Setting Aside Half the Earth for Nature

This article appeared in the July 2018 issue of Planning magazine. Author Timothy Beatley is the a professor of sustainable communities at the University of Virginia, and director of Biophilic Cities.

It is a bold goal: That we might dedicate half of Earth’s surface to nature. Biologist and conservationist E.O. Wilson calls it a conservation “moonshot.” He believes it is the only hope we have to forestall the immense loss of global biodiversity we are facing and protect 85 percent (or more) of the world’s species.

The places we have the opportunity to manage for conservation to protect the most species will likely be scattered, though hopefully interconnected, and woven into and placed near cities.

Urban areas can and must be part of the Half-Earth vision and strategy for it to succeed. What would it mean to be a “Half-Earth City”? No cities have yet used this language or explicitly established half earth as goal (Australian architect Paul Downton was the first to suggest this terminology in a review of Wilson’s book). But cities can and must play a major role: They have the resources and the opportunities to make a difference in biodiversity conservation.

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  London's Green Park, located right next to Buckingham Palace, is one of eight former royal hunting grounds that were converted into a total of 4,882 acres of public green space.

London's Green Park, located right next to Buckingham Palace, is one of eight former royal hunting grounds that were converted into a total of 4,882 acres of public green space.