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Wonderful Life: Biodiversity for sustaining people and their livelihoods

Adriana Moreira's picture
Francisco "Chico" Mendes (1944 - 1988), Brazilian rubber-tapper and environmentalist, actively involved in protecting the Amazon forest through his advocacy for the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples. Photo credit: Miranda Smith 

As a young scientist, I travelled to the Brazilian Amazon to research forest fires. After weeks of talking to rural producers, rubber tappers, indigenous peoples and cattle ranchers, I realized that I had to think beyond conservation science and climate change implications to understand the Amazonian landscape. The nexus between people and the rainforest was also important. I came away wanting to help ensure that the value of forests to people, and the value of people to forests remained closely linked and well-recognized.

The loss of biodiversity—which is driven by rapid conversion of habitats and landscapes, the depletion of ocean fisheries, and climate change—is not new. But concern for how to decrease the loss of biodiversity is. We are no longer just scientists and conservationists. The international community now makes the loss of biodiversity central to the global political debate: nations have the responsibility to protect natural assets.