Climate change, capitalism and disease are threatening to strike a mortal blow to the world’s rubber trees. Do we need to find alternative sources of rubber before it’s too late? Natural rubber is a uniquely tough, flexible and highly waterproof material. It puts tyres on our vehicles, soles on our shoes, it makes seals for engines and refrigerators, insulates wires and other electrical components. It is used in condoms and clothing, sports balls and the humble elastic bands. Over the past year it has played a pivotal role in the pandemic in personal protective equipment worn by doctors and nurses around the world.