E.O. Wilson Participates in Keynote Conversation at Esri User Conference

“Humanity will move safely into a new era.” – E.O. Wilson

“Ed, what do you think about the future?”

This was the opening question asked by Jack Dangermond during the Esri User Conference keynote discussion, “How Geospatial Technology Can Help Solve Global Conservation Challenges,” featuring E.O. Wilson and Jane Goodall and moderated by Dangermond, founder and president of Esri.

“We need to step up the area we put aside explicitly as reserves in the parts of the Earth where it matters the most,” E.O. Wilson replied. “We could get higher than 85 percent [of species protected] if we could do that skillfully.”

“I think of thousands of years of peace on this Earth living with the millions of other species that form the birthplace of our species.” – E.O. Wilson

“One of the things that we must do much more effectively than we have been is explore the living world,” he added, “to identify, to characterize and then love and protect most of the species in the world that we have in fact neglected to this point.”

The conference gave E.O. Wilson and the Half-Earth Project team the opportunity to showcase the Half-Earth Project Map to a new and broad audience. The Esri User Conference held on July 8 attracted more than 18,000 arcGIS platform users from around the world, gathering to hear accomplished users and thought leaders from across the globe on how best to use this platform to better understand their world. The Esri platform is used extensively in the Half-Earth Project Map.

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E.O. Wilson and the Half-Earth Project

During the first days of the Esri User Conference, E.O. Wilson participated with Jane Goodall and Jack Dangermond in the conference keynote, and followed with a book signing of Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.

“Inspired mapping and analysis”

“We need to launch at this time—and now I’m addressing younger people especially who are looking for a very highly productive career to go into,” E.O. Wilson said, calling for a renewed boots-on-the-ground effort to discover the “little known” biodiversity of our planet. E.O. Wilson noted that we have discovered and cataloged only 2 million of the estimated 10 million species on the planet. “This gap in data provides the younger generation a great opportunity for those interested in pursuing a career path in this area,” he said.

“Our work will be far more effective, and we can do even more than what the theories seem to allow us, if we find out what the biodiversity is,” E.O. Wilson said, emphasizing the importance of the mapping work being done by the Half-Earth Project to map species globally to fine resolution and use this information to identify conservation priorities where we have the best opportunity to protect the most species, and reach the Half-Earth goal. “This entails a tremendous amount of inspired mapping and analysis of the mapping, not only where the biodiversity is, because this is crucial for saving it as a whole, but also where the species are and in what places they create ecosystems of certain kinds which we can study and figure out how it all works.”

“And then, we’ll have the science, we’ll have the programs, we’ll have the ethics, the ethos of conservation strong enough through our own species to look to a brilliant future,” he added. “I think of thousands of years of peace on this Earth living with the millions of other species that form the birthplace of our species.”

The Science Behind the Map

E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation Scientific Chair Walter Jetz appeared during the keynote via video.

His message: “If we want to prevent species from extinction, we need to carefully manage remaining untouched lands.”

“The little things that run the world”

“I’d like to add a note of support and pay a little attention to what I call the little things that run the world,” E.O. Wilson said later in the program. “We are, of course, being human, being big mammals, are focused on the creatures most like ourselves. Which is entirely appropriate. If we can’t save them, we can’t save anything. But at the same time we’re going to have to develop a lot of science that reaches down into the smaller organisms of the world, to the millions of species of insects, of creatures that most people have never heard of, that are nonetheless fundamental in maintaining these ecosystems all the way up to the cornfields and the cacao plantations.”

“Humanity will move safely into a new era”

“I realize that I’m beginning to sound more like a marine recruiter than a biologist. But you know, we are entering an era when a radically new view of nature, of the natural world, is not only inevitable by the advances in science and the concern people have about their personal environment, but also by the amazing things awaiting discovery. As we begin to work through these millions of species that remain unexplored, and I would like to see a society in which to do this kind of exploration, to find out something about every one of these species, large and small, that allows them to maintain their existence, that has allowed it, for millions of years, enough so that they can live for millions of years into the future, and in so doing, gain a mastery of our own environment. After all, we live in a living environment. We don’t live on the moon. We’re not ready to go to Mars. We live on what may be, and I think almost certainly is, the only life-bearing planet in the solar system.”

“If we can’t save them, we can’t save anything.” – E.O. Wilson

“I think to explore the world, yea verily down to the smallest most inconspicuous mite and collembolan and nematode and protozoan, to explore it all, to understand where it all fits in, to include the study and the affection for and the maintenance of all of life on Earth, in addition to those who have already won our hearts, is the way humanity will move safely into a new era.”

How Geospatial Technology Can Help Solve Global Conservation Challenges

Keynote conversation: E.O. Wilson and Jane Goodall joined Jack Dangermond to discuss the future of conservation, species and the planet. Their honest but hopeful messages continue to inspire generations of scientists, planners, decision-makers and budding naturalists to take action to preserve the species of our planet.