In ‘Half Earth,’ E.O. Wilson Calls for a Grand Retreat

Claudia Dreyfus in the New York Times:

ScreenHunter_1760 Mar. 08 16.18This week, the biologist Edward O. Wilson, professor emeritus at Harvard University and recipient of two Pulitzer Prizes, will publish his 32nd book, a personal exhortation to conserve biodiversity titled “Half Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.”

The book offers an improbable prescription for the environment: Dr. Wilson suggests that humans set aside roughly 50 percent of the planet as a sort of permanent preserve, undisturbed by man.

We spoke for three hours in the cafeteria of the assisted-living facility in Lexington, Mass., where Dr. Wilson and his wife, Irene, have lived the past 14 years. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for space and clarity.

Q. Why publish this book now?

A. Because a lifetime of research has magnified my perception that we are in a crisis with reference to the living part of the environment.We now have enough measurements of extinction rates and the likely rate in the future to know that it is approaching a thousand times the baseline of what existed before humanity came along.

Reading your book, one senses you felt a great urgency to write it?

The urgency was twofold. First, it’s only been within the last decade that a full picture of the crisis in biodiversity has emerged. The second factor was my age. I’m 86. I had a mild stroke a couple of years ago. I thought, “Say this now or never.”

And what I say is that to save biodiversity, we need to set aside about half the earth’s surface as a natural reserve. I’m not suggesting we have one hemisphere for humans and the other for the rest of life. I’m talking about allocating up to one half of the surface of the land and the sea as a preserve for remaining flora and fauna.

More here.