Medicine Man was right?

Did you ever see that movie back in the early 90’s called Medicine Man with Sean Connery? Connery plays the part of an eccentric scientist who travels to the Amazon rainforest on behalf of a drug company. Connery is one piece of the puzzle away from finding a potential cure for cancer and that final piece is hidden in a rare species of ant and flower both only found in the Amazon. But bulldozers are clear-cutting the rainforest and Connery must race to find the flower before the bulldozers destroy all of the trees and plants in the area.Medicine Man, while merely a Hollywood production, did carry an important message. The precious value of our planet’s biodiversity could be destroyed and once it is lost, it is gone forever. As species die off, they take with them hidden secrets and potential cures to a vast array of human illnesses.

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) is the National Science Advisory Body that advises the federal government on the status of species at risk. At its 20-25 April 2008 meeting in Yellowknife, COSEWIC is assessing the status of more than 30 species, including Polar Bear, Spotted Owl, Western Chorus Frog, and Vancouver Island Marmot. – CNW

While Canada is at risk of losing several species, a more dire global warning was released today from the United Nations.

Earth’s organisms offer a variety of naturally made chemical compounds with which scientists could develop new medicines, but are under threat of extinction, said Achim Steiner, executive director of the U.N. Environment Program.”We must do something about what is happening to biodiversity,” Steiner told reporters.

“We must help society understand how much we already depend on diversity of life to run our economies, our lives, but more importantly, what are we losing in terms of future potential.” Steiner was announcing the conclusions of a new medical book, “Sustaining Life,” on the sidelines of a UNEP-organized conference in Singapore. The book is the work of more than 100 experts, its key authors based at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Health and the Global Environment, and it underscores what may be lost to human health when species go extinct, Steiner said.

“Because of science and technology … we are in a much better position to unlock this ingenuity of nature found in so many species,” he said. “Yet, in many cases, we will find that we have already lost it before we were able to use it.”

via Wired

In the movie version of this biodiversity crisis, Connery loses the race, the bulldozers destroy the vital patch of rainforest, and the village where the research was being collected is burned.This makes me think of another quote from famous American biologist Jonas Salk. He said, “if all insects on Earth disappeared, within 50 years all life on Earth would end. If all human beings disappeared from the Earth, within 50 years all forms of life would flourish.”According to the United Nations report issued today, Jonas Salk may be right. There are currently 16,000 species on the brink of extinction.