Globally recognized environmentalist fighting to protect Congo Basin

Marc Ona Essangui co-founded Brainforest to protect the natural resources of the Ivindo National Park in Gabon.

The media has played up the importance of protecting the rainforests, but many people may not be aware of the reasons why going green and spreading awareness to protect these concentrated areas of vegetation is so integral to caring for the globe's ecosystem. According to conservation organization Rainforest Concern, the Amazon rainforests alone are believed to contain half of the entire planet's rainwater and without that water cycle, there would be an increased frequency of droughts, famine and disease outbreak.

Rainforests contain half of the world's wildlife species and at least two-thirds of Earth's plant species, and according to the advocacy group, 25 percent of modern medicines are developed from tropical forest plants. Furthermore, scientists have only learned how utilize 1 percent of rainforest plants, so by tearing down these lush woodlands, excavators stand in the way of potentially world-changing scientific discoveries.

The Congo Basin rainforest, the world's second largest behind the Amazon, hosts a large supply of oil and rare minerals, and therefore, is a huge target for exploitation. That's why environmentalist Marc Ona Essangui co-founded a non-governmental organization called Brainforest to protect the natural resources of the Ivindo National Park in Gabon, a country that is 80 percent covered in rainforests, according to CNN.

"In the beginning, one of the objectives of the Brainforest was about conserving and protecting the Ivindo forest," Ona told the news source. "But today we have seen that it is also necessary to talk about the laws that govern forestry rights, looking at illegal activities in the forest, such as corruption and all that is related to forestry. We are looking at the rights of those living in the forest and defending and protecting their rights."

In 2009, Ona was internationally recognized for his work to save Ivindo National Park from a mining development when received the Goldman Prize, which the media outlet deemed to be the equivalent of a "Green Nobel" award.

Today, his organization still fights to conserve rainforests, while Ona, who was immobilized from polio at a young age, has also worked to improve the rights for the disabled.

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