Let’s be honest, the global community’s response to the rising evidence of mass extinction and ecological degradation has been largely to throw crumbs at it. Where we have acted it’s been in a mostly haphazard and modest way — a protected area here, a conservation program there, a few new laws, and a pinch of funding. The problem is such actions — while laudable and important — in no way match the scope and size of the problem where all markers indicate that life on Earth continues to slide into the dustbin.
Photo by Wakx / Flickr
But a few scientists are beginning to call for more ambition — much more — and they want to see it enshrined in a new global agreement similar to the Paris Climate Accord. They also say that the bill shouldn’t just fall on nations, but the private sector too.
In 2016, E.O. Wilson — arguably the world’s most lauded living evolutionary biologist — published a book called Half Earth where he proposed that to save life on Earth (and ourselves) we must set aside around half the planet in various types of reserves. Not surprisingly, the idea was immediately controversial — but it was also picked up by other scientists hungry for an ambitious, hopeful way of facing a future of ecological Armageddon.
Last year, 49 scientists wrote a landmark paper exploring how feasible Half Earth might be across Earth’s different terrestrial ecosystems. But the headline news of this paper was really this sentence: “We propose a Global Deal for Nature — a companion to the Paris Climate Deal — to promote increased habitat protection and restoration, national — and ecoregion — scale conservation strategies, and the empowerment of Indigenous peoples to protect their sovereign lands.”
In less technical parlance, this is a ringing call for a massive, global agreement that would look at drastically increasing the amount of the world covered by parks — in some cases up to the Half Earth goal — and Indigenous protected areas. Indigenous people are now widely recognized as some of the best defenders of nature after decades of being sidelined.
This new agreement, they authors contend, should embrace the Half Earth — or Nature Needs Half — goal.
“A number of empirical studies are telling us that we need to set aside about half of the terrestrial and marine realms to avoid the worst of the two great environmental catastrophes — climate change and the sixth extinction crisis — looming on the horizon,“ Eric Dinerstein, the lead author on the paper, said. Previously with WWF, Dinerstein is today the Director WildTech and the Biodiversity and Wildlife Solutions Program with the NGO, RESOLVE.