This is an excellent blog post by Holly Moeller about the threat of disappearing environments and the flora and fauna within them and the fact that most of our key medicines are found from nature.
The most telling part of the post was a fact that made me open-mouthed with amazement:
It’s no wonder, then, that when scientists hunt for new medicines, they often begin by screening natural compounds. Today, as concerns mount over antibiotic resistance, with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus killing 18,000 people in the United States each year, and multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis infecting almost half a million people annually, the need for new antibiotics is urgent. Research expeditions into the heart of the rainforest or to the bottom of the ocean bring back samples that are screened for antimicrobial activity. Newly discovered compounds are also tested for anti-cancer activity as we continue to seek elusive cures for that deadly set of diseases.
Successful as these approaches have been in the past, they will continue to work only so long as we have plenty of raw material to work with. At the moment, scientists estimate that we have described 15% or less of all the species currently alive on the planet. A huge potential reservoir of new medicines is contained in Earth’s biodiversity – hidden in plain view among omnipresent microbes and tucked into remote corners of the planet where humans never venture.
The fact that we have discovered only 15% or less of all species currently alive on Earth is the thing that made me sit back in amazement. We are threatening habitats that contain life that could help us overcome some of the dreaded diseases that constantly threaten humanity and we will destroy them without ever knowing what they may have helped us to overcome. In my book that is just plain madness. We really need to see how important the conservation of the environment is for any future we may have!
This is a timely and important post that I urge people to read.