What Are We Losing?

Peter Le Vasseur’s Painting Treasure Trove was completed in 2021, just in time to be included as the frontispiece for A Brush With Life. It is a complex work with a simple message. A logger peers into a hole he has created in the rainforest canopy and for the first time recognises the diversity of plants and animals within the forest.

If the message is simple, the implications are dire. In many of Peter’s paintings he raises the question ‘What are we losing?’ When he travelled out of Sao Paolo on his journey to the Amazon in 1992, he saw how humans were encroaching into previously unspoiled natural ecosystems. Species are driven to extinction, triggering a cascade of consequences for other species that predate on them or compete with them or have indirect reliance on their presence. The web of life is more than a cliche, and an ecosystem is indeed a system; close a valve, remove a length of pipe, reduce the pressure of a pump and the system as a whole may fail. We humans are part of this system

The loss of a single plant species in the Amazon may not affect us greatly, but could a revolutionary new medicine have been created from it? Seventy percent of plants with anti-cancer properties come from the Amazon. Worldwide, 420 million hectares of forest have been lost since 1990 – that’s 17 times the land area of the UK. 28,000 species are currently at risk of extinction and we truly do not know the extent of what has already vanished.

The United Nations Conference of Parties on Biodiversity identifies five main drivers of biodiversity loss: change of land use, climate change, direct exploitation of natural resources, pollution and the introduction of invasive species. Peter’s art has addressed all of these over the past 50 years. COP 15 has just concluded in Montreal with a landmark framework for halting biodiversity loss. Environmental stories are often ones of doom and gloom, so this is positive news to end an otherwise rather grim year with.

A Brush With Life: the Art of Peter Le Vasseur is published by Lutterworth Press and is available from your local book shop or worldwide from Amazon.

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