Voices for the Rainforest”
By Chitra Gunderson



“Every living thing on this earth has a heart… Every little thing that I am, so you are… And if you look in my eyes, you will see we are souls alike…” Olivia Newton-John’s angelic voice resounds through the small auditorium as she sings “Pearls on a Chain.”

Her heartfelt presence immediately had everyone’s eyes glued to the stage in rapt attention at the “Olivia: Voices for the Rainforest” benefit concert held by the Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research (ACEER) on May 7 at the National Geographic Society in Washington, DC.

I can say “I was there” only because of an unexpected call from the Amazon Herb Company’s Founder and CEO, John Easterling. He was inviting me to attend ACEER’s benefit dinner and concert by Olivia Newton-John as one of his guests. I listened to him quietly, thinking “is this for real?” Honored and thrilled I immediately accepted!

The evening began with a reception in National Geographic’s Museum Hall in the Frogs! A Chorus of Colors exhibition, which featured frogs from rainforests around the world camouflaged in their natural environment displays. There I was amongst about 200 guests from around the nation meandering around the displays talking about frogs, looking for frogs, and counting frogs!

After taking our seats in the banquet hall, ACEER’s president, Dr. Roger Mustalish, began his opening introductions and explanations about ACEER’s projects. Then, interrupting his talk, he turned toward the entrance of the hall and announced, “She has arrived…”

Heads quickly turned to look as Olivia swept past with the grace of a swan taking her her seat at a nearby dinner table next to her long-time friend John Easterling. She was vibrant and full of life, her eyes and face glowing with the energy of a young girl… This is Olivia Newton-John in person!

As a long-time supporter of environmental causes, Olivia believes that health and healing is intricately linked to the health and well-being of Planet Earth.  In 2007, when Olivia was introduced to ACEER’s work in the Peruvian Amazon by John Easterling, she immediately con-nected with their mission saying, “Your work and your message are just wonderful and need to get to a broader audience. I’d like to help you with that.”

With her heart of gold Olivia offered to perform the benefit concert to help raise funds for ACEER’s mission of rainforest preservation in the Amazon and to serve as an on-going advisor to Dr. Mustalish. In addition, the meeting led to a partnership and agreement between the Amazon Herb Company and ACEER to expand their ¡AMIGOS! A Partnership for Education program.

The ¡Amigos! A Partnership for Education program provides environmental education in the Peruvian Amazon to help develop environmental awareness and sustainable use of natural resources. The program offers services which include: workshops for Peruvian teachers about relevant environmental issues; Peruvian school-initiated community service projects; cross-cultural understanding and interactive learning between U.S. and Peruvian teachers and students; as well as providing much-needed supplies, materials, and instructional technology and equipment to teachers and community members in the urban areas of Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado.

Now, as a result of the recent partnership between ACEER and the Amazon Herb Company, The ¡Amigos! A Partnership for Education is expanding to include the rural villages along the Rio Pisqui and near Pulcallpa in Peru’s central rainforest. In fact,  the Director of ACEER’s Peru Programs is already meeting with members of the native communities to assess their needs. Teacher training and learning materials for all village schools is expected to be in place in time for the start of the new Peruvian school year.

“This expansion is made possible by a generous grant of $50,000 to ACEER by the Amazon Herb Company,” says Dr. Mustalish. “We’re excited by our new partnership between Amazon Herb Company and ACEER. We value the confidence they have in ACEER; it is a testament to the good work we do in villages and cities throughout the Peruvian Amazon.”

“When I met Roger it was one of those ACEER-endipitous moments,” says John Easterling, “to realize that we both have been going down there for 30 years and we were operating in parallel universes. We (Amazon Herb Company) like to help get the indigenous communities the rights, deeds and title to their land because it empowers them to make decisions about their own future. So, when I met Roger I quickly recognized the work that ACEER is doing is so critical.”

“When you go up river a couple of days in a dugout canoe to the communities and see the education people are receiving from ACEER, it confirms how important it is… they now recognize what a great asset the rainforest is and how important it is to the rest of humanity, to every one of our species. The education in those communities at the village level, when you see the children beginning to learn the value of bio-diversity and the value of the ecology with the curriculum that ACEER offers, then you can understand how it fits into the framework of a sustainable rainforest into the future.”

In Peru at ACEER’s Rainforest Canopy Walk, Dr. Jim Duke, founding member of the ACEER, and world-renowned Rainforest Ethno-Botanical Scientist, explains, “We are on top of the world here, in one of the most diverse forests… on top of all that, it is the least studied. By promoting the study of these forests with the local kids, we are trying to instill in them the respect that adults have for this great Amazonian world….the forest standing is much more valuable to them and Peru’s grandchildren than a forest converted to a soybean farm.”

In addition to the partnership with ACEER, Amazon Herb Company was recently included in part one of the Jean-Michel Cousteau Ocean Adventure’s documentary, “Return to the Amazon,” which was broadcast by PBS in April, 2008.

“A generation ago, Jacques-Yves Cousteau revealed the oceans’ mysteries to millions of PBS television viewers, and inspired public awareness of the unique problems faced by the world’s marine environments. Now, 30 years later, Jacques’ son Jean-Michel Cousteau and his expedition team set sail… to gather information on how deforestation has affected the region and the planet, and how it may continue to impact our world. His documentary, Jean-Michel Cousteau: “Ocean Adventures.” may be purchased at PBS.org

Camu Camu
•Highest known source of natural occurring vitamin C
•Improves immune system
•Helps elevate mood
•Controls Herpes virus
•Reduces arthritis pain 
•Increases mental focus

While in Peru, Ocean Adventure’s team member, Celene Cousteau, met with John Easterling at Amazon Herb Company’s Camu Camu grove to learn more about the Amazon’s plants.
John explains, “Camu Camu is indigenous to this part of the rainforest. One unique characteristic about Camu Camu is that it grows right along the flood plain. During the rainy season the water rises 20 to 30 feet. So these plants are completely under water for several months in the first few years of their lives. As the water recedes the biomass settles down and these plants are able to extract nutrients and minerals. They have the highest natural-occurring source of vitamin C of any plant anywhere. And they also have a profile of unique compounds that creates a biological terrain in the brain where the uptake of serotonin is enhanced, which means the world becomes a much better place… it’s a mood elevator.” 

“I take vitamin C for colds, says Dr. Jim Duke, I prefer to get mine from Camu Camu, the amazing Amazonian fruit that has the highest-known vitamin C content.” 
Reading Dr. Duke’s research document, “Amazing Amazon Eleven,” I found some incredible information about Camu Camu. It has shown improvement with problems such as Crohn’s disease, flu, pain, aging, arthritis, high blood pressure, eczema, high cholesterol, obesity, and Parkinson’s disease, to name a few. And, it helps control Herpes virus… Pure Camu™ is one of the rainforest’s most powerful plants!

The Amazon Herb Company has taken positive steps to protect the Amazon Rainforest for over fifteen years. Recognized as a pro-active leader the Partnership with the ACEER leverages the potential to significantly increase the projects in the Amazon.

 “ACEER’s work is a great example of what can be achieved to promote conservation, protect indigenous rights, and, as we like to say, is beyond good business,” says John Easterling.
Beyond Good Business… is what the Amazon Herb Company is all about. It is a business that creates a win-win-win for all concerned: financial benefit to indigenous communities, preservation of rainforest lands, and improving the health of modern civilization. We owe it to the Amazon rainforest and we owe it to ourselves to do our part.

After all… “This Amazon is part of our life whether we live here or not.”
— Jean-Michel Cousteau

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
— Margaret Mead

Take advantage of the Pure Camu™ special (save $40), receive a FREE personal consultation, or learn how you can help with rainforest preservation, call Chitra at (888) 310-2570 or visit www.rainforestcanopy.com. All orders over $100 will receive a FREE Peruvian handwoven bracelet made by our indigenous partners. (first time orders only)


Return to the July/August Index page