Jane Goodall is something of a conservation superstar and I have been very fortunate to have met her, twice. She is a well-qualified zoologist and environmentalist; a trailblazer in African chimpanzees and as a woman scientist. She is 83 and still going strong, spread-ing the conservation message as she travels world-wide; she certainly draws a crowd, mainly younger people. By happy comparison, Edward Osborne Wilson, is 86, an expert on ant societies, coiner of the concept of ‘biodiversity,’ and has made his mark on evolutionary biology, entomology, enviro-nmentalism, and literature….the list seems endless. Two of his 31 books – The Ants and On Human Nature – received Pulitzer Prizes. I am sad I have not met EO Wilson; he seems like a ‘Charles Darwin’ kind of almost grandfatherly figure who, alongside Dr Jane, believes we need to take positive, even sometimes radical, steps to protect our planet.
Half Earth certainly proposes a plan to save our imperiled biosphere: devote half the surface of the Earth to nature. The renowned biologist identifies actual regions of the planet that can still be reclai-med, including California redwood forest, Amazon River Basin, Western Ghats of India, the Serengeti, the long-leaf pine savannahs of the American South, the flatlands of northeastern Europe, Congo Basin, Borneo, McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica.
The ‘plan’ of reserving so much land as ‘wild lands’, whilst great in theory, is quite something if you think about it. Certainly in the new age of Trump, the opposite is actually happening and less, not more, space is looked at in terms of nature presser-vation, at least by some. The other challenges are: making good/better/more effective use of the current used/city landscape, so that the ‘wild lands’ are seen as ‘ok’ …this would come down to making cities more sustainable! Half-Earth concludes E.O. Wilson’s trilogy begun by The Social Conquest of Earth and The Meaning of Human Existence.
The book itself is very readable and interesting and eloquent but, for me, does not lean towards being easily labelled an immediate ‘call to action’. Reco-mmended as a book about our problem-filled planet and ways to work with nature, yes. A ‘how to’ guide, maybe not.
Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Edward O. Wilson. Liveright Publishing Corporation. Hardback, 272pp. ISBN 978-1-63149-082-8. £19.98.