Paula Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and lead of the Half-Earth Project, talks about E.O. Wilson’s vison for Half-Earth and how we all have a role in reaching this grand goal.
Text of interview with Paula Ehrlich.
Our mission has always been to bring E.O. Wilson’s hopes for our planet to life. The main way he’s always asked us to do that—asked everyone to do that—is through deep research, education, and engagement in nature.
Our biggest initiative now is the Half-Earth Project. In some ways the Half-Earth Project is a culmination of all the ideas that E.O. Wilson has written about his entire life, about what we must do to care for our planet, and synthesizing that together into one grand ambition that we’re trying to bring to life through the work of the Foundation.
The Half-Earth Project is a call to action to protect half the Earth—half the land and half the sea—in order to manage those places for conservation and secure sufficient habitat to safeguard the bulk of biodiversity. Right now, species are going extinct at about a thousand times the rate before people came onto the planet. Despite our efforts to save species here and there, to sort of put out fires here and there, the idea of Half-Earth was to raise our efforts from a process to a goal, so that we could ultimately be more successful in sustainably supporting the species of our planet.
Our focus initially has been on creating the Half-Earth Project Map. Because as soon as you tell people that you want to protect half the Earth, they ask “which half”? And in order to understand which half, we need to know where we have the best opportunity to protect the most species. By mapping the species of our planet at high resolution, and integrating that data with information about human activities, barriers to conservation, and seeing where we have the opportunities to create or to support conservation management initiatives has been one of the core first activities of the Half-Earth Project.
One of the biggest places that we understand that our society and humanity can work together to support Half-Earth is through our corporate responsibility. And so we’re in the process of nominating Companies for a Half-Earth Future—companies that have purpose driven missions to support our planet.
Our other big partner of course is Esri. Through the use of the Esri platform, through the team’s dedicated devotion to helping us to do this well and do this in an engaging way with the scientific rigor and engaging software platform allows people to see these places, understand why they’re important, and utilize this tool for decision making.
We’re really making great strides now in getting this map of the known species of our planet done over the next five years. That’s our plan.