are getting hurt.
The ESC works at points of cultural contact and tension—where global meets local, where ancient meets modern, and sacred meets commercial. We work to minimize the bad, maximize the good, and avoid unintended consequences. We do this through open, honest dialogue giving everyone a voice.
As a young organization, after 15 months of scoping and feedback on the Ayahuasca Dialogues, I want to share some thoughts on who we are, who we are not, and where we want to grow with you.
- Supporting responsible ayahuasca wild collection, cultivation, and use, and encouraging deeper international safety and sustainability debates;
- Serving the people who drink and will drink ayahuasca;
- Having economic discussions. They can be useful and improve lives;
- Utilizing our expertise in “resourcery” (sustainable management of resources);
- Reorienting our work and communications based on individual and community discussions;
- Multi-lingual. Website: English/Spanish; Ayahuasca Health Guide: English/Spanish; Ayahuasca
- Dialogues Report: English (Spanish version coming soon, under review);
- Fundraising from multiple sources. We have raised ~USD $58,000. ESC co-founders have donated ~$15,000 more. In-kind donations far outnumber monetary donations. We have spent ~75% of the money raised, ~39% on research & engagement; ~39% on communications & development; ~13% on education of seekers; ~9% on administration. Our first fiscal year financial report will be released by March following board approval;
We are not:
- Imposing an agenda. Consensus is voluntary. (We define consensus as the lack of sustained opposition from any stakeholder group.);
- Representing others. People represent themselves. We do seek community leaders’ supervision of ESC work through our Stakeholder Representative Council. We seek your nominations;
- Certifying shamans or their healing abilities
- Suggesting that ayahuasca admixture plants are “endangered”. We hope the #ProtectAya campaign helped bring attention to the need to protect and better understand these plants;
- Trying to “sanitize” ayahuasca culture. We want people to be safer;
- Being alarmist. Ayahuasca faces profound threats. We have different and complementary approaches to deal with these threats;
- Suggesting that South American ayahuasca policies should be changed. We maintain that South American policies are post-prohibitionist models for other governments to follow, but that the global ayahuasca drinking community can do more to address safety and sustainability issues.
In 2015, we will focus on
- Improving communications, including better listening, clearer messaging, and more multi-lingual resources;
- Educating ayahuasca seekers about ayahuasca safety, sustainability, and reciprocity;
- Increasing the open-endedness of the Ayahuasca Dialogues, including extending the timeline for reaching consensus on the Ayahuasca Agreement;
- Critiquing “seals of approval” or any other activities that could reduce or be seen to reduce personal responsibility or increase unwanted commercialization of traditional cultures;
- Engaging during these coming months in more thorough analysis of possible consequences of ESC work and other activities related to recognizing responsible ayahuasca use.
- Continuing to deepen and extend personal and professional relationships at all levels of the organization, especially amongst academics, Amazonian communities, ayahuasca centers, ayahuasca churches, and with indigenous and other traditional knowledge holders.
- Our most important question remains: How can we best serve those who work with and seek ayahuasca?
- We remain open to all suggestions and welcome your feedback.
We want to work with you and look forward to continued engagement and sustainable growth together!
More questions? Read our FAQ. Or contact us.
Sincerely, on behalf of everyone at the ESC,
ESC Co-Founder and Executive Director
Statement Regarding the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC)
The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) agreed to serve as non-profit fiscal sponsor for the Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ESC) because we recognize the need for a community-oriented approach to encouraging the safe and sustainable uses of ayahuasca. MAPS recognizes that members of the global ayahuasca community have released a statement critiquing ESC’s methods and aims, and that ESC has issued a public response.
MAPS provides fiscal sponsorships to organizations whose work supports our mission to allow gifts to those organizations to be tax-deductible for U.S. citizens. As ESC’s non-profit fiscal sponsor, MAPS passes any funds donated to MAPS along to ESC minus a 5% administrative processing fee (2.5% for donations above $10,000). To date, MAPS has passed on $37,951 in donations to ESC.
As ESC’s fiscal sponsor, MAPS is committed to ensuring that the financial contributions we process on behalf of ESC are used solely for ESC’s stated projects, and has the right to revoke any funding processed by MAPS that is not used for those purposes. Other organizations for which we presently serve as non-profit fiscal sponsor include the Ayahuasca Foundation; Bluelight; the Global Ibogaine Therapist Alliance (GITA); and the International Center for Ethnobotanical Education, Research, and Service (ICEERS).
MAPS plans to continue our fiscal sponsorship of ESC, as we believe that ESC still has the potential to facilitate dialogues leading to the safer and more sustainable uses of ayahuasca. This will require more proactive engagement on the part of ESC with the community’s concerns as well as concrete changes to its approach.
We have encouraged ESC to:
- Respond to and make substantive changes based on the community’s critiques, and to publicly address each critique
- Improve their financial reporting and transparency
- Reorient their approach away from community development or revitalization projects with indigenous or other Amazonian groups
- Refocus their projects on becoming a resource for North American and European travelers seeking to use ayahuasca in countries where it is legal
We will continue working closely with the global ayahuasca community to facilitate dialogue and help ESC develop projects that are acceptable and beneficial to the broader community. It is only by working with allies and being genuinely responsive to critique that organizations grow and thrive.
We encourage all potential funders of ESC, MAPS, or any other organization to carefully evaluate the mission, vision, values, and reputation of those organizations before choosing to support them.
MAPS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit research and educational organization that develops medical, legal, and cultural contexts for people to benefit from the careful uses of psychedelics and marijuana. Since our founding in 1986, MAPS has disbursed over $20 million for psychedelic therapy and medical marijuana research and education, all donated by individuals and family foundations.
Chris Kilham’s response to the ESC and Joshua Wickerham
When I resigned from my (very brief) tenure at ESC, it was out of utter disbelief with how wrong-headed, fatuous, and fundamentally corrupt the ESC idea really is. The one thing that is good about it is the name. The name suggests credibility, high values, and a mission worth supporting. None of this is true in the actuality. And unlike the other signees, I do wish to say without anger or hostility that I disagree with the opinion that you, Joshua, are coming from a good place. Having spoken with you regarding this, having read and re-read the core materials, and having spent time with you, I am convinced that ESC is a personal power grab on your part, and that it is fundamentally demeaning to the ayahuasca tradition, insulting to indigenous native people, and merely an attempt on your part to gain high position in a scene that you rightly perceive as burgeoning.
There is no “modifying,” “adjusting,” “tweaking,” or otherwise fiddling around with something so blatantly misguided as ESC. In my estimation, it must be dismantled and forgotten.
One of my big tip-offs was when I said in an ESC meeting that I have personally (as an ethnobotanist with 43 years in the herbal scene, 23 years working with South American shamans, and 8 years of drinking ayahuasca) have seen a lot of caapi being grown in native villages. You, Joshua, said that you didn’t know that to be so, and thus ESC would need funds, personnel and a survey to find out. The emphasis was all on scrambling to build an organization, not to share truths.
So here’s my personal bottom line. I get loads of high-profile media all the time (ABC, NBC, CNN, NY Times, WSJ, FOX hundreds of other outlets), and I currently am getting gobs of high-profile media on ayahuasca due to the publication of my book The Ayahuasca Test Pilots Handbook, The Essential Guide To Ayahuasca Journeying. The enclosed piece from Business Insider below is just one of many. http://www.businessinsider.com/hallucinogenic-amazonian-bre…
All the media I am currently getting enables me to address issues that potentially harm the ayahuasca community, and ESC is one of those issues. So here is a fair heads-up. I am going to directly, explicitly take this issue on, and highlight ESC as a wrong-headed, fundamentally corrupt idea that can cause lasting damage to us all. In every media opportunity I have, including interviews, seminars, and more, I will take the opportunity to speak out against this, as I consider ESC a demeaning outrage. My first venue for this will be a Reality Sandwich webinar tomorrow evening, Monday December 15th. I am sharpening my verbal machete right now. Dozens more pieces of media are currently being lined up.
Joshua, I believe that you could save everybody a lot of grief by accepting that ESC is a bad idea, and that many good, talented, highly experienced and thoughtful influential people in the ayahuasca scene do not want it. But I suspect that you will disregard this, and barge forward in any case, assured of success. That is unfortunate, because your actions take energy away from worthy activities that could be of real benefit.
If ayahuasca is anything, it is an agent for change. We must change from the “We privileged, out-of-touch white guys need to tell the natives how to act” model, to something worthy and dignified. This is basically the same tired old crap that many of us fight every single day. And while I assure you all that I will unfailingly represent ayahuasca and ayahuasca shamanism in the most respectful, dignified and truthful way, I am utterly opposed to ESC, and will diligently work toward its demise. Just so you know…
Subject: Re: The stupendous delusion of ESC
Hi Joshua –
If at any time you wish to talk about all of this, I’m happy to do so. I held off speaking out until others did, which I was sure would take place. It happened pretty much on schedule, as people have become aware of the sheer mania of the ESC program.
The staggering arrogance of imagining that you/ESC even have the right to think about certifying, rating or otherwise being the arbiters of good shamanic practices shows grandiose disrespect and delusion. Neither the traditional shamans, nor the ayahuasca centers, nor those who drink, need the goods you are trying to push. With absolutely no background in ayahuasca, no years of working with shamans, and what appears to be messianic blindness, you are not doing the scene any good. It’s too bad too, because you obviously are talented in certain ways, and you do possess the gift of gab.
If anything can taint and damage the ayahuasca community, it is the alarmist, out-of-touch-with-reality activities of ESC. There is no small misunderstanding here. ESC is very much like a rotten piece of fruit. Running a bit of water on it will not make it palatable.
Subject: ESC and messianic delusion
Dear friends –
As many of you are well aware, not everyone who drinks ayahuasca has visions that are balanced. There are many examples of first-time drinkers who, having caught a glimpse of non-ordinary reality, feel “selected” by destiny to cover themselves with ayahuasca tattoos, build a pyramid (Julian Haynes), or otherwise rise to messianic prominence to be the saviour of the ayahuasca scene. Thus is sadly the case with Joshua, who after a first ceremony felt chosen by La Medicina to defend, protect, and be the torch-bearer of ayahuasca into the future.
You simply cannot reason with messianic delusion. This is a pitiable situation, certainly, and one that requires the rest of us to proceed in as many thoughtful ways as possible to send ESC into ignominy. Steady, consistent, well informed opposition in all circumstances, at every conference, in all communications and following any perceived gains made by the mis-named ESC seems to be the only sure path to eliminating this nuisance.
This may be a sad waste of time, but this is the situation we face. Reasoning with Joshua will sadly yield nothing. Like the pyramid built by Mr Haynes, which eventually broke up into millions of pieces into the Rio Itaya, ESC will also at some point crack into a fragments and float away, with our help. Unfortunately, the ayahuasca scene at large must be protected from the pernicious delusion of ESC. It is indeed unfortunate.
Open letter to Joshua Wickerham from Gayle Highpine
As an individual, an indigenous rights activist, an Ayahuasca researcher with several years experience in the Amazon, and a late signer of the critique letter, I have these observations.
Your priority is tourists and global consumers first, retreat operators second, while local people and indigenous traditional users are barely a distant afterthought.
The “problems” you use to scare up funds are mostly fabrications. Ayahuasca is not in danger. As far as “sustainability,” all the “wild” Ayahuasca found in the forest was originally planted by human hands and it is not complicated to keep planting efforts going. That is already happening as it needs to. And the notion that Amazonian countries are struggling to figure out how to regulate Ayahuasca, and might decide to regulate it in ways we don’t like if “we” don’t do it first, is just, to put it crudely, pulled out of your butt.
No one in the Amazon has asked for your help in regulating them. Your effort is a top-down initiative being imposed from above. The “problems” you address are defined solely from a western consumerist and capitalist point of view.
Have you considered just exactly who makes up the sector that is actively opposing your efforts? It is anthropologists, ethnobotanists, NGO workers, indigenous rights activists, and others who have experience “on the ground” in the Amazon.
The globalized world has met the Amazonian Ayahuasca world, and is wreaking profound changes upon it. What question should we be asking?
Should it be:
a) How can the impact of the globalization of Ayahuasca culture on the Amazonian peoples best be mitigated?
Or should it be:
b) How can we regulate the Ayahuasca “industry” so it can best serve global consumers?
Your initiative is 100% oriented to the second question — to subordinating Ayahuasca cultures to global consumerism and enfolding the Ayahuasca world into the global capitalist world.
For your “dialogues,” you set up the playing field, and the framework of assumptions. Local people and indigenous peoples are only an afterthought, and their voices will not be heard if they don’t fit into your priorities.
You have already demonstrated your deafness to anyone who does not speak within your framework of assumptions. If you cannot hear the well-articulated concerns of a group of educated academics, what faith should anyone have that your “dialogues” will hear the voice of poor and uneducated local people and indigenous people? Especially since from the outset their point of view has not even been considered?
Your arrogant idea that outsiders with no knowledge of the region and no concern for the local people’s point of view or priorities should be able to impose regulations, regulations designed to integrate the Ayahuasca world into the global capitalist system and subordinate it to the western consumerism, is neo-colonialism.
This is why you are so strongly opposed by people with actual experience on the ground in the Amazonian Ayahuasca world.
You probably will fail to hear this as you have failed to hear others, but at least this might help clarify exactly who is opposing and why.
Discussion on the Ayahuasca.com Forums: ESC Ethnobotanical Stewardship Council (ie SECURITY COUNCIL)
by Cultural Admixtures
by Carlos Suárez Alvarez
Cartoon created by “Stakeholders_united”
Twitter conversation of Morgan Maher and ESC
Global capitalism is already destroying the Amazon. Oil companies and other multinationals are destroying the forests and poisoning the rivers. And the more that people lose their independence and become dependent on money and the global capitalist system in order to survive, the less they can resist the forces of destruction. Global capitalism is intrinsically unsustainable because it requires perpetual expansion (growth) in order to survive. It is founded upon imbalance, not on balance.
The ESC member did not say “They should be able to make a living.” He said “They should be able to make a profit.” As though the virtue of promoting profit economy in the Amazon is not even something to question. As though there is no difference between making a living and making a profit.
Pausing the Ayahuasca Dialogues for Feedback
by ESC | Jan 31, 2015
Dear members of ayahuasca drinking communities, experts, and fellow seekers:
Because the ESC is a community-based initiative, we want to take seriously all input from those involved in ayahuasca practices and who are concerned about its future.
Due to recent critiques by experts who have expressed their serious concerns about the fundamentals of the ESC and its approach, we have decided to put the Ayahuasca Dialogues on hold to go back to basics and engage in an open conversation with everyone who wants to share feedback and critique the ESC’s approach and vision. We want to be 100% sure that the ESC constructively serves the future of ayahuasca in the globalized world and is not the cause of unintended consequences. Therefore, it is important to take the necessary time for reflection, analysis, and revision. We will continue to seek relevant experts’ guidance at every stage of our work.