Magazine article Geographical

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

Magazine article Geographical

Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life

Article excerpt

HALF-EARTH: Our Planet's Fight for Life by Edward O Wilson; Liveright; 16.99 [pounds sterling] (hardback)

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When Harvard conservation biologist Edward Wilson looks you in the eye and asks the simple question 'Are you doing enough to safeguard the planet's biodiversity?' most of us would struggle for an answer. Yet this is the gauntlet he throws leaders of nations, businesses, teachers and citizens of the world in his new, important work Half-Earth.

Wilson is a good person to ask the question. His deep interest in nature, especially ants, began at an early age and for 60 years this octogenarian naturalist has been at the forefront of field research with a library of significant books to his name. Respected internationally as the 'father of biodiversity' he has witnessed first-hand global habitat loss and the impact this is having on the estimated eight million species of the world, of which only two million have been named.

Wilson confirms life-forms on Earth remain largely unknown to science and those we do know--the vertebrates and the plants--are declining at a rapid rate. In short, our biosphere, the thin band of life around the planet, is more damaged than we know: we need a bold, new plan.

The professor's thesis is clear and blunt. Humanity relies on nature in its original state 'unblemished by menacing invasives' to provide clean air, clean water, food and shelter if we want a sustainable healthy Earth for a peaked population of 12 billion in 2100.

Sadly the trends of habitat loss, species extinction, global warming and ocean acidification continue to threaten the functioning of our life-sustaining biosphere. To give nature a chance, Wilson advocates a collective commitment to aim much higher than the level the global conservation movement is currently achieving.

The argument for massively expanded reserves was first described in The Future of Life (2002). Since then Wilson's message has been consistent. Extinction is accelerating, invasive species are a menace and climate change is real. To make matters worse, he explains why the 'Anthropocene worldview' is now putting human needs before the needs of nature. …

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