Half Earth Day
Monday 23rd October marks the first Half Earth Day. This initiative is based on the premise that if we conserve half of the Earth’s land and sea for the benefit of wildlife over man, then we will be able to save more than 80% of the world’s species including ourselves from the effects of man-made destruction.
It is a clarion call to all people and groups involved in the restoration of wild spaces to come together to build bridges and discuss the future of the Half Earth project.
The name has been inspired by biologist, Edward O Wilson, who wrote in his radical new book Half Earth: Out Planet’s Fight for Life, that if we devote half the Earth to nature we can halt the decline of our biosphere. The Earth is at a critical junction: we need to act now while there is a small window, because that window is closing rapidly.
The book is his most urgent and impassioned piece of writing, the last in a trilogy on how humans came to be the rulers (and defilers) of the Earth in this Anthropocene Epoch. Emeritus professor at Harvard, E O Wilson is a pioneering writer and thinker on biodiversity and sociobiology (biology that studies animal social behaviours) and is recognised as the world’s leading expert on ants.
In his book he is scathing on the historical capacity of humans to manage their world: while the prospect of no return for our planet is fast approaching he says, ‘we thrash about, appallingly led, with no particular goal in mind other than economic growth, unfettered consumption, good health and personal happiness.’ Quite so. He calls our sensory system, compared to other species, ‘surprisingly weak’ and our moral reasoning ‘conflicted and shaky.’ We were created in the Holocene Age, and although we are creators of the Anthropocene, we are not adapted to survive in it.
It’s not that he condemns the human species, it is more that he puts us back in our place within the biosphere, in which we feel blindly and arrogantly superior, as social animals who got lucky, but have not reached a stage in our evolution where we can make informed choices for the good of ourselves and our planet. Yet we must reach that stage, and quickly.
But, far from being bitter diatribe or sad elegy, Wilson's book puts forward a positive and attainable vision. It is possible, he argues, to conserve a half of the Earth, and he gives examples of large areas of the world where there is already an opportunity. Rewilding projects worldwide make up an essential part but acting piecemeal is not going to solve the problem. We need a much bigger vision in order to meet the hugeness of the problem. Biodiversity thrives in very large areas and reduces relative to size of area, the accuracy of which can be proved in a mathematical equation.
So a series of nature corridors or a few thousand hectares here and there of biodiversity are not going to be as effective as huge swathes of land and sea given entirely over to nature. As you might imagine the idea is not without its critics. But why should we not? This is the only home we will ever have and we are close to losing it. Why should we not make this gargantuan effort to save it and ourselves from the effects of our mismanagement? Do we have it in us? Can we be more than just consumers? Your comments are eagerly awaited.
Half Earth Day has been timed to occur exactly half a year after Earth Day on 22nd April. It is an all-day event taking place at the National Geographic Society Headquarters in Washington, where leading scientists, conservationists and the general public will be invited to take part. The singer Paul Simon, and devotee of Edward O Wilson’s work, will be offering his support with a concert in the evening. We will be following closely any conclusions reached and initiatives made in the next days and weeks. If you want to know more about this fascinating 87 year old scientist you can go to the link and read an interview with Edward O Wilson.