Peopled Nature Conservancy

As It Could Be

Famed Evolutionary Biologist E.O. Wilson kicked off a long conversation among natural and social science circles with the announcement of a big idea. His anticipated book, Half Earth: Our Planet's Fight for Life, builds the case for an incredible preservationist strategy. Wilson argues it critical that human civilization set aside half of the Earth for the preservation of biodiversity. This method of preservation would be achieved by the establishment of biodiversity parks. These parks would serve as safe havens for species, places of restoration and a means of connection between wild lands. This vision transcends political boundaries and instead envisions natural system bio-regions would mark boundaries. The principle is continental in scale, as opposed to governmental.

This rewilding, no doubt, holds large implications for modern human civilization. The idea implicitly dissolves the idea of national borders and requires the rise of new environmental markets. Commons governance regimes would need to develop, argues Wilson, so local communities could labor in the sciences, environmental education, as natural resource managers or even park rangers. There is evidence that such a shift is possible, most notably perhaps is the Area de Conservacion Guanacaste (ACG) in the savannah and cloud forests of Costa Rica. This initiative successfully protects 147,000 hectares of terrestrial and aquatic habitats along with the flora and fauna that calls the region home.

Big ideas are important, especially with the rates of biodiversity loss experienced today. The Half Earth Solution is bold, but in radicalism we find our best way forward.

The half Earth is an idea worth thinking about. In this age of the Anthropocene, the United Nations and other powerful institutions are searching for ways to combat climate change, depreciating ecosystem services and the aforementioned biodiversity loss. The half Earth idea is not ridiculous, it is rather feasible. More importantly, it empowers local institutions as commons regimes, as opposed to systems of power and organized domination. So how would people live together with this rewilding, how would governance have to adapt? The natural world would soon be a large part of our lives. Instead of encroaching on wilderness, the hinterlands would not only be preserved, but they would grow.

It is important to note, that this is not exactly Wilson's idea. The deep ecology movement, with names like Gary Snyder and his agrarian friend Wendell Berry, started the development of this idea in the early 1990s. Various civic sector institutions, such as the Wildlands Network, Rewilding Institute, Wild Foundation and in a small part the Nature Conservancy all adhere to the preservationist value. Civic sector environmental groups deploy conservation biology, natural resource management, environmental education and public policy outreach to preserve wild lands. The idea behind these institutions is to make safe havens for native, endemic species by preserving as much natural landscape possible. A notable example is the effort to connect Yellowstone National Park and Wilderness Area to the Yukon wilderness in the Rocky Mountains.

It is of course still too early to tell if there is real traction for half the Earth, but Wilson and his ilk are looking to accomplish this feat by 2050.