The Amazon will be transformed into a “highly degraded nightmare” unless a sustainable biodiversity-based economy develops which properly values ecosystem services and products produced by the rainforest, a leading scientist has warned.
Image by Daniel Beltra for Greenpeace, and The Guardian. An island peninsula in the middle of the Rio Jari in the Brazilian rainforest.
US scientist Thomas Lovejoy says the rainforest’s rich biodiversity has been undervalued compared to economic activities such as farming and mining. He said if agro-industrial economic developments such as cattle farming, palm oil production and mining continue, the rainforest’s hydrological cycle will be “in tatters”, with global weather systems severely disrupted.
Turning this around will require an innovative green economy which monetises the food, medicines, aquaculture and climate regulation the forest provides, said Lovejoy, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation and president of the Amazon Biodiversity Centre.
Brazilian climate scientist Carlos Nobre describes the Amazon as one of biodiversity’s “greatest showrooms” with “incalculable” molecular substances with specific and usable functions, most of which are still unknown to science.
For decades the Amazon has been deforested because it has not been seen as offering much in the way of economic opportunities except as a place from which to extract resources, Lovejoy argued. The Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has said that ecological reserves “hinder development”. Under his leadership deforestation has reached a 12-year high.
“The current Brazilian government tends mostly to see the forest and its biodiversity as of little value compared to economic activities like cattle, soy or mining.” Lovejoy wrote. “In contrast, the Amazon’s highest value is in development that is based on forest biodiversity, and in maintaining the hydrologic cycle for the Amazon and the South American climate system.
The insurance firm Swiss Re has estimated that more than half of global GDP – $42tn (£32tn) – depends on high-functioning biodiversity. The World Economic Forum lists biodiversity loss as one of the five biggest risks over the next decade and experts say financial institutions are increasingly aware that biodiversity regulation is coming.
Read the full article from The Guardian.