E.O. Wilson wants to put half the Earth in preservation
E.O. Wilson wants to finish what Carl Linnaeus started 300 years ago: cataloguing and naming all of Earth's species.
But we're only 20% of the way there, and he warns that if we fail to put half of Earth in nature preserves we will doom species — known and unknown. Our era, he says, could be remembered more for destroying Earth's biological diversity than for technological advances.
Why he matters: Wilson, whose expertise is ants, has become the planet's conscience when it comes to biodiversity. In the early 1960s, he and his colleague Robert MacArthur described how islands could maintain a greater number of diverse species. That idea was the foundation for nature reserves, now a tenet of global conservation efforts.
I spoke with Wilson about his idea to preserve half of Earth, whether biotechnology can save the planet's biodiversity, and more. Some key takeaways from our discussion:
His big idea:
"Right now, the percent of land put aside in reserves worldwide is approximately 15% and the percent of sea preserve is somewhere around 3-5% We need to take measures to move that to 50%."
A Linnaean renaissance:
"There's an immense job ahead of us to do what I've been calling the Linnaean Renaissance. In other words, we need to finish the job that Linnaeus started of actually cataloging and taking account of all the species of organisms on Earth and ecosystems in which we live. Now, how fast are these species going into oblivion? The rate of extinction is estimated to be somewhere between 100 and 1,000 times what it was before the coming of humanity."
Read more of my interview with him here.