NCAP volunteer and recently elected board member Jessica Rojas reflects on her passion for plants and how they brought her to know and value NCAP.
In my younger years, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in various environmental restoration projects. While out in the field, clearing the land of invasive species, I began to dream about a new IPM (Integrated Pest Management). I call it “Invasive Plant Medicine.” The ideas were–and still are–plentiful when it comes to how I feel about utilizing non-native invasive plant species as renewable resources instead of just removing them and/or worse: spraying those plants with pesticides. I have a passion for healing plants and support NCAP’s continued efforts to reduce pesticide exposure to our water, land and air.
The heart of those dreams included the idea of making the process of this “new IPM,” and the final products, available to those who most need them yet would face barriers in accessing them. I feel strongly that social justice and environmental justice must work hand in hand as we will never achieve one without the other.
My idea was welcomed with open arms by a few who had managed landscapes containing the invasives I was seeking. But there was one issue: pesticides had been applied to those landscapes where I was working and seeking medicinal plants. It was important for me to provide medicinal plants to underserved communities and equally critical to provide medicine that was not exposed to toxic pesticides.
After accessing the pesticides history from the land managers, I reached out to NCAP. They had resources to assess the risks in consuming plants with pesticide history. My partner on this particular project, who was studying chemistry for medical school, also evaluated the research. Together we concluded that the risks to human health in consuming pesticide contaminated products were far greater than the benefits.
With additional support, we eventually secured a long-term site to harvest invasive plants for medicinal use. With continued support for pesticide reductions on land, we hope to provide increased engagement and exposure of healthy environments and their medicinal plants for populations lacking those resources.
NCAP continues to be an inspiration and valuable resource for me. Not only does NCAP focus on a problem, they come up with a strategy of solutions and make them available. Please join me in supporting NCAP’s work by making a year-end donation today!
Jessica Rojas is a coordinator for the City of Portland’s Community Watershed Stewardship Program (CWSP), a partnership between the Bureau of Environmental Services and Portland State University. Jessica is an advocate for the intersectional nature of environmental and social justice.
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