Wickerman Festival-goers taught impact of cocaine

Dr Ian Edwards is takng the cocaine message to the Wickerman Festival. Picture: Toby Williams
Dr Ian Edwards is takng the cocaine message to the Wickerman Festival. Picture: Toby Williams
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FESTIVAL revellers are to be taught by city scientists about the destructive effects of cocaine.

A team from Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden will set up their own “chill zone” at the popular Wickerman Festival in Dumfries and Galloway this weekend.

The drugs awareness initiative – in partnership with Police Scotland – is aimed at highlighting the environmental and social devastation caused by the cocaine trade across Colombia.

Dr Ian Edwards, RBGE Head of Events and Exhibitions, said: “It takes a massive four square metres of rainforest to produce just one gram of cocaine and this is having a huge impact both on the landscape of Colombia and on its indigenous people.

“It’s no secret that drugs, both prohibited and ‘legal highs’, are an issue at festivals. However, our role is not to lecture on the pros and cons of drug taking.

“What we can do is talk about what we witness first-hand working in Colombia – the way in which drugs, such as cocaine, have a direct link with crime, poverty and environmental devastation in the countries where they are grown.”

He added: “I never thought RBGE would find itself presenting science at rock festivals but we have discovered there is a large number of inquisitive and interested festival-goers who share our concern for environmental issues”.

Inspector Alan Dron, of Police Scotland said: “For Police Scotland, our focus is on keeping people safe. One example of how we try and do this is to divert individuals, particularly young people, from engaging in or using the products of serious organised crime. For over two years, partnership working has developed with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh promoting a diversionary initiative called Shared Responsibility.”

Shared Responsibility is a joint initiative between the Colombian Government and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, introduced to raise awareness about cocaine’s ecocide in Colombia.

More than 2.2 million hectares of rainforest have already been destroyed for production of the coca plant.

According to the UNODC World Drugs Reports, Scotland, per head of population, is one of the largest consumers of cocaine in the world.

Inspector Dron added: “Education, coupled with raising awareness about physical and social interdependencies, is key when trying to influence a sustainable change in culture, as is bringing the harsh truth of cocaine production and the resulting ecological damage to a new and wider audience.”

6m acres of rainforest

Over 75 per cent of the world’s cocaine originates in the Colombian Highlands, the vast majority of it from small, low-tech farms. One kilogram of unpurified cocaine base powder produces around 600kg of waste chemicals resulting in four square metres of rainforest being used to produce a single gram of cocaine.

The process involves the removal or burning of existing plants and trees, meaning over six million acres of rainforest have been lost to cocaine production in the last 20 years.

Government spraying of herbicides on coca fields from the air also destroy more than just the coca plant, they heavily pollute water systems.