News and Notes

Update: Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit Has Far-Reaching Impact

On April 22, Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, presented on the ideas and vision behind the Half-Earth Project at the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit in Washington, DC.

The impact of the inaugural gathering can begin to be measured by just-released attendance figures and outreach results:

• 1,480 registrants attended the summit, with hundreds more walking through the Innovation Commons to enjoy the 20 interactive exhibits

• 237 presenters were featured in seven plenaries and 35 “deep dives,” all of which were well attended

• Beyond the conference, via live stream and social media, the summit reached and inspired hundreds of thousands of people online. Videos of the Plenaries and Amphitheater sessions captured via FacebookLive on the website.  All remaining “deep dive” sessions will be added to the website, as will the final report on the success of the summit, in the coming weeks.

Beyond the summit, 19 Earth Optimism events were held in museums and galleries of the Smithsonian in Washington, New York, Anacostia and Panama City, Panama. In 10 countries around the world – from Colombia to New Zealand – sister organizations hosted 26 events celebrating their own success stories and inspiring hope for the planet.

Paula Ehrlich’s presentation at the panel, “Science, Conservation, Inspiration: Artists, Scientist, and Institutions Coming Together,” is available via the video recording of the session below (panel begins at approximately the 38:00 mark):

Transcript from the video:

For 3.5 billion years, Earth has been home to countless species. Sadly, human activity has led us to an existential crossroads. We’re losing the natural world at an unprecedented pace. The rate of species extinction is 1,000 times higher than at any time in Earth’s human history.

While we’ve dramatically slowed species loss, we haven’t done nearly enough.

One of the world’s greatest naturalists and thought-leaders, E.O. Wilson, has a solution. He calls it Half-Earth.

Half-Earth is a call to action to protect half of the planet’s lands and oceans, and end the extinction crisis. If we save half, we protect 85% or more of all species.

So how could we possibly do this, protect half the planet? Well, it requires a grand moonshot-like effort.

Here’s where E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half-Earth Project comes in.

The Half-Earth Project is at work to
1) drive the research needed to better understand and care for our world,
2) provide leadership to guide conservation efforts, and
3) engage people everywhere to participate broadly in the goal to conserve Half-Earth.

We champion research to deepen our understanding and support conservation efforts and stewardship. We’ve created a Knowledge Platform and Mapping Core that will help identify global opportunities to protect species and people. I invite you to learn more about Half-Earth Project by visiting

In closing, I’m pleased to announce that Paul Simon will launch a concert tour this summer to raise awareness about the extinction crisis and the importance of Half-Earth. Join us on the concert tour and take part in this incredible journey to conserve half the planet for the rest of life.

—Paula Ehrlich

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