Ever wondered what a place would look like if it contained all the different species of animal, bird and plant life we find across the world today? Well, in Ecuador you will find 65% of them! I recently accompanied an educational trip of school students to this relatively small South American country to the north west of the continent, found right on the equator, and experienced its diverse landscapes ranging from the snow- capped volcanoes of the Andes at its highest elevations, through tundra and desert to cloud forests and closer to sea level the tropical rainforests of the Amazon region.
I am not sure I can adequately achieve with words the wonder of the Amazon Rainforest, which is home to more species of bird and tree species than the whole of North America. How would you react then if you knew that the rate the natural rainforest is being destroyed in Ecuador is five times the rate you will find anywhere else? This is mainly due to the oil and logging industries which are being increasingly turned to for the economic growth and survival of the country. The Ecuadorian government after all, absolutely has a duty to its people, for economic stability and growth. However, how can this short term, high profit pursuit be sustained with the finite resources in question? And what does this mean for the stability of the climactic systems upon which the survival of the rainforest depends? Our demand for oil and luxury hardwood for example significantly contributes to this issue!
There is so much deep forest still to explore, 65% of the world’s species represents only those currently recorded. It was the indigenous Quechua Indians who were the first to discover that the malaria medicine quinine occurs naturally in the bark of the cinchona tree. This is but one example of the plethora of medicinal raw materials we in the western world have refined and use to stock our pharmacies. What of the medicinal properties of untapped, unknown reserves? And what about the carbon store, the economic potential and the societal treasures we don’t yet know or understand?
Many are operating within the ecological boundaries of the area and are promoting, encouraging and educating others to do the same. However, education is needed on a wider scale! Do people from developed countries, those triggering the demand, know and understand the importance of this great natural reserve, the knock on effects its destruction may have to not only the environment, but the economy and the survival of so many local societies?
You might think that this rainforest is so far away what could you do to help anyway, Within Ecuador, the willingness is there, but practical assistance from everyone is required. That small bit of recycling, smarter travel decision, choosing ethically sourced wood for that new living room floor or reusing what might otherwise be thrown away are but a few examples. Do not think that your individual actions cannot effect huge change, after all, we are but a massive global collection of individuals and change has to start somewhere. This massive deforestation started with one tree!
Bethan Richmond is Capgemini’s Sustainability Reporting Manager