THE HALF-EARTH PROJECT
A PARTNERSHIP TO SAVE HALF THE EARTH FOR THE REST OF LIFE
The mass extinction of the natural world ranks with pandemics and world war as among the deadliest threats that humanity has imposed on itself. In the past half-century, species that were once virtually innumerable have practically disappeared from the Earth. The rate of extinction is at least 1,000 times higher than at any time in human history. To lose so much of Earth’s biodiversity is both to destroy our living heritage, and to risk the stability of the planet itself.
The Half-Earth Project offers a solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. As this century’s most eminent biologist E.O. Wilson advocates in his book, Half-Earth, if we conserve half the land and sea, the bulk of biodiversity will be protected from extinction.
The Half-Earth Project’s programs convene expert partners and leaders in an inspiring campaign to raise conservation efforts to a new level and enhance our resilience. The Half-Earth Project will 1) drive the research needed to better understand and care for our world, 2) provide leadership to guide conservation efforts, and 3) engage people to participate broadly in the transcendent goal to conserve Half-Earth.
The Half-Earth Project has science at its core and our transcendent 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 knowledge necessary to conserve half the planet for the rest of life.
A DISAPPEARING WORLD
Human beings are connected with all of life. The organisms that surround us have evolved over 3.8 billion years in an exquisite, careful balance that provides the foundation for our resilience. Species are inextricably entwined with our survival, and information about them is critical to support ecosystems effectively, yet we understand the identity and biology of only 2 of the 10 million species on Earth. Conservation efforts have slowed species loss by at least 20%, but fall short of stabilizing Earth’s living environment. If we continue on this path, half of all known species will be gone by the end of the century.
There is a momentous moral decision confronting humanity today as we ponder how to care for our planet. Suitable habitat, crucial to nature’s survival, is shrinking fast. Currently, about 15% of the global land surface and 3% of the global ocean surface are protected in nature reserves, but only if we conserve 50% or more can we protect the bulk of our planet’s biodiversity. The time has come to achieve a sustainable coexistence with the rest of life and raise our conservation efforts to a new level.
Half-Earth offers a goal-oriented, emergency solution commensurate with the magnitude of the problem. Half-Earth is a call-to-action to conserve half of the land and sea for nature. If we conserve half our planet we can protect 85% of species and enter the safe zone. As championed by Tom Friedman in the New York Times, Half-Earth already has tremendous traction as a solution that we must adopt to save our planet.
The crucial factor in the life and death of species is the amount of suitable habitat left to them. E.O. Wilson’s book, Half-Earth (Wilson, E.O. (2016). Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life), summarizes the literature and scientific consensus around the mathematical relationship between species richness and habitat area as grounded in the theory of island biogeography, which he originated (MacArthur, Robert H.; Wilson, E. O. (1967). The Theory of Island Biogeography). A change in area of a habitat results in a change in the sustainable number of species by approximately the fourth root, so the fraction of species that can be protected in one-half the global surface is about 85%. A biogeographic scan of Earth’s principal habitats shows that a full representation of its ecosystems and the vast majority of its species can be saved within half the planet’s surface. At one-half and above, life on Earth enters the safe zone.
Every sovereign nation has a protected-area system of some kind. The number of reserves that have been created is encouraging, but there are not enough to halt the acceleration of species extinction. To get us there, we need a much deeper understanding of global biodiversity and to begin to target areas for protection, or we will soon lose most of the species composing life on Earth. The Half-Earth Project is focused on doing the deep research to better understand the species on our planet and to use that data to conserve the habitats they call home.
THE HALF-EARTH PROJECT: RESEARCH, LEADERSHIP, AND ENGAGEMENT
The Half-Earth Project brings together deep scientific leadership, operational knowledge and inspirational engagement as never collaboratively convened before, creating fresh goal-driven energy where existing efforts are losing ground. It addresses gaps in our current approach to this crisis and creates a compelling campaign for re-invigorated action.
Our research programs will work to discover and identify our planet’s species and support regional biodiversity research and scholarship. The Global Biodiversity Census initiative will establish four pilot All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) sites as models to guide ATBI efforts worldwide. In addition, we will support the research of Half-Earth Biodiversity Fellows and Scholars who have a deep understanding of the unique socioeconomic and conservation needs of their region.
Our leadership programs will map conservation status and integrate diverse data to target areas for protection. Data design experts will make this information engaging and accessible. Knowledge Platform and Model Conservation Efforts will provide guidance, foster greater understanding, and inspire similar efforts worldwide. Film, Communication and Outreach, and Museum Exhibits will create transformative experiences that catalyze participation and further enhance engagement in our solution. The Half-Earth Council will provide the comprehensive thinking and expertise that is necessary to fully address potential challenges and support the goal of Half-Earth.