One River

Following on from Embrace of the serpent the next book is this – One River written by Wade Davis.

It is an account both of the life of Richard Evans Schulte’s but also Wade Davis in his travels in South America botanising with Tim Plowman – Schulte’s protégé. The travels are mostly focussed in the Columbian headwaters of the Amazon.

It was these headwaters that Schulte’s and botanists before him found so rich in plant life. Both Wade and Tim were students of Schulte’s and in the travels outlined in this book were guided by his directions and aided by his reputation in these lands.

This is not a linear narrative as it covers Wade Davis in his travels with Tim Ploughman and also Schulte’s travel in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

The herbal connection comes with the observation and collection of medicinal plants from the indigenous peoples. What stands out is the great respect these people have for the indigenous tribes. As another of Schulte’s  students said the tribes people are the index to the  rainforest library. With out them we are lost.

It is a book that you can dive into at any point and be fascinated, it is well worth many reads to fully grasp everything.

There is the amazing and exasperating story of rubber genetics, research and breeding for countering the rust fungus present on South America. Amazing genetic material was gathered cultivated and in a bureaucratic stroke of ignorance lost to all.

Schulte’s himself is a curious contrast. Politically extremely conservative but not the modern sort of conservative we hear about. For he had an intense dedication to individual freedom and was a complete libertarian on matters of sexual orientation, abortion, drug use and freedom of religion. Wade Davis talks of him as a fundamentally decent and kind man.

It give you an insight into how we wish all of our Professors could be.

Rating 8 out of 10.


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