‘A Second Notice’ for All of Us

E.O. Wilson was one of more than 1,700 original signators to the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” a document from the Union of Concerned Scientists sent to leaders all over the world in 1992.

On this, the 25th Anniversary of that document’s release, more than 15,000 scientists from around the world have now signed on to the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice.” Dr. Wilson is again a signator.


Photo copyright: Peter Hershey, 2017

Photo copyright: Peter Hershey, 2017


“Since 1992,” the updated notice states, “with the exception of stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse.”

Among the stated threats in the original article was this: “Our massive tampering with the world’s interdependent web of life—coupled with the environmental damage inflicted by deforestation, species loss, and climate change—could trigger widespread adverse effects, including unpredictable collapses of critical biological systems whose interactions and dynamics we only imperfectly understand.”

Half-Earth is addressing this challenge directly. During the inaugural Half-Earth Day held October 23, 2017, in Washington, D.C., scientists led by Dr. Wilson agreed that saving half the Earth was not only necessary, but well within our powers to achieve. Leading with detailed species richness and rarity mapping, the Half-Earth Project is providing the foundation for reaching this global goal, and the scientific leadership needed to address the threat stated in the “Second Notice.” Progress is being made, but much remains to be done.

“To those who are steering the growth of nature reserves worldwide, let me make an earnest request:” Dr. Wilson implores. “Don’t stop. Just aim a lot higher.”

Watch Video and View Photos: Foundation Co-hosts Conversation With Rep. Don Beyer, Sen. Tom Udall, and E.O. Wilson On Protecting Wildlife Corridors

Originally published by Alexandrianews.org on October 24, 2017

Beyer, Udall, Environmental Groups Host Conversation With E.O. Wilson On Protecting Wildlife Corridors

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In recognition of the planet’s first Half-Earth Day, Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) and Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM) joined Wildlands Network and partners for “Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson” on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 24, at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center.

World-renowned Harvard biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson was joined by several conservation leaders and members of Congress for a solutions-oriented conversation about wildlife corridors and other policies that can protect America’s wild creatures and places for generations to come.

Known as the “Father of Biodiversity”, Wilson recently authored the book Half-Earth – Our Planet’s Fight for Life in which he laid out a vision to save biodiversity. Today, Dr. Wilson stated, “on this auspicious inaugural Half-Earth Day, a key issue addressed is the role of wildlife corridors, which would enlarge the nations protected areas and help achieve the goal of Half-Earth. Corridors would protect large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed.”

Rep. Don Beyer met with Dr. Wilson in 2016, and shortly afterwards introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act, which would establish a National Wildlife Corridors System.


Note: Safari is the recommended browser to view this video.


“I introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in 2016 to help protect the nearly one in five animal and plant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “Much of the danger to our most endangered species comes from habitat loss, and scientists like Dr. E.O. Wilson have told us that connecting habitats to ensure safe travel between them is key to the genetic strength of threatened populations, and to biodiversity as a whole.”

Recent studies show we are losing our native species at an alarming rate: currently one in five U.S. species are threatened with extinction. However, strategies – like protecting wildlife corridors – exist to protect our America’s wildlife.

“Our planet’s ‎wildlife is facing ever-increasing threats – from climate change to habitat destruction‎ — and we must take action at every level, from the U.S. Congress to the grass roots,” said Sen. Udall. “E.O. Wilson has dedicated his life to understanding the importance of species diversity, and eloquently sharing his studies and enthusiasm with a broad audience. His voice is essential, and I’m honored to join him for this Half-Earth Day conversation to raise awareness about the need to protect habitat and rally Americans to action.”‎

From monarchs to mule deer, from Florida panther to pronghorn, wildlife corridors and other policies can safeguard these species from the threats of climate change and habitat loss, increasing wildlife movement between habitat areas by approximately 50 percent compared to areas not connected by corridors.

“To preserve our wild heritage, we need to connect key habitat across the American landscape,” said Greg Costello, Wildlands Network Executive Director. “From the grizzly to the monarch butterfly, wildlife corridors allow us to steward some of our most treasured species. We’re excited to have the opportunity to discuss this critical topic with Dr. E.O. Wilson, Congressman Beyer and Senator Udall who are such great champions of protecting our natural heritage.”

“There is no doubt that protecting wildlife corridors is one of the most important proactive steps that we have to safeguard our country’s wildlife and majestic public lands,” stated Robert Stanton, former Director of the National Park Service and Endangered Species Coalition board member. “We are thrilled to help bring exciting ideas about saving biodiversity to Washington, DC.”

Presentations and discussions will follow Dr. Wilson’s conversation with members of Congress. Presenters included Dr. Bruce Stein of National Wildlife Federation; Dr. Stuart L. Pimm of the Nicholas School at Duke University; Dr. Healy Hamilton of NatureServe; Dr. Jon Beckmann of Wildlife Conservation Society; Dr. Gary Tabor of Center for Large Landscape Conservation; and Dr. Ron Sutherland of Wildlands Network.

See more at A Conversation on Protecting Global Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson.

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page.


Photos copyright: Peter Hershey, 2017

Can We Conserve Half the Planet for the Survival of All Species? Scientists and Conservationists at the World’s First Half-Earth Day Think We Can.

This article was originally published on National Geographic’s website on October 30, 2017.

Washington, D.C., October 30, 2017

Can we conserve half the planet for the survival of all species? Scientists and conservationists at the world’s first Half-Earth Day think we can.

Scientists and conservationists from around the world were joined by special guests, including eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson and legendary recording artist Paul Simon, to celebrate the planet’s first-ever Half-Earth Day on Oct. 23.

The all-day inaugural event, co-convened by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and National Geographic, highlighted efforts to halt rising extinction rates and help conserve half the planet. Half-Earth Day featured two large-scale public events, and a morning scientific session, that brought together scientists to discuss their research regarding how we can achieve the Half-Earth goal.

Half-Earth Day was inspired by E. O. Wilson’s best-selling book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (read more about the book here). As Paula Ehrlich, president and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation explained at the evening session, “Half-Earth is E.O. Wilson’s call to conserve half our planet’s lands and seas in order to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity. Half-Earth was conceived as a moonshot; an inspiring goal that would drive conservation efforts to a new level.”

But is it still possible to set aside as much as half of the planet for conservation? Several dozen leading conservationists and scientists who convened in the closed morning session agreed almost unanimously that there is still an opportunity to provide scientific leadership on how to best manage 50 percent of the planet to protect life on Earth.


“The topline, really exciting element, is that the world’s leading experts in this field say that, ‘yes we believe this (Half-Earth) is possible.’ We have to effectively protect our key wilderness areas, and we have to think about restoration, but this is an idea that is very plausible and possible, and we should aim for it.”

said Jonathan Baillie, chief scientist and senior vice president, science and exploration at the National Geographic Society, after coming out of the morning session of Half-Earth Day

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Some of these experts went onto participate in the Half-Earth Day afternoon session titled, “Conservation in Action.” The speakers included: ominique Gonçalves, Gorongosa Elephant Project scientist at the Gorongosa Restoration Project; Tom Butler, vice president for conservation advocacy for the Tompkins Conservation family of foundations; Andrea Heydlauff, chief marketing and communications officer at African Parks; Alison Fox, president of the American Prairie Reserve; and Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and founder of National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

The panel, which highlighted model large-landscape and ocean conservation efforts, was moderated by Jamie Shreeve, contributing writer for National Geographic magazine. “Can we alter our behavior? We already are. Is it enough? Not nearly. But things are changing,” said Shreeve.

Half-Earth Day continued with an evening session, which included remarks by National Geographic Society president and CEO, Gary E. Knell, as well as Ehrlich. The event culminated with a discussion between Wilson and scientist, author and educator Sean B. Carroll about practical steps that can be taken to protect species on a massive scale.


“If we set aside half the Earth for nature, we can save most all species.”

—Edward O. Wilson, university research professor emeritus at Harvard, and the guiding force that shapes the mission of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

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Following Wilson and Carroll’s inspiring conversation, legendary recording artist Paul Simon took the stage to emphasize the importance of supporting biodiversity conservation.


“People ask what they can do and I say begin. We don’t need a ripple effect, we need a tsunami.”

—Paul Simon, legendary recording artist

After a special musical performance by Simon, Wilson and Ehrlich returned to the stage to honor Simon for his commitment to supporting conservation efforts with a framed image of a tree cricket named for Wilson from his personal collection.

In an op-ed published by National Geographic regarding Half-Earth, Wilson wrote: “The challenge —all-in, full global conservation — is formidable, but worth the effort, given the magnitude of the reward for humanity and for all generations to come. We can do it, and why not? Scientists and the general public already think it appropriate to map and collect some 100 million nerve cells in the human brain. At much less cost, we ought to be able to find and map the 10 million species believed to exist, for no less a goal than to save Earth’s living environment. Half-Earth Day will be the first step in showing the way.”

Read more about Half-Earth Day in this National Geographic story. To view recordings of the sessions, visit www.half-earthproject.org/half-earthday.


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E.O. Wilson in “Nature Ecology & Evolution”: Biodiversity Research Requires More Boots on the Ground

“Biodiversity Research Requires More Boots on the Ground”
This article was originally published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, October 24, 2017
By Edward O. Wilson

Our incomplete taxonomic knowledge impedes our attempts to protect biodiversity. A renaissance in the classification of species and their interactions is needed to guide conservation prioritization.

The discovery and description of Earth’s biodiversity is the oldest biological science, yet it is the least developed. The number of species characterized and given Latinized names by taxonomists recently passed 2 million. However, the full roster, comprising all those known and others awaiting discovery, is generally believed to be of the order of 10 million; one mathematically reasoned inference put the number of eukaryotic species alone at 8.7 million (1). Thus, a very large fraction of living species, as many as 80%, remains unknown to science. Simply put, we live on a little-known planet.

Take the ants, for example. These relatively well-studied insects are among the most abundant and environmentally dominant animals on the land outside the polar regions (Fig. 1). There are 334 currently recognized genera, of which the second largest in species number is Pheidole. In my study of the New World Pheidole I identified 624 species, including 337 new to science (2). The natural history of fewer than a score of these has been studied in any detail. Meanwhile, new species, discovered mostly in tropical forests and savannas, continue to pour into museum collections.


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A second example is the astonishing abundance and diversity of single-celled protists uncovered in studies (3) of the soil and litter of neotropical forests. A large fraction of these mostly new species is parasitic. Their activity seems to be a factor that sustains diversity in insects and other invertebrates, a large majority of which are also unstudied — or entirely unknown.

Biodiversity in the sea is even less well explored than that on the land. The ultramicroscopic bacterium Prochlorococcus, the principal photosynthesizer of the warmer open sea, was first recognized in 1988. These microbes, along with another superabundant marine bacterium, Pelagibacter, are exceeded in turn by viruses, which number on average billions per litre of seawater. A great many, perhaps most, seem to be bacteriophages.

Biologists have scarcely begun to measure the variety of life in Earth’s immense virosphere. Yet even as this domain is more fully explored, we are met by discoveries such as the mysterious ultramicroscopic eukaryotes classified in 2013 as a new phylum, the Picozoa. And beneath the surface of both land and sea is the ‘deep biome’ of rock-eating bacteria and their occasional nematode predators (4) that range downwards to the level at which the risen heat prevents all life — we think.

Most biological research begins and stays with the species as the favoured level of organization, whatever the nature of the trait analysed. The sequencing of highly variable mitochondrial segments — or even of the entire genome — is valuable in its own right, but tells us relatively little about the anatomy, physiology and behaviour of the organisms, and even less about their role in ecosystems. At the highest level, the classification of ecosystems and the rates at which they change tell us a lot. The same is true of ecoregions, relatively undisturbed natural areas consisting of one to multiple ecosystems (5). But the delineation of species and the rates of their individual population growth or decline tell us much more, and with far greater exactitude.

Many of the less-explored groups are immediately available for fruitful research on biodiversity — for example, the mites, soil-dwelling spiders, schizomid arachnids, parasitoid wasps, springtails, tardigrades, nematodes, rotifers, parasitic flatworms, midges, crustaceans, microscopic algae and a seemingly infinitude of microscopic fungi. I have often offered the following suggestion to new graduate students: if you go outside and pick up the first small organism you see, you will hold in your hand a PhD project.

As a rule, the only scientists able to discover and analyse the fine detail of biodiversity needed at the species level are specialists: the entomologists, herpetologists, nematologists, mycologists and others who devote their careers to the biology of their chosen group. They alone develop the fingertip familiarity with the species and a feel for the intricacy of organisms in the environment. They accumulate not merely data and syntheses but also impressions and intuitions beyond the reach even of Big Data technology. This deep peripheral knowledge leads to new questions and lines of research beyond ordinary imagination.

Unfortunately, research into the biology of diversity has been largely abandoned by universities in favour of focus at the molecular and cellular levels of a small number of ‘model’ species. Museums around the world with outstanding collections have been unable to increase their curatorial staff to compensate for this shortfall.

The Linnaean enterprise has taken a new urgency with the recognition that global extinction rates have risen to between 100 and 1,000 times the rate during pre-human history (6) (approximately 900 times in North American freshwater fishes, for example (7)). It makes sense, when surveying and mapping species for conservation practice, to focus first on those groups of which we have the greatest knowledge and can move most quickly to completion. Among them are the flowering plants, vertebrates, corals, butterflies, dragonflies and damsel flies, araneid spiders and mosquitoes. From this distribution information alone, which we could assemble in a decade, it should be possible to map the optimum placement of biodiversity-defined reserves. Some of these distribution studies already exist and conservation planning on the basis of them is ongoing (8).

Advances in molecular genetics and information technology are assisting crucial biodiversity studies (9). The reading of highly variable segments of mitochondria allows reliable identification of specimens to species level, and even to different life forms or isolated tissue fragments of the same species. Complete genomes make possible quick scans of entire faunas and floras. They also permit the reconstruction of the evolutionary history by which related species have multiplied. Yet in the broader perspective of biodiversity, these studies are the equivalent of aerial surveillance; what is more needed are boots on the ground.

The ongoing neglect of biodiversity research impedes the progress of conservation of life at all levels in all taxonomic groups. It also diminishes the capacity to meet one of the greatest challenges to the biological sciences, rising just over the horizon: the origin, evolution and equilibration of ecosystems. The problems presented by ecosystem analyses are equivalent in complexity to those presented by the human brain. They can be solved by nothing less than a Linnaean renaissance, in which each one of the millions of Earth’s species still surviving is discovered and its role in the biosphere increasingly well documented.

REFERENCES

1. Mora, C., Tittensor, D. P., Adl, S., Simpson, A. G. B. & Worm, B. PLOS Biol. 9, e1001127 (2011).

2. Wilson, E. O. Pheidole in the New World: A Dominant, Hyperdiverse Ant Genus (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2003).

3. Mahé, F. et al. Nat. Ecol. Evol. 1, 0091 (2017).

4. Tranter, M. Nature 512, 256–257 (2014).

5. Dinerstein, E. et al. BioScience 67, 534–545 (2017).

6. Lamkin, M. & Miller, A. J. BioScience 66, 785–789 (2016).

7. Burkhead, N. M. BioScience 62, 793–808 (2012).

8. Wilson, E. O. Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life (Liveright, New York, 2016).

9. Pennisi, E. Science 355, 894–895 (2017).

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Affiliations
Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford Street, Cambridge, MA, 02138-2902, USA
Edward O. Wilson

Competing interests
The author declares no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author
Correspondence to Edward O. Wilson.

You're Invited: Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson

CO-SPONSORS: Wildlands Network • E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation • Endangered Species Coalition • Center for Large Landscape Conservation • Animal Welfare Institute • Sierra Club • Defenders of Wildlife • The Wilderness Society • National Wildlife Federation • National Parks and Conservation Association


                                                       Photo: Tom Koerner, USFWS

                                                       Photo: Tom Koerner, USFWS


In cooperation with Honorary Hosts Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Representative Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Representative Debbie Dingell (D-MI), 
Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA) 

invite you to a briefing and cupcake reception

in recognition of the planet’s first Half-Earth Day

Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson

Tuesday, October 24, 2017
1-3:30 p.m.
Capitol Visitor Center: Congressional Auditorium and Atrium

Join world-renowned Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, former Director of the U.S. National Park Service Robert Stanton, and other leading biologists and thought leaders in a solutions-oriented discussion of how we can protect America’s wildlife. From monarchs to mule deer, from Florida panther to pronghorn, find out about wildlife corridors and policies that can safeguard these species from the threats of climate change and habitat loss.

1:00 p.m. – A Conversation with E.O. Wilson, Congressman Beyer (D-VA),
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM), Congressman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. – Presentations and discussion: Challenges to U.S. wildlife, wildlife corridors and other solutions to the biodiversity crisis

3:00 p.m. – Cupcake reception and meet and greet with E.O. Wilson and panelists. Bring your copy of Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life for E.O. Wilson to sign!

This event is free and open to the public.

PRESENTERS

Dr. Bruce Stein, National Wildlife Federation • Dr. Stuart L. Pimm, Nicholas School, Duke University • Dr. Healy Hamilton, NatureServe • Dr. Jon Beckmann, Wildlife Conservation Society • Dr. Gary Tabor, Center for Large Landscape Conservation • 
Dr. Ron Sutherland, Wildlands Network

RSVPs appreciated but not required. Please RSVP to info@wildlandsnetwork.org. For more information, contact Susan Holmes at 202-329-1553.

In Recognition of Half-Earth Day, Groups Host Conversation with E.O. Wilson and Members of Congress to Save America’s Biodiversity and Protect Wildlife Corridors

For Immediate Release: October 24, 2017
Contacts:
Susan Holmes, Wildlands Network: susan@wildlandsnetwork.org, 202-329-1553
Paula Ehrlich, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation: pehrlich@eowilsonfoundation.org, (215) 847-0920
Derek Goldman, dgoldman@endangered.org, (406) 721-3218
Fritschner, Aaron, Aaron.Fritschner@mail.house.gov, (202) 225-4376
Jennifer Talhelm, news@tomudall.senate.gov, (202) 228-6870

In Recognition of Half-Earth Day, Groups Host Conversation with E.O. Wilson and Members of Congress to Save America’s Biodiversity and Protect Wildlife Corridors


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Washington, DC – In recognition of the planet’s first Half-Earth Day, join Wildlands Network and partners for “Wildlife Corridors and Saving America’s Biodiversity with E.O. Wilson” on Tuesday, October 24 from 1-3:30 p.m. at the Capitol Building Visitors Center Congressional Auditorium and Atrium.

World-renowned Harvard biologist Dr. E.O. Wilson will be joined by several conservation leaders and members of Congress, including Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Don Beyer (D-VA) for a solutions-oriented conversation about wildlife corridors and other policies that can protect America’s wild creatures and places for generations to come.

“To preserve our wild heritage, we need to connect key habitat across the American landscape,” said Greg Costello, Wildlands Network Executive Director. “From the grizzly to the monarch butterfly, wildlife corridors allow us to steward some of our most treasured species. We’re excited to have the opportunity to discuss this critical topic with Dr. E.O. Wilson, Congressman Beyer and Senator Udall who are such great champions of protecting our natural heritage.”

Recent studies show we are losing our native species at an alarming rate: currently one in five U.S. species are threatened with extinction. However, strategies—like protecting wildlife corridors—exist to protect our America’s wildlife.

Renowned biologist E.O. Wilson recently authored the book Half-Earth-Our Planet’s Fight for Life in which he laid out a vision to save biodiversity. Today, Dr. Wilson stated, “on this auspicious inaugural Half-Earth Day, a key issue addressed is the role of wildlife corridors, which would enlarge the nations protected areas and help achieve the goal of Half-Earth. Corridors would protect large swaths of America’s wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed.”

“Our planet’s ‎wildlife is facing ever-increasing threats — from climate change to habitat destruction‎ — and we must take action at every level, from the U.S. Congress to the grass roots,” said Senator Udall, D-N.M. “E.O. Wilson has dedicated his life to understanding the importance of species diversity, and eloquently sharing his studies and enthusiasm with a broad audience. His voice is essential, and I’m honored to join him for this Half-Earth Day conversation to raise awareness about the need to protect habitat and rally Americans to action.”‎

Rep. Beyer, concerned with the critical need to slow the rising species extinction rate, understands the imperative of implementing wildlife corridors and other strategies to protect America’s biodiversity.

“I introduced the Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act in 2016 to help protect the nearly one in five animal and plant species in the U.S. at risk of extinction,” said Rep. Don Beyer. “Much of the danger to our most endangered species comes from habitat loss, and scientists like Dr. E.O. Wilson have told us that connecting habitats to ensure safe travel between them is key to the genetic strength of threatened populations, and to biodiversity as a whole.”

From monarchs to mule deer, from Florida panther to pronghorn, wildlife corridors and other policies can safeguard these species from the threats of climate change and habitat loss, increasing wildlife movement between habitat areas by approximately 50 percent compared to areas not connected by corridors.

“There is no doubt that protecting wildlife corridors is one of the most important proactive steps that we have to safeguard our country’s wildlife and majestic public lands,” stated Robert Stanton, former Director of the National Park Service (NPS) and Endangered Species Coalition board member. “We are thrilled to help bring exciting ideas about saving biodiversity to Washington, D.C.”

Presentations and discussions will follow Dr. Wilson’s conversation with members of Congress. Presenters include Dr. Bruce Stein of National Wildlife Federation; Dr. Stuart L. Pimm of the Nicholas School at Duke University; Dr. Healy Hamilton of NatureServe; Dr. Jon Beckmann of Wildlife Conservation Society; Dr. Gary Tabor of Center for Large Landscape Conservation; and Dr. Ron Sutherland of Wildlands Network.

The event will wrap with a cupcake reception and an opportunity to meet E.O. Wilson, members of Congress, presenters, and other attendees.

E.O. Wilson and other speakers will be available for photos. This event is free and open to the public. RSVPs appreciated but not required. Please RSVP to info@wildlandsnetwork.org.

The event will be livestreamed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2q7nOx7fwrw

For more information, visit the event’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/events/120118835347840/

###

Guest Blog from The Global Ocean Refuge System in Support of Half-Earth Day

The Global Ocean Refuge System Supports Half-Earth Day


Sea turtles in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao.

Sea turtles in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao.


Humans are wreaking havoc on our oceans. Our impacts, from climate change to overfishing, are destroying marine ecosystems and their biodiversity. To stem these losses, the Half-Earth Project calls for us to work together and save half the planet for other life, and today has been named the inaugural Half-Earth Day to build support for this goal. They estimate that if we choose carefully, we can save 85% or more of species! The Global Ocean Refuge System (GLORES, pronounced “glories”) works towards a sympathetic goal: building a network of marine reserves that strongly protect 30% of the global ocean. Each Global Ocean Refuge is a step towards this target and each protects a special place for marine life.


A school of red snapper in Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. Edited here, original photo by Tomas Kotouc.

A school of red snapper in Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary. Edited here, original photo by Tomas Kotouc.


Off the coast of Colombia, Platinum Global Ocean Refuge Malpelo Fauna and Flora Sanctuary is a lush treasure and the eastern tropical Pacific’s largest no-fishing zone. As a result of this protection, it teems with a variety of sharks and hundreds of other fish species. Marine mammals, like humpback whales, and huge seabird colonies also ply its rich waters. Malpelo Island itself is the peak of an underwater ridge whose rugged cliffs and tunnels support this wildlife explosion. All told, this sanctuary’s natural wonders and conservation success make its place in GLORES well-earned.


A juvenile Hawaiian monk seal rests on a beach on Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo by Mark Sullivan, NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, 2014.

A juvenile Hawaiian monk seal rests on a beach on Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Photo by Mark Sullivan, NOAA Fisheries Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, 2014.


Covering over 1.5 million km2 in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument is one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. The park’s inner section has a strict no-take policy, while its outer area permits some scientific research, Native Hawaiian practices and non-commercial uses. This outer, limited-use area is a protective buffer for the inner zone and these measures safeguard critical habitat for thousands of marine species, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal and critically endangered Laysan duck. Its incredible biodiversity, huge size, exemplary management and strong protection make Papahānaumokuākea a perfect fit as a Platinum Global Ocean Refuge.


A whale shark in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao

A whale shark in Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Edited here, original photo by Bo Mancao


Located in the Coral Triangle, the Philippines’ Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a no-take reserve renowned for its resilient, healthy reefs. Protected since 1988, the Park harbors over 1,200 marine species and some, like the hawksbill sea turtle, are endangered and need its support. Beyond its own reefs, studies have found that Tubbataha is a source of fish and coral larvae in the surrounding Sulu Sea, which only amplifies its remarkable conservation value. For the Philippines’ effective management and the area’s ecological abundance, it was an honor to award Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park Platinum Global Ocean Refuge status.


Our President Dr. Lance Morgan, GLORES Science Fellow Dr. Sarah Hameed, and Board Chair Dr. David Johns with Global Ocean Refuge managers after our awards announcement at the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress.

Our President Dr. Lance Morgan, GLORES Science Fellow Dr. Sarah Hameed, and Board Chair Dr. David Johns with Global Ocean Refuge managers after our awards announcement at the 4th International Marine Protected Areas Congress.


Together, the three Global Ocean Refuges protect a diverse array of marine life across the Pacific. As the network grows, it will elevate marine protection through inspiring examples and encourage others to follow GLORES science-based criteria and improve their marine protected areas. Each Global Ocean Refuge advances impactful conservation of vital ecosystems. Both the Half-Earth Project and GLORES are science driven initiatives striving to make room for all life on our planet. As we work towards our complimentary goals, the planet will return to its wild abundance. What could make for a happier Half-Earth Day than that?

Guest Blog by Sarah Gibbens: Here's What You Need to Know About Half-Earth Day

“Here’s What You Need to Know About Half-Earth Day”
By Sarah Gibbens
Originally published on October 23, 2017 by National Geographic

Scientists say saving the world’s species from mass extinction is possible, but it requires urgent action. Here’s how you can get involved.

Species are declining faster than ever, yet 86 percent of them may still be unknown. Studies say the extinction rate is now so high the Earth is entering its sixth mass extinction—but one group of scientists has a plan for how to keep it from getting worse.

Half the planet. That’s the amount of protected marine and land habitats some scientists say is needed to save 80 percent of the world’s species.

It’s one of environmentalists’ most ambitious conservation dreams. For a time, it remained little more than a theory. But now a group of prominent scientists have a plan for how to actually reach this goal, and they plan to unveil it Monday at an event called “Half Earth Day.”


Red-fan parrot, Deroptyus accipitrinus, Houston Zoo. Photograph from National Geographic.

Red-fan parrot, Deroptyus accipitrinus, Houston Zoo. Photograph from National Geographic.


The concept was first penned by famed biologist E.O. Wilson in his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. (Read more about the book here.) At 88 years old, Wilson has spent decades fighting for biodiversity (a term he also helped popularize).

Wilson credits an early edition of National Geographic magazine with inspiring him to save the ecosystems he says are now under a massive threat from human development and climate change.

So it’s fitting that the first time his foundation reveals its “Half-Earth” plans would be at the Washington headquarters of National Geographic, which is cohosting the event with the biologist’s E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

On Monday afternoon, “Half Earth Day” will feature two large-scale events in which the public can participate.

The first is titled Conservation in Action and will discuss models of land and ocean conservation happening on large scales. The latter event will feature E.O. Wilson himself, musician Paul Simon, and author Sean B. Carroll, who plan to discuss practical steps that can be taken to conserve the environment on such a massive scale. More information on how to see a live stream of each discussion can be seen here.

At a session earlier in the day, scientists will attempt to map out how to set aside half the Earth for conservation

So what exactly are they trying to achieve?

In his book about the concept, Wilson explains that 80 to 90 percent of all species could be saved if half of the Earth’s habitats are set aside for wildlife.

“What we’re imagining is a spectrum of purely wild places,” said Paula Ehrlich, the CEO of the foundation. She referenced habitats as small as monarch gardens constructed in a person’s backyard to wildlife corridors that join two large protected habitats and allow species to move easily between the two.


Ring-tailed lemur, Lemur catta, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Nebraska. Photograph from National Geographic.

Ring-tailed lemur, Lemur catta, Lincoln Children’s Zoo, Nebraska. Photograph from National Geographic.


Wilson’s concept is based off a theory he established in the 1960s with ecologist Robert MacArthur called island biogeography. The theory held that larger and more diverse habitats would give species a greater chance for survival.

Wilson’s foundation now plans to turn these theories into practical steps by outlining exactly where they think these protected habitats should be established. According to Ehrlich, they made these maps based on species range, distribution, and risk for human impact. She hopes that once people are aware of what needs to be protected, they’ll act.

The foundation also plans to lobby members of Congress to enact more protections for wild environments and species. Members of the public who feel motivated to contribute to the Half-Earth project in some way are asked to sign a pledge on the initiative’s website.

Sarah Gibbens is an associate digital producer at National Geographic.

First Half-Earth Day Offers a Chance to Halt Species Extinction

“First Half-Earth Day Offers a Chance to Halt Species Extinction”
By E.O. Wilson
Originally published on October 23, 2017 by National Geographic.

Nature versus the ‘terranauts.’

We are in an extraordinary moment. Awareness of the risks facing our planet is growing and people are leaning forward, looking for a hopeful solution. On Half-Earth Day, October 23, thought leaders from around the world are gathering to showcase model conservation efforts, research, exploration and discovery that are working to achieve the goal of Half-Earth and protect our planet.

Why must we save half the Earth? Two lethal crises in the global environment have arisen under the human regime. The first is climate change, which is reversible. The second crisis, which in contrast is not reversible, is the worldwide extinction of species and natural ecosystems. This spread of death is removing Earth’s billion-year-old environmental support system. If not halted, and even if climate were to be stabilized, the losses will in time turn Earth from a metaphorical to a literal spaceship. The first steps in technology are already on the table. A few scientists are exploring the possibilities of geoengineering, including the release of particles and chemicals into the sea and atmosphere in order to counteract climate change. As biodiversity is stripped away and replaced by artifacts the world will be run less by nature and more by human terranauts.

Terranauts is a rare term, occasionally used in fantasies. As the name implies, it will be in reality the scientists and engineers who fly the planet like an oversized space vehicle. They and their robots will spin the dials and click the keys to provide our food, potable water, and the very air we breathe. At some point humanity no longer will be able to rely on the life-giving resources granted by nature.


                                                   Photographs from National Geographic

                                                   Photographs from National Geographic


What we call nature, the living natural environment, consists of three levels of biological organization. At the top are ecosystems such as pastures, woodlands, and coral reefs. In the center are the species that compose each of the ecosystems in turn. Finally, at the foundation are the genes, which prescribe the traits that distinguish the species that compose the ecosystem.

Every species, every kind of antelope, conifer, orchid, algae, butterfly, spider, and roundworm, constitutes a population of organisms that freely interbreed with one another while remaining reproductively isolated from all others. How many species exist today on Earth? Since the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus began censusing them in 1735, a bit over two million have been identified and given a Latinized scientific name. How many species actually exist? When algae, fungi, and insects with other invertebrate animals are added to the vertebrates (birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fishes), the best estimate is about ten million. Sampling and statistical analysis estimate that eighty percent of these species remain undefined. Any experienced naturalist can tell you: we live on a little known planet.

How fast are these surviving species going extinct due to human activity? Answer from the fossil record: somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times faster than before the spread of humanity, and the rate is accelerating. If this trend continues, we could wipe out most species by the end of the century.

So how can we fix the problem? The solution consists of two parallel tracks. The first is called Half-Earth. If half the surface of the land and half the surface of the sea are managed to conserve biodiversity, we can protect 85% or more of Earth’s species, including ourselves. This approach, conceiving conservation as an explicit overall goal, as opposed to a process, has become a lodestar, engaging the public and convening the conservation community to achieve this solution.

The second, parallel solution, a long-term adjunct of Half-Earth, is to create a Linnaean renaissance of understanding about species and their interactions within ecosystems. A renaissance of taxonomic research would accelerate the effort to discover, describe, and conduct natural history studies for every one of the 8 million living species estimated to exist, but still unknown to science. This reinvigorated research, added to that on known species, will contribute immense amounts of information to both conservation and general biology, allowing us to effectively manage protected habitats.

The challenge – all-in, full global conservation – is formidable, but worth the effort, given the magnitude of the reward for humanity and for all generations to come. We can do it, and why not? Scientists and the general public already think it appropriate to map and collect some 100 million nerve cells in the human brain. At much less cost, we ought to be able to find and map the 10 million species believed to exist, for no less a goal than to save Earth’s living environment. Half-Earth Day will be the first step in showing the way.

Edward O. Wilson is a prominent conservation biologist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author who is often called the “heir to Charles Darwin.” He is a professor at Harvard and lecturer at Duke. Learn more about the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.

 

Watch the Half-Earth Day Events on October 23 via Livestream

                                                         Photo Courtesy National Geographic

                                                         Photo Courtesy National Geographic


Visit this page on Monday, October 23 to livestream Half-Earth Day presentations from the National Geographic Society in Washington, D.C.

CONSERVATION IN ACTION: BRINGING
HALF-EARTH TO LIFE


Afternoon Public Session
2:00–4:00 pm
Grosvenor Auditorium

Highlighting model conservation efforts from the Gorongosa Restoration Project, Tompkins Conservation, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve, and Pristine Seas. Moderated by National Geographic Magazine Contributing Writer Jamie Shreeve.

Register for Tickets
Watch via Livestream
CELEBRATING HALF-EARTH: STEPS TO A SOLUTION

Evening Public Session
7:00–9:00 pm
Grosvenor Auditorium

The James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation Distinguished Lectureship in Biodiversity with naturalist Edward O. Wilson, biologist and author Sean B. Carroll, and legendary recording artist Paul Simon.



Register for Tickets
Watch via Livestream

The all-day, inaugural event will feature special guests including renowned biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist, and author Edward O. Wilson, biologist and author Sean B. Carroll; and legendary recording artist Paul Simon. Half-Earth Day is sponsored by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and hosted by National Geographic as part of our partnership to explore and protect the living Earth.

Half-Earth Day will highlight conservation efforts from the Gorongosa Restoration Project, Tompkins Conservation, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve, and National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project. This event is an opportunity for everyone to convene, share their unique contributions and thought leadership, and inspire fresh goal-driven energy and engagement in conserving our planet.

Read more about Half-Earth Day events, including the full schedule of programs.


Starts Monday 2:00 and 7:00 PM EST

Half-Earth Project Gains Momentum with Significant Gift

Paul Simon Gift Supports the E.O Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half-Earth Project

Durham, N.C., October 16, 2017 /PRNewswire/ – The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation today announced that it is expanding the staff and programs of the Half-Earth Project following a substantial gift from legendary recording artist, Paul Simon. Simon made the donation to the Foundation following his 19-city U.S. concert tour to support its efforts, in particular, the Half-Earth Project.

The Half-Earth Project is a goal-oriented campaign to conserve half the planet’s lands and oceans in order to stop the species extinction crisis. By conserving half the Earth, humanity can safeguard the bulk of biodiversity, including ourselves.

“We are very honored to receive this outstanding gift from Paul Simon and to have his generous support for the Half-Earth Project,” said Edward O. Wilson. “Humanity is currently faced with a momentous moral decision regarding the worldwide extinction of species and natural ecosystems. If we fail to act now, half of all known species will be gone by the end of the century. With Paul Simon’s gift we can expand the work of the Half-Earth Project and deepen our engagement with the public and conservation community to achieve this solution.”


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Paul Simon’s gift will support the Half-Earth Project’s research programs, which are working to identify, track, map, monitor, and visualize the biodiversity of the world in order to provide scientific leadership about what places to target for conservation and achieve the goal of Half-Earth. Funding is being used to drive the integration of vast data sets and expertise to create high resolution maps that will engage people everywhere in understanding why certain places are special, and how they can best be managed to protect life on Earth.

Paul Simon remarked, “I was particularly inspired by something Ed Wilson said a few years ago: ‘Our planet could be a paradise by the next century but we must work together quickly to save Earth’s biodiversity.’ I was proud to perform my last tour to benefit and support Ed’s vision for Half-Earth.“

“We are extremely grateful to Paul Simon for helping us to engage people in this hopeful solution and for his powerful voice on behalf of all of life on Earth,” said Paula Ehrlich, President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity. “His contribution gives us the opportunity to scale-up our research efforts to match the grand ambition of Half-Earth and protect our planet.”

About the Half-Earth Project
The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. In collaboration with our partners, we are working to power one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, and provide the urgently needed research, leadership and engagement necessary to conserve half the planet for the rest of life. Learn more at half-earthproject.org.

About the E.O. Wilson Foundation
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters a knowing stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage. Learn more at eowilsonfoundation.org.

Leading Conservationists to Gather in Washington, D.C., to Celebrate Planet’s First-Ever Half-Earth Day

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Leading Conservationists to Gather in Washington, D.C., to
Celebrate Planet’s First-Ever Half-Earth Day

Inaugural, All-Day Event on Oct. 23 Features Special Guests, Including
Eminent Biologist Edward O. Wilson and Legendary Recording Artist Paul Simon

Durham, N.C., Oct. 13, 2017/PR Newswire/ – The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation today announced the planet’s first Half-Earth Day to take place at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 23. Studies show that if we conserve half of our land and seas, at least 85 percent of species will be protected from extinction. Half-Earth Day is a celebration and a call to action—bringing together leaders in conservation, from around the world and across disciplines, to share their ideas and inspire innovative and impactful conservation efforts with this audacious goal in mind.

Global conservationists, scientists and the general public will join renowned biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author Edward O. Wilson for the all-day, inaugural event, which is co-convened by the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and National Geographic to highlight the work of research and conservation organizations working to explore and protect the living Earth.

“The Half-Earth approach is not only science-based, but it will also expand fundamental science into new directions,” said Edward O. Wilson, university research professor emeritus at Harvard, and the guiding force that shapes the mission of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “The goal of discovering and mapping all biodiversity, and especially at the level of species, will lead to immense new knowledge in basic and applied biology.”


Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic

Photo by Michael Nichols/National Geographic


“Our planet is at a crossroads, and there is both an opportunity and a critical need to act now, and to do so boldly,” said Gary E. Knell, president and CEO of the National Geographic Society. “National Geographic is proud to convene the first-ever Half-Earth Day to inspire people everywhere to understand and care for our world, furthering our progress toward a healthier and more sustainable future for generations to come.”

Half-Earth Day will feature afternoon and evening public sessions at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. The afternoon session, “Conservation in Action: Bringing Half-Earth to Life,” will highlight models of large-landscape and ocean conservation, including the work of the Gorongosa Restoration Project, Tompkins Conservation, African Parks, American Prairie Reserve and National Geographic’s Pristine Seas project.

The culmination of the day will feature an evening event, “Celebrating Half-Earth: Steps to a Solution,”presented by the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation Distinguished Lectureship in Biodiversity. Special guests will include eminent biologist Edward O. Wilson, biologist and author Sean B. Carroll and legendary recording artist Paul Simon.

The all-day collaboration builds upon a rich history between E.O. Wilson and National Geographic that dates back to 1939, when E.O Wilson was inspired to become an entomologist after reading about insects in National Geographic magazine. In 2013, the National Geographic Society presented E.O. Wilson with the Hubbard Medal, its most prestigious honor, which is given to individuals for the highest distinction in exploration, scientific research and discovery.

“National Geographic is committed to protecting the planet and the world’s biodiversity,” said Jonathan Baillie, chief scientist and senior vice president, science and exploration, at the National Geographic Society. “We are investing in projects and people who are contributing tangible results in conservation, research, mapping and technology to ensure the long-term well-being of the planet. Half-Earth Day is a tremendous opportunity to gather with people who share that vision and to find new ways to collaborate.”

“Half-Earth Day is convening scientists, conservationists and the public to share their unique contributions and thought leadership and to inspire fresh, goal-driven energy and engagement in this compelling campaign,” said Paula Ehrlich, president and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “There’s never been a more important moment for us to focus on understanding and action to care for our world. We’re asking everyone to take the Half-Earth Pledge and do what they can to preserve the Earth’s biodiversity. Together, as global citizens, we can protect the majority of species and our planet, the only home we will ever know.”

Half-Earth Day is a free, ticketed event, open to the public and the scientific community. To learn more about Half-Earth Day, visit www.half-earthproject.org/half-earthday.

###

About the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters a knowing stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage. Learn more at eowilsonfoundation.org

About the Half-Earth Project
The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. In collaboration with our partners, we are working to power one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, and provide the urgently needed research, leadership and engagement necessary to conserve half the planet for the rest of life. Learn more at half-earthproject.org.

About the National Geographic Society
The National Geographic Society is a leading nonprofit that invests in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of exploration, scientific research, storytelling and education. Through our grants and programs, we aspire to create a community of change, advancing key insights about our planet and probing some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time while ensuring that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global understanding. Our goal is measurable impact: furthering exploration and educating people around the world to inspire solutions for the greater good. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.org.

Related Links
http://www.half-earthproject.org/
https://eowilsonfoundation.org/

CONTACT:

Kellie Laity
Communications and Development Coordinator
E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
klaity@eowilsonfoundation.org
(919) 613-8137

Farley Fitzgerald
Communications Manager
National Geographic Society
ffitzgerald@ngs.org
(202) 807-3132

Guest Blog by Vincent Stanley: Our Common Ground

“Our Common Ground”
By Vincent Stanley
Posted with permission of Patagonia, Inc.


Most of us can readily name a piece of ground sacred to us as individuals that belongs to every soul in the country.

As Americans, regardless of our descent, we share as our greatest inheritance, both material and spiritual, the gift of our federal public lands. Most of us can readily name a piece of ground sacred to us as individuals that belongs to every soul in the country: Yosemite, the Everglades, Acadia, Hot Springs, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, the Smokies.

Most federal lands, while held in public trust, are only loosely protected. They can be used for private profit—for mining, drilling, logging, ranching and recreation, depending on the landlord, whether it be the BLM, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Park Service. Only designated wilderness areas are conserved to be the place where, in Margaret Murie’s words, “the hand of man does not linger.” These constitute less than 5 percent of the landmass of the United States.

The biologist E.O. Wilson has argued that—on a planet fighting for its life, with species going extinct at 100 to 1,000 times their natural rate, the lungs of the planet seared by global warming, the seas, the rivers and the soil losing their capacity to regenerate—we now should be devoting half the surface of the earth to nature so that we may save the lives of as many species of plants and animals as possible, including our own. To make life possible beyond the end of this century we need to slow the rate of global warming; reverse the advance of desertification; and restore the conditions in which life, and individual lives, can persist and thrive.


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Mr. Wilson’s proposal has not been mentioned during public debate among policymakers in the United States. Instead, a great fog machine has been set to work in the West, where the federal share of land ownership is close to 50 percent and vested interests itch to develop federal land at the lowest possible cost for the maximum possible return to the shareholder. Just when we need to learn how to restore natural capacity, not just in the West but the East, North and South, we see instead an attack on the existing protection for federal lands and hear a call for the sell-off of the land itself to individual states for eventual sale to private owners.

Not one of those who call for auctioning off our collective inheritance has in mind the purpose of conservation, regenerative grazing, organic agriculture or even the creation of more opportunities for nonmotorized recreation, which now generates more jobs and income than do traditional extractive industries. The fog machine, purporting to represent the rights of the individual versus the overly powerful state, conceals that the benefits will accrue to only a few, very few, individuals at the expense of us all and our future.

This is the time to safeguard our material and spiritual inheritance. We need not sell off what we have, but rather preserve more of nature in more parts of our country so that we may also restore and revive the health of our human communities and the planet as a whole.

Vincent Stanley, coauthor with Yvon Chouinard of The Responsible Company, has been with Patagonia on and off since its beginning in 1973, for many of those years in key executive roles as head of sales or marketing. He currently serves as the company’s director of philosophy and is a visiting fellow at the Yale School of Management.

U.S. National Science Foundation Funding Promotes Cutting-Edge Research in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique

Mozambique, Africa – Researchers from the University of Idaho and Princeton University have been awarded a prestigious grant from the National Science Foundation in the USA to continue their ground-breaking research in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique. The Principal Investigators, Dr. Ryan Long of the University of Idaho (USA), and Drs. Rob Pringle and Corina Tarnita of Princeton University (USA), together with their students, have been studying the large herbivore communities of Gorongosa since 2013. This new $1.25 million collaborative grant will enable them to continue and expand their work over the next four years.

The study will focus on three closely related antelopes that vary five-fold in body size: bushbuck, nyala and kudu (all in the genus Tragelaphus). In natural ecosystems like Gorongosa, resources are not uniformly available across space and time. Consequently, animals must adjust their behavior in response to changing environmental conditions to maximize survival and reproductive success. In theory, the ability to make such adjustments is constrained by body size, because fundamental traits such as energy requirements are strongly influenced by size. Yet, how body size limits animals’ ability to respond to environmental variation remains poorly understood. This research will improve understanding of (a) how body size limits the range of behaviors available to animals for coping with environmental change or variation, and (b) how the distribution of resources such as food, concealment cover from predators, and favorable microclimates interacts with behavior to determine the success of individuals and populations that differ in body size.


From left to right, Principal Investigators Dr. Ryan Long, Dr. Corina Tarnita and Dr. Rob Pringle fitting a satellite collar to an immobilized kudu antelope in Gorongosa National Park

From left to right, Principal Investigators Dr. Ryan Long, Dr. Corina Tarnita and Dr. Rob Pringle fitting a satellite collar to an immobilized kudu antelope in Gorongosa National Park


As these three antelope species are relatively common in Gorongosa, understanding their ecology is relevant to understanding the broader system. This fits with the search for the general principles or rules that link ecology and behavior, and how understanding such rules gives us a deeper understanding that may be applicable in all ecosystems, not just in Gorongosa. For example the study could also help to inform the management and conservation of North American species with high recreational and economic value (e.g., deer, elk, and moose) that also span a range of body sizes.

The project will facilitate STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) training and education for students from both the U.S. and Mozambique. For example, two U.S. PhD students will work on the project, and a Mozambican research assistant will be employed and trained. In addition, an immersive field course based on key conceptual themes of the project will be developed during years three and four, and will be offered to both U.S. and Mozambican students.

###

The Gorongosa Restoration Project integrates conservation and human development with the understanding that a healthy ecosystem will benefit human beings, who in turn will be motivated to support Gorongosa Park objectives.

Scientific research is an integral part of the long-term Gorongosa restoration effort, as a deep understanding of Gorongosa’s ecosystem will guide effective conservation decisions. The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Laboratory, opened in March 2014, positions Gorongosa to become a premier research hub in southern Africa. The laboratory has already attracted regional, national, and international attention. Scientists from Mozambican and international institutions, such as Universities of Eduardo Mondlane and Lúrio in Mozambique, Coimbra University in Portugal, and Universities of Harvard and Princeton in the USA, have been conducting research in the Park.

One of the laboratory’s most critical roles is to provide training to the next generation of Mozambican scientists in the Park, and also to send them to universities for advanced degrees. Several students, receiving full or partial financial assistance from the laboratory, have already begun studying for future careers as veterinarians, ecologists and lab technicians at universities.

For more general information, visit http://www.gorongosa.org

Guest Blog by Erle Ellis: Nature for the People—Toward a Democratic Vision for the Biosphere

Originally published in The Breakthrough Journal, Summer 2017

Erle C. Ellis is professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and a Senior Fellow at the Breakthrough Institute.



Imagine a planet without wild places. A planet so covered with aquaculture, plantations, rangelands, farms, villages, and cities that wild creatures and wild places, if they still exist at all, linger only at the margins of working landscapes, cityscapes, and seascapes.

Is this the planet you want to live on? No matter who you are, I bet it’s not. Your ideal planet would sustain both people and nature, leaving plenty of room for wild creatures to live and thrive in habitats free of human interference.

Why think about this? The answer is simple. If you aspire to live on a planet where wild creatures roam unhindered across wild landscapes, this is not the planet you are making. While times have likely never been better for most people, the opposite is true for the rest of life on Earth.(1)

Less than one-quarter of Earth’s land remains without human populations or land use.(2) Wild species, especially wild animals, are going extinct faster than they can be counted. The cause is mostly habitat conversion and loss, combined with unregulated hunting and resource use, pollution, competition with species transported from other parts of the world, and increasingly, global changes in climate.(3)

The case has been made many, many times that transforming the planet in this way is ecologically, economically, and ethically unsustainable.(4) These claims and their supporting evidence are important. Yet facts and rational arguments are not nearly enough to change the way things are going.

To sustain Earth’s wild places and wild species into the deep future, an unprecedented level of social change will be required. The good news is that the roots of this great social transition are already evolving. By engaging with these evolutionary processes of sociocultural change, human societies might ultimately produce and sustain a far better world than the one we are creating now.

1.

This planet is the way it is because our societies made it that way. There is no control room on Earth. No one is in charge of the planet. And no one is intentionally destroying nature. People transform ecology to make a living. We humans, as individuals and societies, are shaping this planet while we are busy making other plans. Planetary change is social change, and contemporary societies are transforming the world at rates and scales unprecedented for any other species in Earth’s history.(5) Such is the nature of the Anthropocene.

Human transformation of Earth is nothing new. As Earth’s “ultimate ecosystem engineers,” humans have always transformed environments to sustain themselves, using ever more complex tools, from fire and social strategies for hunting and foraging to domesticating species, grazing livestock, tilling soils, and building global supply chains to service urban supermarkets.(6)

Since our species began to spread across the continents more than 60,000 years ago, human societies have grown in scale from a few dozen individuals to hundreds of millions. Through processes of cooperative ecosystem engineering, the potential productivity of a single square kilometer of land has gone from sustaining fewer than ten individuals supported by foraging and hunting to sustaining thousands through intensive agricultural practices. Energy use per individual has also scaled up by a factor of more than 20, from the burning of biomass to cook food to the use of fossil fuels and nonbiological energy sources (like solar, wind, and nuclear) to do our work. This energy now powers the flow of materials, energy, biota, and information across the globe, and human societies, as a result, have emerged as a force of nature.

These unmatched capacities to shape Earth’s functioning are based on socially learned and socially enacted behaviors. Unlike beavers, ants, and other species whose abilities to alter environments by building dams and nests are biological, humans must learn from others how to hunt, farm, trade stocks, or even live together. Humans are ultrasocial — the most social species that has ever existed on Earth, unable to survive or to reproduce without learning how to live from and with others.(7) It takes a social group, a village, a nation-state, or a global trading system for humans to make a living, or to transform an environment. And it takes social learning — culture — to make it all possible. Through millennia of social change and cultural evolution, human societies have accumulated cultural capacities that have enabled us to become very good at making Earth’s ecology work for us.

Environmental change is social change, and social change is cultural change. 

Humans reshape environments through social processes that vary hugely both within and among societies and change as societies change.(8) In some societies, most individuals engage directly in altering environments to sustain themselves, as with hunter-gatherers and subsistence farmers. In others, some farm, make things, or serve others, while some trade, tax, or govern. In this way, the myriad social processes that sustain humans and transform environments have come to function entirely through trust, cooperation, competition, and exchange among complete strangers through social networks that extend across an entire planet.

Current levels of inequality within and among societies may never have been greater than they are today. The demands of some individuals, social groups, and societies shape Earth’s ecology far more than those of others. In this way, human transformation of environments might be chalked up to bad people doing bad things. Yet, the reality is far more complex.

Human societies, even some small bands of hunter-gatherers, have long been socially differentiated, with unequal sharing of power, resources, and opportunities among individuals and social groups structured through historically and culturally determined societal processes.(9) Societies characterized by relatively equitable social relations have proven just as capable of mismanaging their ecosystems as the more unequal ones — witness the mass megafaunal extinctions caused by hunter-gatherers at the end of the Pleistocene.(10) Moreover, like social inequality and harmful social relations, the patterns and processes of unsustainable environmental management and resource extraction reflect the social relationships, exchanges, and institutions of the societies that produce and sustain them.

As with the societies we live in, the planet we have inherited from our ancestors, and the one we are making now, is a social construct, shaped physically and culturally by the perceptions, values, aspirations, tools, and institutions of societies past and present.(11) These social structures and processes have changed across generations as the cultural practices and institutions that produced them have evolved.(12) In the Anthropocene, Earth’s ecology changes with us. Environmental change is social change, and social change is cultural change.

2.

Though only about half of Earth’s land is currently used for agriculture, forestry, settlements, and other human infrastructure, most of the remainder represents lower-productivity lands left unused for economic reasons.(13) Look out any airplane window and the evidence is clear. The steep slopes of hills and mountains remain the lesser-used lands almost everywhere — islands of remnant and recovering vegetation lost in a sea of agriculture and settlements.

Earth as a whole is no different. The greatest areas still unused by us are its coldest, driest, and least productive regions — the Sahara, northern Siberia, and other major deserts and frigid polar regions — with the exception of remote areas of dense tropical forest in Amazonia and the Congo.

By the numbers, existing global conservation efforts appear robust, including designated protected areas covering about 15 percent of Earth’s land. Some are quite large — a million square kilometers in Greenland (0.8 percent of Earth’s land), half a million in the Sahara (0.4 percent), and between a third and a half a million in southern Africa (0.2–0.4 percent). Some marine protected areas are even larger. Total global protection has also been increasing rapidly in recent decades. There are now hundreds of thousands of terrestrial protected areas around the world.

We’ve taken the better half of Earth’s land and left the rest.

While these efforts to conserve habitats and wild species are vitally important, they reveal a troubling weakness. The parts of Earth we’ve protected so far have been the easy ones, the parts that mostly remained unused because they were too cold, dry, steep, or remote to develop cheaply. In contrast, Earth’s most favorable climes and most fertile and accessible lands are for the most part already in use.(14) We’ve taken the better half of Earth’s land and left the rest.

Outside deserts and polar regions, the land we’ve left behind or protected is a patchwork of remnant and recovering habitats dispersed across and embedded within the engineered mosaics of used lands and infrastructure that sustain our societies. The EU has more than 120,000 protected areas, but more than two-thirds are smaller than 100 hectares.(15) By fragmenting and shrinking habitats into ever smaller and less connected parcels, Earth’s wild species have been subdivided into smaller, more isolated, and more vulnerable populations exposed to the myriad pressures and disturbances that come with proximity to human societies.(16) This is especially true for the vertebrate species who, like us, require extensive habitats to survive.

It’s hard enough to sustain wild habitats and wild populations in the small disturbed fragments we’ve marooned within our working landscapes. Yet we are making it even harder. With near certainty, global temperatures will rise by at least 2 degrees this century. To live within the habitats they are adapted to, some species are going to have to migrate hundreds to thousands of miles toward the poles in the coming decades. They will need to cross farmlands, cities, and highways to avoid extinction.

For these and other reasons, even if land use were kept just as it is right now, extinctions would likely continue to increase into the future.(17) Yet natural habitats continue to fall to deforestation, unsustainable harvests, and conversion to agriculture, settlements, and other forms of land use. In this time of unprecedented human prosperity, ensuring that the rest of Earth’s species can make it through the Anthropocene will require figuring out how to free up and reconnect habitats across Earth’s most productive half.

3.

Thanks to increasingly productive agricultural systems, more food has been produced per person every decade since the 1960s without a major increase in the global area of land cultivated for crops since the 1970s.(18) With more than 7 billion people on Earth, rates of population growth are also on the decline and should top out at 10 billion or so this century.(19)

With careful management, projected human populations can be sustained using even less land than today, and more room can be set aside for other species in protected areas across the continents. Agricultural intensification and urbanization continue to enable societies to produce more with less, leaving behind huge areas of marginal lands in the process. The same trends that enabled forest recoveries in the developed world almost a century ago are moving well along in China and increasingly in many other developing countries. With the right kinds of policies and development — like job creation in cities that pulls rather than pushes the rural poor to better opportunities — large swaths of land can be released for other uses, conservation included.

Enhancing the productivity of land over time is no small feat, nor is urbanizing in an equitable fashion, nor sustaining wildlife in protected areas surrounded by human development. But the greatest challenge of them all, the grand challenge of the Anthropocene, is to bring these three crucial endeavors together fruitfully across the vast tapestry of shared spaces we’ve constructed. Most of the anthropogenic biosphere is now shared space — patchworks of remnant, recovering, and less-used habitats we’ve left embedded within our producing landscapes.(20) Within these mosaics, wild creatures still make their living within the human world, where sometimes they can even thrive.(21)

We’ve become very good at making Earth’s most productive lands work for us.

To expand the wild spaces needed to sustain the rest of life on Earth, it will be necessary to redesign and rebuild the anthropogenic landscapes we’ve constructed to sustain ourselves. We’ve become very good at making Earth’s most productive lands work for us. We’ve crisscrossed the continents with roads and other connective infrastructure that have made contemporary societies the most interdependent that have ever lived on Earth. It is time to put the same design and engineering prowess to work expanding and reconnecting wild habitats.

To design, engineer, and construct a planet that will sustain wild species through the Anthropocene demands a triple focus: production and protection must be advanced together, and the interface between the two must function toward both ends. At the same time that less productive lands are reclaimed for wildlife, these must be protected and reconnected through the dense webs of human infrastructure that still divide the lands we’ve left unused. Corridors of unbroken habitat, free of human pressures, must be built at scale to connect the largest protected areas across continents. Protection will only work if it forms a continental web of wildlife mobility that serves the large and the small, the slow and the fast, in the movements they must make to survive across the Anthropocene.

The good news is that creating multifunctional landscapes capable of producing high yields for humans while enabling species to live and move are increasingly common management strategies in Europe, Japan, and some other developed nations. But there will always be trade-offs.(22) In Iowa, for instance, one of Earth’s most productive agricultural regions, converting 10 percent of land area to linked prairie strips delivered disproportionately large conservation benefits and connectivity, but also reduced corn and soybean production.(23) While conservationists and even many farmers prefer the crop/prairie mosaic to wall-to-wall crops, missed yields must be made up by production elsewhere — likely in less productive areas requiring more land. Moreover, creating multifunctional landscapes of this sort can also create and sustain local conflicts — some violent — among farmers, pastoralists, conservationists, and wildlife, especially when the trade-offs are unequal, as they often are.(24)

For these reasons, sustaining production and protection in the same landscape is a demanding social project. It requires intensive and ongoing negotiations and investments shared among landowners, governments, the public, businesses, and other stakeholders. Yet such efforts are expanding around the world, including collaborations among diverse land management and conservation institutions to interconnect habitats across continents. But new strategies and even new institutions will not be enough. Protection and connection at the planetary scales needed to sustain wild creatures and wild spaces through the Anthropocene will not succeed without connecting deeply with the abiding human love and concern for wild nature.

4.

Contemporary industrial societies are not the first to value and conserve wild places and wildlife.(25) From the traditional tapu areas of Polynesia (the source of the word “taboo”) to the sacred groves of India, the Maasai’s eschewal of game hunting in East Africa to the royal hunting grounds of Europe — through to the millions of acres of public lands designated by Teddy Roosevelt — countless forms of conservation have cropped up for millennia, emerging from the cultural priorities of the societies that created them. It is likely that most, if not all societies, from the days of hunter-gatherers to the present, have practiced some form of conservation, and that some of these efforts helped to sustain biodiversity for generations.(26)

Yet the social consequences and effectiveness of conservation practices reflect the cultural behaviors, institutions, perspectives, and aspirations of the societies that enact them. In most of the examples above, limits to habitat use or hunting served to reinforce and reproduce social inequality. The imposition of tapu areas by priests helped sustain their privileged role in Polynesian societies. Royal hunting grounds and bans on hunting specific species served as much to signify royal power as to conserve wild game. Colonial game preserves and early conservation areas imposed through the repression and removal of indigenous peoples reflect the worst forms of cultural dominance. Even Roosevelt’s more democratic conservation ethos developed from his hunting experiences in just such environments. Conservation in this sense can sometimes represent nothing more than a “green grab” imposed by elites on the less powerful.(27)

Yet this is clearly not the only cultural path to conservation. The Maasai’s cultural prohibitions on the consumption of game have long been reproduced through a form of identity politics; to be Maasai is to herd cattle and not to hunt for sustenance.(28) To live off one’s cattle is to be an honored member of society — not to is to lose one’s social standing. The peaceful coexistence of Maasai cattle with vast herds of wild herbivores is an amazing thing to behold; from an agricultural perspective, a lot of grass is being given away for free. Yet with few exceptions, this has been the cultural norm among the Maasai for hundreds of years, and their rangelands have helped to conserve the most diverse mammalian megafauna assemblages left on Earth.(29)

The key to a global social effort to sustain Earth’s ecological heritage is to stop believing that there is any single best way to value nature.

In the developed world, conservationists have sparred for more than a century over an appropriate cultural stance for preserving the world’s natural resources, lands, and wildlife, a conflict exemplified by the debate between John Muir, staunch defender of “Nature with a capital N,” and Gifford Pinchot, “wise-use” conservationist.(30) The ensuing split between ecocentric and anthropocentric philosophies has roiled environmental efforts for decades, resulting in conflicts over what nature to conserve and why.(31) Even Aldo Leopold’s calls for a “harmony between men and land” failed to resolve this dispute. Debates along these lines continue in arguments about the need for explicit valuation of land or ecosystem services to justify conserving them.(32)

But the key to a global social effort to sustain Earth’s ecological heritage is to stop believing that there is any single best way to value nature. Humans shape their environments in accordance with their cultural beliefs, values, and practices. Some like their nature “pristine,” some like it managed productively, and some just like it on TV. But each of us, in our own individual and socialized way, wants wildlife and biodiversity out there; biophilia is basic to human psychology, perhaps as ingrained as our need to be social.(33)

There are so, so many ways to value nature — whether it be a pasture full of cattle, a plot of land, a city park, a protected wilderness area, a hunting preserve, or a whole world that needs saving. Scientific evidence combined with legal and economic frameworks will of course continue playing an important role in conservation. Yet these won’t be nearly enough. When it comes to hard decisions about values and sharing, people’s goals, incentives, and actions are shaped by cultural norms at the individual, group, and societal levels. Even within the increasingly globalized societies most people now live in, different people in different social groups make value-based decisions very differently.(34) With such an amazing diversity of cultures of nature, how could any specific ethical or value-based approach bring people together around a common global project to conserve Earth’s ecological heritage?

5.

Given the deeply social nature of conservation and the vast diversity of our cultural preferences toward it, building a common global conservation project will not be easy. Yet three basic approaches to fostering the collective aspirations behind such a project would seem necessary. The first is to be all-inclusive — to celebrate all nature values across all value systems that exist around the world.(35) The second is to seek out and appeal to those values already held in common. And the third is to disseminate and promote new or existing values with the potential to broadly support the project. All will likely be needed if human aspirations are to reshape a better world both for people and the rest of nature.

Ironically, though, stories of environmental doom have come to dominate the discourse today. Narratives warning of a “sixth mass extinction” and many other environmental crises do have a substantial scientific basis and have helped to put serious concerns about biodiversity loss on the map. Yet such negative messaging has also been shown to be not only dismal and depressing but also disempowering, off-putting, and generally unsustainable.(36) Most importantly, visions of future catastrophe are unlikely to motivate the vast majority of people whose lives turn on their own daily struggles, no matter how popular such narratives might be among some educated elites in developed nations.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that people respond more actively to positive, aspirational messages that empower them to act toward better outcomes.

For more than a century, appealing directly to a shared love of nature has bolstered conservation efforts. Increasingly, calls for “Earth Optimism” and “Nature for All” have gained traction, directing attention toward the successes and positive aspirations of conservation movements around the world, rather than their problems and failures.(37) Indeed, there is increasing evidence to suggest that people respond more actively to positive, aspirational messages that empower them to act toward better outcomes.(38) Even in the midst of their daily struggles, all people aspire to a better life. These aspirations are many, but they are not infinite, and many are held in common. Aspirational natures, natures that represent what people want, might thus serve as the ultimate guide to expanding conservation into a truly universal human project.

In his 2016 book Half-Earth, Edward O. Wilson proposed what is likely the most proactive and grandly ambitious aspirational vision of conservation ever.(39) While roughly anchored in science, Wilson’s vision focuses more broadly on making the biosphere great again through an unapologetically enormous project that would protect and restore half of the planet to conserve biodiversity into the deep future. The precise way forward is not made clear in the book, but his vision is radically simple, crisp, and clear — a better Earth for the rest of nature will also be a better Earth for us.

The appeal of Half-Earth lies in its simplicity. Sharing Earth half-and-half sure seems like a fair shake for both parties. While the political, economic, and other social implications of such a project are staggering,(40) as a positive, easy-to-embrace vision of a way forward, it might be impossible to beat. Moreover, done right, such a plan would almost certainly facilitate the conservation of Earth’s ecological heritage into the deep future.

Half-Earth and the related Nature Needs Half project(41) are almost impossibly grand visions for Earth’s future. Yet their combined appeal to human love of nature and aspirations for a better future are likely the most universal of any call for conservation in human history. Crisis narratives and scientifically defined environmental limits might engage some people, but their focus on planetary problems with complex technocratic solutions is almost impossible to grasp at a personal level.

Empowering people to join a popular social project that everyone can understand and act on in their own ways might be just what it takes to change Earth for the better. Such efforts build on a basic trust in humans and the shared values they hold in nature around the world. In these times of unprecedented global connectivity and interdependence among human societies, the time has never been riper for a global social enterprise to reshape our planet for the better.

6.

The devil is, of course, in the details. It would take deep, deep pockets to purchase conservation rights to 35 percent of Earth’s land to top up the 15 percent already protected (a wild guess: about four billion hectares at an average cost of $100 to $1,000 per hectare). Even if funds were available, what would prevent such a scheme from becoming merely the greatest green grab ever?

The first step in reshaping half of Earth’s land into a global conservation reserve is to recognize that this would introduce the most challenging land reallocation process in history. Sharing the planet (unequally) with one another is hard enough. Sharing land equitably across ecoregions — including Earth’s most productive and densely populated regions — would demand global trade-offs in land use that are hard even to imagine. Whose half will be conserved or restored? Where will lost agricultural production be made up? Who will win and who will lose in the great global land trade-off? Who will compensate whom?

Another key question is whether land allocations should be guided by expediency — wherever land is cheap or available for political or other reasons — or by ecological priorities — where species or habitats are rarest and most in need of conservation. To date, expediency has been the rule. Yet this strategy cannot ensure that the full diversity of Earth’s habitats and species will be conserved or that habitat connectivity across continents will be possible.

A truly equitable, effective, and sustainable global conservation system will need to be more than a global land deal or a global property portfolio in the hands of a few powerful institutions. An equitable system is far more likely to emerge as a shared social project evolving from the bottom-up aspirations of the world’s people, their societies, and their dynamic environments over the very long term. It will take sustained social learning, cultural negotiation, and cooperation across societies to shape conservation and connectivity across Earth’s producing and protected lands.

This will mean multilevel, not top-down, modes of governance, defined by strong local and regional institutions, as well as novel forms of social collaboration among private and public stakeholders at all levels. Elinor Ostrom’s research into the sustainable shared management of forests and other common-pool resources illuminates many of the institutional practices that might facilitate such collective management of a shared reserve covering half the Earth.(42)

The good news is that the roots of this great social transition are already evolving.

Such coordination is already off to a promising start in many regions supported by international initiatives like the Convention on Biological Diversity, the Yellowstone to Yukon projectNatura 2000, the Landscape Connectivity call to action of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and many others. Emergent networks of nonprofits, philanthropic organizations, and private-sector groups are also taking on the challenge of global conservation and connectivity and finding common ground in shared values like “planetary health” and Earth stewardship.(43)

To continue moving forward, the selection, design, and management of protected areas and the connections between them must continue to evolve and diversify if they are to serve the needs of all people and all species.(44) In particular, the notion of a dichotomy between used lands and protected areas will need to transition into a continuum of strategies for integration, from interconnected regional national parks and indigenous reserves to urban green spaces, prairie strips, hedgerows, wildlife bridges, dam removal projects, and experiments with conservation management. Diverse solutions and creativity will be essential to navigating the compromises that will make a shared planet valuable to people and viable for wildlife.(45)

As humans increasingly become an interconnected and interdependent global species with stabilizing populations and broadly rising welfare, it is an increasingly imaginable, if daunting, prospect that our societies might yet pool our resources to construct, connect, and sustain a global ecological niche that includes the rest of life on Earth. With 15 percent of Earth’s land already protected and another 2 percent on the way, protecting 50 percent of Earth’s land is at least in the realm of possibility.

What this shared planet might ultimately look like remains largely the domain of visionaries and science fiction. Perhaps it might evolve into a simple binary world, half urbanity and intensive agriculture, the rest protected, untouched — nature somewhere else. Yet I for one do not believe that such a world is either possible or desirable; the planet is shared now, and always will be. The question is not just how much to share, but how to share it.

Imagine a planetary dashboard, like a ballot box, in the hands of every person on Earth. What would Earth look like if we all voted to construct a globally connected reserve covering half of Earth’s land? Unfortunately, the answer is not simple at all.

Would this create a global patchwork of organic farms, green cities, and interconnected habitat? Or separate seas of dense cities and farms, with protected wilderness areas far away? If habitats are to be restored and protected in Earth’s most productive ecoregions, how will this loss of production be made up? By clearing larger areas in less productive ecoregions or by increasing yields on existing farmlands? Will shared spaces, where people and wildlife coexist in close proximity, increase, or would they disappear? Will nature feel closer or farther away? These are just some of the hard questions.

Either way, the people, together, will decide. Different people in different regions will likely do things differently. But ultimately, the call for an aspirational social movement to conserve half of Earth for the rest of nature will need to serve as a call to develop better, and to develop differently, and not as a call to end development.

Over centuries, Maasai culture shaped productive, shared, and incredibly biodiverse landscapes. This is a gift to every one of us on Earth now and in the future. The megafauna and landscapes they helped to sustain might yet outlast the Great Pyramids or New York City. As Earth’s first ultrasocial ecosystem engineers, we as a species will continue to shape the world. What will be our legacy? It is hard to imagine a greater gift to the future than a planet as richly diverse or richer than the one that evolved in the millions of years before our common ancestors first walked the plains of Africa.

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The Case for Protecting Half the Earth in Its Natural Condition

By Alison Snyder
Originally published June 22, 2017 in Axios

E.O. Wilson wants to finish what Carl Linnaeus started 300 years ago: cataloguing and naming all of Earth’s species.

But we’re only 20% of the way there, and he warns that if we fail to put half of Earth in nature preserves we will doom species — known and unknown. Our era, he says, could be remembered more for destroying Earth’s biological diversity than for technological advances.


Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Rebecca Zisser / Axios


Why he matters:

Wilson – whose expertise is ants – has become the planet’s conscience when it comes to biodiversity. In the early 1960s, he and his colleague Robert MacArthur mathematically described how islands could maintain a greater number of diverse species. That idea was the foundation for more exact planning of nature reserves, which he describes as islands in a sea of land, that are now a tenet of global conservation efforts.

I talked with Wilson about his idea to preserve half of Earth, whether biotechnology can save the planet’s biodiversity and more. Excerpts from the interview are below.

His big idea

Right now, the percent of land put aside in reserves worldwide is approximately 15% and the percent of sea preserve is somewhere around 3-5% We need to take measures to move that to 50%.

Recent studies have shown if we were to set aside the open sea as a worldwide reserve, that’s just about 50% of marine water worldwide.

If we had 50% of the marine waters which are open sea preserved and fishing stopped, the production of the fisheries would rise considerably worldwide. In other words, the best way to raise fisheries’ production worldwide to produce more food for people in the sea, is to prevent any more fishing in the open seas.

What are you going to do with the people in those reserves?

That comes up a little bit, but oddly, that hasn’t been seen as much of a problem to the conservation workers who do this with scientific input and imagine how this could be done. The reason that we’re not too worried about that is that you could create a reserve by selecting parts of the land that have both high diversity and relatively sparse human population.

Why it’s needed

Only one fifth [of species] have been stopped in the slide down towards extinction. Four-fifths have been continuing in spite of all our efforts around the world.

If we don’t stop it, we could have a completely changed and pulverized world by the end of the century. Then it can’t be reversed. The sentence will then record. They might record the 20th and 21st centuries not as the centuries of ripping casualties and misery from warfare, or centuries in which amazing technological advances were made, but as you get farther and farther in the future, they’ll look back and they say, “That’s when our ancestors wiped out most of the rest of life on Earth.”

A Linnaean renaissance:

Just a little past 2 billion [species have been] given a scientific name, started by Linnaeus, the great Swedish biologist back in 1735. How many actually exist? Answer: roughly 10 billion.

There’s an immense job ahead of us to do what I’ve been calling the Linnaean Renaissance. In other words, we need to finish the job that Linnaeus started of actually cataloging and taking account of all the species of organisms on Earth and ecosystems in which we live. Now, how fast are these species going into oblivion? The rate of extinction is estimated to be somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times what it was before the coming of humanity. It’s to the point where very roughly we could be down to half the species on Earth gone, extinct by the end of the century.

We’ve neglected biodiversity studies and ecology to the point, with reference especially to ecosystems and species, that we’ve almost abandoned them.

On the prospect of bringing back extinct species:

That’s a foolish mistake, because if species are going extinct at the rate we observe and then we project from vertebrate animals where we can actually make the measurements on down into the vast pool of species that are going extinct, from invertebrates and bacteria and algae and so on, that haven’t even been identified, much less characterized and looked after, then you can see what a hopeless situation it is to relax and get ready at some time in the future of reviving species that are going extinct.

Now, let’s suppose we could actually cover not just the 2 billion species we know, but somehow get preserves and put aside the whole gene package of each one of the species both known to us and still unknown. If we went that route, then it would be notably hopeless in an entirely different way. That is, you truly have Humpty Dumpty to put together. How are you going to, without knowing what the species are and how they were put together when they were alive and in their ecosystem without knowing most of that? How are you going to put the ecosystems back together again?

If you are looking at a particular species, like the passenger pigeon, that one has come up as possible for possible restoration, or the marsupial wolf of Australia, their ecosystems are gone in substantial part. The ones they lived in, we’re adapted to. How are you going to save them except maybe as a few curiosity specimens in a zoo or a botanical garden? That’s the basic flaw, aside from the fact that it would be monstrously expensive compared to actually saving them simply by increasing the size of our reserves and looking after them in their natural ecosystem.

Political will

Once we get the science fully established – and we’re making good progress on that – then we can know what the political prescriptions should be. Then in making those and ensuring their acceptance and maintenance, we need moral precepts that are the common feature of international agreements. The absolute moral prohibition of genocide, for example, the wished for goals of free movement of people, of civil rights and so on – into that cluster we should be moving saving the rest of life.

What’s Next? From Concert Tour to Half-Earth Day and Beyond

This June, Paul Simon shared the hope of E.O. Wilson’s grand vision for Half-Earth with concert goers across the nation. His unique voice and commitment to caring for our planet touched many people, and we’re grateful to everyone who has joined us in pursuing this hopeful solution. Together, we can work to save half of our planet’s lands and seas for all of life on Earth.

The Tour

From Florida to Ohio and Nevada to Wisconsin, and with many stops in between, the tour helped raise awareness, and engaged thousands. Concert goers, local communities and fans learned about the book Half-Earth, and how the Half-Earth Project is driving research and providing leadership to identify and protect biodiversity in special places around the world. We’re thrilled that more and more people have learned about Half-Earth through the tour, and encourage everyone to share this inspiring and hopeful solution with their friends and colleagues.


Photograph by Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL concert. June 15, 2017.

Photograph by Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL concert. June 15, 2017.


The Half-Earth Pledge

Are you in? During the tour, the Half-Earth Project launched the Half-Earth Pledge, which calls on everyone as global citizens to join us in getting to Half-Earth. Have you signed the pledge yet?

The pledge is easy and focuses on Half-Earth’s central goal: If we protect half our planet, we can save 85% or more of all species, including ourselves. The pledge calls on us all take three very simple steps:

• Share information about Half-Earth with your network.
• Participate in local conservation efforts.
• Support policies that protect the Earth’s lands and oceans.

Take the Half-Earth Pledge.



Half-Earth Project Programs

By signing the Half-Earth Pledge, you can help us connect with you about local and regional conservation efforts where you live. We also invite you to visit the Half-Earth Project programs section of our website to learn more about how our partners are working with us every day to help bring Half-Earth to life. These efforts are dramatically improving understanding of our world and what we must do to protect the planet’s biodiversity, such as:

• Field Research and Taxonomy: The Global Biodiversity Census initiative is 1) developing a comprehensive database of the Earth’s vast biodiversity, and 2) working with curators at museums and botanical gardens to share knowledge more efficiently in support of accelerated species discovery and classification. This information is a fundamental first step in guiding conservation efforts.

• Mapping: “What Half?” should we protect? We’re integrating multiple data layers in order to answer this question, looking locally, regionally, and globally at biodiversity status, conservation priorities, and human impacts to create a dynamic, interactive mapping tool that engages people everywhere in what places are important for protection of biodiversity.



Half-Earth Day

What’s next? We’re pleased to announce that plans are underway for Half-Earth Day. Half-Earth Day is planned as an annual event, halfway to the next Earth Day, which will celebrate milestones and achievements and inspire participation and action to drive further conservation towards the goal of Half-Earth. The first annual event will be held in Washington, DC, and is tentatively scheduled for October 23. Stay tuned for more information about all events.

Iconic Musician Paul Simon Concert Tour To Support Global Biodiversity

Proceeds from 19 city tour will support Half-Earth, the grand vision of renowned biologist, naturalist, author, Edward O. Wilson



Durham, NC, June 2, 2017 — Twelve-time Grammy winning musician and singer-songwriter Paul Simon is back on the road for a month-long U.S. tour to support the Half-Earth Project. The Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, is committed to stopping the species extinction crisis by conserving half the planet’s lands and oceans. By conserving half the Earth, humanity can save 85 percent or more of all species.

“I could not be more delighted that Paul Simon is helping raise awareness of Half-Earth. Paul believes strongly in our work to save the planet’s biodiversity,” said Edward O. Wilson. “Species are the basic units of biodiversity, yet we are driving them to extinction up to 1,000 times faster than before the coming of humanity. If we do not move quickly to reverse our negative effects on the rest of life, its diversity will be diminished drastically to our loss and even endangerment.”

Simon kicked off his month-long tour in St. Augustine, Florida, and will perform in 19 U.S. cities before wrapping up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. All proceeds from the tour will be donated to the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation to support the Half-Earth Project.

“The Half-Earth Project provides urgently needed research and leadership to care for our planet,” said Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “The Half-Earth Project’s research programs are helping us better understand and care for our world. At the same time, we’re providing critical leadership to guide conservation efforts, and engaging people everywhere to participate in the goal to conserve Half-Earth. We’re asking everyone to take the Half-Earth Pledge and do what they can to preserve the Earth’s biodiversity. Together, as global citizens, we can protect the majority of species and our planet, the only home we will ever know.”

To learn more about Half-Earth, visit www.half-earthproject.org. To take the Half-Earth Pledge, visit www.half-earthproject.org/pledge.

                                                           ###

About the E.O. Wilson Foundation

The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters a knowing stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage.

About the Half-Earth Project
The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. In collaboration with our partners, we are working to power one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, and provide the urgently needed research, leadership and engagement necessary to conserve half the planet for the rest of life. Learn more at half-earthproject.org.


The hat that hung on his microphone stand all night is finally worn for the second encore, The hat, he explains, is from The Half-Earth Project created by biologist and author, Edward Wilson. His foundation formed the initiative, named after his book, “Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight For Life,” to aid in stopping the species extinction crisis by conserving half the planet’s land and oceans. Before playing “Questions For The Angels,” Simon announced that all the profits from this tour are going to his foundation.
— Nick Bequette, from “Paul Simon: Still Crazy Good After All These Years.” Clture.org. June 8, 2017.

PRESS COVERAGE

“Rhymin’ Simon Reprises a Career’s Worth of Hits at Big Gig.” On Milwaukee. By Bobby Tanzilo. July 1, 2017.

“Paul Simon Takes Audience on Nostalgic Journey.” Lake Tahoe News. By Susan Wood. June 27, 2017.

“Concert Review: Paul Simon Brings His Best in Spokane Arena Show.” The Spokeman-Review. By Carolyn Lamberson. June 24, 2017.

Interview with Paula Ehrlich about the Half-Earth Project. KTHX 100.1 FM (Reno, Nevada). June 23, 2017.

“Paul Simon Gives Tour de Force and a Sermonette.” The Daily KOS. By Quinn Hungeski. June 23, 2017.

“Paul Simon Gives Tour de Force and a Sermonette.” The Paragraph. By Quinn Hungeski. June 22, 2017.

“Paul Simon Made Joy Abundant at Northerly Island.Chicago Tribune. By Janine Schaults. June 15, 2017.

“Paul Simon’s Legacy and Activism Take Center Stage.”The Plain Dealer / Cleveland.com. By Chuck Yarborough. June 14, 2017.

“Concert Review: Paul Simon Riverbend Music Center.” Denny G’s Road Trips. By Denny Gibson. June 14, 2017.

“Paul Simon Delights Sold Out Crowd.” Cincy Music. By Courtney Phenicie. June 13, 2017.

“Paul Simon Performs at Toledo Zoo.” The Blade. By Amy E. Voigt. June 11, 2017.

“Paul Simon: Still Crazy Good After All These Years.” Clture.org. By Nick Bequette. June 8, 2017.

“10 Things to Do in the D.C. Area the Weekend of June 9-11.” Washington Post. June 8, 2017.

“Note to Paul Simon Fans: If You Missed His Charlotte Show, You Can Now Kick Yourself.” Charlotte Observer. By Theoden Janes. June 7, 2017.

“Four Voices Sing in Harmony for Justice.” Cincinnati.com. By Bill Thompson. June 7, 2017.

“Paul Simon’s Still Got It After All These Years.” Creative Loafing Charlotte. By Jeff Hahne. June 7, 2017.

WCCB News Rising. June 6, 2017.

“Concert Review: Paul Simon Mixes Things Up in St. Augustine Show.” The Florida Times-Union / Jacksonville.com. By Tom Szaroleta. June 2, 2017.

“Naked Puppets, Paul Simon and ADF Among the Shows to See in June.” News and Observer. By Mary Cornatzer. June 2, 2017.

“Summer Concert Guide: 31 Can’t-Miss Shows, from Kendrick Lamar to U2.” Washington Post. June 1, 2017.

“Paul Simon Touring U.S. in June.” Dan’s Papers. By Soth Team. April 16, 2017.

“Paul Simon Hits Concert Trail.” AARP.com. By Patrick J. Kiger. March 20, 2017.

“Paul Simon New Tour Could Help Save the Planet.” The Boot 99.7. March 14, 2017.

“Iconic Musician Paul Simon Announces Tour Supporting Biodiversity.” Mongabay. By Justin Catanoso. March 13, 2017.


Paula Ehrlich Interviewed on KTHX 100.1 FM about the Half-Earth Project and Paul Simon’s Concert Tour

Paula Ehrlich, President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, was recently interviewed on the radio station KTHX 100.1 FM (Reno, NV). The interview touched on such topics as:

• the Half-Earth Project’s call-to-action to protect half the land and the sea for the rest of life, to help end the extinction crisis, and to protect our world and home

• Singer/Songwriter Paul Simon’s friendship with E.O. Wilson and support for the Half-Earth Project through his June concert tour

• the new audiences the Half-Earth Project is reaching through Paul Simon’s advocacy

• how people can take the Half-Earth Pledge and connect with Half-Earth via half-earthproject.org

“By singing and talking about our planet, our home, Paul Simon has drawn people to the Half-Earth Project in a new way. His words and music evoke a personal, emotional connection about the importance of conservation to our lives, and the way we live our lives. We are very grateful for all he is doing to support Half-Earth.”—Paula Ehrlich, President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation


Paul Simon Tour Reaches Halfway Point in Support of Half-Earth

19-city tour inspires sold-out crowds, calls for people everywhere to help end species extinction crisis.

DURHAM, N.C., June 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Paul Simon has reached the midpoint in his month-long tour to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the planet’s biodiversity. Last month, Simon plugged the tour on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Simon is inspiring audiences across the U.S. with new and beloved songs, and donating tour proceeds to the Half-Earth Project, an initiative of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation.


Photograph by Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL concert. June 15, 2017.

Photograph by Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune. Chicago, IL concert. June 15, 2017.


Simon first met E.O. Wilson at TED over a decade ago. In 2016, Simon reviewed Wilson’s book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight For Life, for The New York Times, saying, “Half-Earth is compulsory reading if we care about the lives of our children, our children’s children and all of the species alive today.”

Simon has talked about Half-Earth at each of his shows, often donning a Half-Earth cap. According to the CincyMusic website: “Throughout the show, a baseball cap with a small ‘e’ rested on his mic stand. Simon returned for Encore No. 2 with it atop his head for the first time. He explained, ‘This cap that I’m wearing…it represents an organization called Half-Earth that was started by a scientist, E.O. Wilson…his book, Half-Earth – which I recommend to anyone who is interested in ecology and the planet and saving what we’ve got – had a great effect on me.'”

Wilson said of the tour: “I am delighted that Paul Simon is helping raise awareness of Half-Earth. Paul believes strongly in our work to save the planet’s biodiversity.”

“Species are the basic units of biodiversity, yet we are driving them to extinction up to 1,000 times faster than before the coming of humanity,” said Wilson. “If we do not move quickly to reverse our negative effects on the rest of life, its diversity will be diminished drastically to our loss and even endangerment.”

Remaining concert cities include: Billings, Missoula, Spokane, Bend, Lake Tahoe, Denver and Milwaukee.


Photograph by Alex Carson. Charlotte, NC concert. From Clture.org. June 8, 2017.

Photograph by Alex Carson. Charlotte, NC concert. From Clture.org. June 8, 2017.


The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation fosters stewardship of our world through biodiversity research and education initiatives that promote and inform worldwide preservation of our biological heritage. The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart. To learn more about Half-Earth, visit www.half-earthproject.org.

Related Links
http://www.half-earthproject.org/  

https://eowilsonfoundation.org/

Read reviews and press coverage from the tour

CONTACT: Eric Williams, ehwilliams@fenton.com, 202-255-2205