Nafanua: Saving the Samoan Rain Forest
Prompted by his mother's death from breast cancer, ethnobotanist Paul Alan Cox traveled with his family to a remote Samoan village at the edge of a rain forest to search for new leads in treating the disease. Working closely with both native healers and the U.S. National Cancer Institute in an analysis of traditional rain-forest remedies, Cox discovered a promising new plant-derived drug, prostratin, for a different, but equally serious malady: AIDS. The promise of this new drug lead was soon overshadowed, however, by news that a logging company had started to destroy the 30,000-acre rain forest where Cox first collected the plant that yielded prostratin. It was then that the village elders began to instruct Cox in the legends of Nafanua, the Samoan goddess who in ancient times freed the people from oppression and taught them to protect the rain forest. Collaborating with the village elders eager to preserve the spirit of Nafanua's teachings, Cox launched an international campaign to stop the logging of the Falealupo Rain Forest. In Nafanua, he tells the moving story of those efforts, and his involvement in related campaigns to create a U.S. National Park in American Samoa and to place Samoa's endangered flying foxes under international protection. Nafanua explores the profound influence of Western colonialism and discusses the impact of historic misperceptions of the South Seas on appreciation of the dignity of its peoples. Nafanua is a testament to the power of nature to both heal and destroy - and to the equally powerful human capacity for faith and perseverance against seemingly impossible odds.