Major impacts on the ecosystem in relation to regulatory policies of commercialization of shamanic healing or other forms of traditional medicine include issues of “biodiversity and sustainability”. 21 Uncontrolled harvesting of raw materials and domestication of lands for mass production used in these practices may lead to extinction of endangered species, depletion of resources and destruction of complex ecosystems. 16,21 The ecosystem is adversely affected by “bioprospecting”.
Various pharmaceutical companies continuously search for new remedies to ailments or treatment for diseases and vaccines or antidotes. The processes would involve gathering of raw materials from the environment, gathering information from the local inhabitants, extractions, examinations, and testing in the process of product development. 22 All of these agenda would contribute to the documentation of the wealth and importance of preservation of biodiversity. Conservation programs gain further support and cooperation. Moreover, the final pharmaceutical product shall benefit populations worldwide.
However, amidst these undertakings lie threats to the environment such as additional industrial land use, exhaustion of raw materials due to the exploitative nature of this endeavor and disruption of the natural habitat of animals and plants. 20,22 Similarly, members of the tribe, who are also the immediate caretakers of the region of interest, may be displaced from their local lands in search of exhausted resources or due to political or social pressures brought about by external land visitors. 13 D. How can shamanic healing ensure environmental protection and human rights preservation?
A shaman, not only acts as a healer, but also a leader and adviser among his people. Together with the tribe, a shaman is a “proto-conservationist”, allowing balance within the ecosystem. Prayers are offered to the fertility goddess to restore fertility of the forest or bodies of water. Observations reveal that a shaman, before killing an animal, asks permission from the animal’s spirit. A shaman ensures that the community lives in balance with nature’s resources and prevents over-fishing or disproportionate hunting practices.
Shamanic healing practices cultivate a perspective wherein human beings are considered a part of the natural and spiritual world rather than the center or master of these worlds. 9,10,12 In this way, members of the community understand the importance of every component in the ecosystem, both living creatures and inanimate objects as well. Environmental destruction would result to imbalances which are unfavourable to the tribal communities and so, any activity perceived to be harmful to the environment is avoided.
Moreover, their approach to health is more holistic. Well-being is perceived, not only as lack of disease, but also the absence of societal pressures, environmental problems, and other sorts of imbalances. 14 The rainforest, as well as other forms of ecosystems, provide for the myriad of plants and resources for use in shamanic healing systems. By protecting the environment, the tribal community continues to acquire needed resources and preserve the shamanic tradition. 22 Some of the fundamental human rights are the rights to land and cultural heritage.
Allowing perpetuation of shamanic healing practices would maintain the natural state of the land, along with the entire ecosystem to survive under the care of the shaman and his/her people. In the long run, biodiversity or the biological capital, consisting of animal and plant species of all varieties and complex interrelated ecosystems, is preserved. Furthermore, this will help preserve the accumulated knowledge, arts, skills and wisdom which will be passed on to next generations in preservation of a culture as well.
The preservation of the cultural aspect of shamanism does not merely lie on methods of the herbal preparation and chants, but also on the metaphysical and spiritual beliefs of the practice intimately woven into the psychosocial and spiritual perceptions of the tribe. These beliefs can only be transmitted and handed-down by practicing members of the tribe to future generations in preservation of their culture. 18 Shamanic healing practices shall also further strengthen cultural identity, social interrelationships and spiritual strength among the tribe.
Cultural identity is reflected, in part, by the presence of a traditional way of healing that had been rooted and passed on throughout several generations. Social structure had been constructed with the shaman acting as a healer and leader while other members play other significant roles in healing process of society. The sense of spirituality among all things remains the core of shamanic healing rituals and thus, allows society members to take some form of active participation in the spiritual world.