Biodiversity is the term used to describe the variation of life within a given ecosystem. It is often used as a measure of environmental health. Research has shown that a diverse range of organisms results in an ecosystem that is resilient to change. As our environment changes, an ecosystems ability to continue to provide ecosystem functions becomes increasingly important. Perhaps one of the most vulnerable, yet important ecosystems on earth is the Amazon. Marina Silva, Brazil's environment minister, believes that wealthy countries should help pay the burden of maintaining Amazonian biodiversity.Marina Silva, claims that Brazil has achieved a 50 percent reduction in deforestation over the past two years, as a direct result of increased control mechanisms. She argues that besides making voluntary donations, foreign countries should also help create alternative economic activities to support the Amazon's biodiversity. This includes rejecting eco-unfriendly products, transferring technology and remunerating genetic research and natives' knowledge.
She is not the first person to express the idea that the world should recognize the value of managing the Amazon for biodiversity. The late Samuel Benchimol expressed it from his life spent working on the river: (paraphrased)
"If we are to refrain from developing the Amazon for the sake of the planet, then polluting nations ought to pay an international environmental tax to compensate for the forfeited opportunity costs. We are currently providing a free service to polluting nations and to the planet in keeping very large region undeveloped at a very high human cost."
Is there a path to creating an alternative economy that supports biodiversity? A proposal co-authored by Brazil as part of the International Convention on Biodiversity attempts to re-direct economies away from an extraction relationship to nature to one of recognizing the value of local resources. The proposal is designed to force pharmaceutical companies to pay for drugs based on Amazon medicinal plants. Recognizing the values of a diverse ecosystem is an important step, but developing the economic and social systems that help preserve biodiversity is a critical part of building a sustainable future.