Killing the Cures

Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of the ecosystems that sustain all life on Earth, and its ongoing and escalating disappearance will harm society in myriad ways. But one way that is overlooked is the damaging impact on medical science.

BOSTON – Biodiversity is essential for the functioning of ecosystems – from forests and fresh waters to coral reefs, soils, and even the atmosphere – that sustain all life on Earth. The ongoing and escalating disappearance of that diversity will harm society in myriad ways. One way that is often overlooked is the damaging impact on medical science.

For millennia, medical practitioners have harnessed substances from nature for treatments and cures: aspirin from the willow and, more recently, TaxolÔ– the groundbreaking anti-cancer drug – from the bark of the Pacific yew. Some of the biggest breakthroughs may be yet to come. But this can happen only if nature’s cornucopia is conserved, so that current and future generations of researchers can make new discoveries that benefit patients everywhere.

Consider the polar bear, threatened with extinction in the wild by climate change. These mammals spend up to seven months of the year hibernating, during which time they are essentially immobile. A human would lose a third or more of bone mass when immobile for this period of time.

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