In case you don't know, biodiversity is the key to life on our planet, providing ecosystem services which all life depends upon. For years biodiversity has been on the decline around the world caused by climate change and the loss of habitats.
Human activities could lead to our extinction along with the extinction of the planet. Losing so much of Earth's biodiversity is destroying our heritage and the stability of the planet as a whole. Is there anything we can do about it at this stage?
The evolutionary biologist, E.O. Wilson, came up with his plan for Half-Earth. He proposes that half the planet should be completely set aside as a natural reserve in order to protect and preserve biodiversity. In his book “Half-Earth: Our Planet's Fight For Life”, he explains that loss of biodiversity is already beyond the stage of recovery and the only solution to prevent mass extinction and destruction is to protect half of the earth from human interference. This will allow the natural reserve to protect and preserve the biodiversity while the other half of the planet is shared by humans.
The amount of space for suitable habitats for species is a critical factor in survival or not. Wilson developed “The Theory of Island” in the 1960s suggesting that any change in an area of habitat would result in a change in the number of sustainable species by the fourth root. Therefore, if the reserve grows in size so will the surviving species and the same can be said in reverse. In theory, if half of the global surface is protected, the number of species will be around 85% or more which could prevent extinction.
For the Half-Earth Project to work, there must be specifications in place by using advanced technologies that will comprehensively map the geospatial locations and distribution of species on the planet. The decision would be based on the data output to show where would be the best place to protect most species.
As geospatial is relating to data that is associated with a specific area, there are several locations best for preservation and most of those areas are in South America.
In order for the project to work, it will take scientific research and experienced leadership to form strategies to map the Earth's species and will require engagement with people from everywhere to participate in the movement.
Once enlisted, people are asked to sign the Half-Earth Pledge in which people promise to support the Half-Earth Project by sharing information, participating locally in conservation efforts, and supporting the protection policies.
While reading through Wilson's proposal, it might sound great but is it at all practical? What would be the negative fall-out on the human population from implementing this project?
An article called “Half-Earth Or Whole Earth?” was published which analyzed the other side of this Half-Earth Project and the negative impact it might have on humanity. The argument can be examined from the following points:
The problem with the Half-Earth proposal, it ignores the elements that cause the loss of biodiversity across the planet. The plan for future biodiversity does not address the overconsumption of resources and industrial activities that are unrealistic. Even if we divided the earth in half in terms of consumption of resources and our activities, there would still be major consequences for the entire planet.
How about the social impact caused by the half earth project? Restricting areas would cause many challenges from physical and economic displacement and will eventually lead to social conflict. Even to date, many strictly protected areas are in the middle of social conflicts.
Adding to that, who will create and control these protected areas? How can we possibly share these areas globally and equally? Lower-income countries suffer from enormous poverty and lack of infrastructure. Therefore, removing land from non-conservation use will impact those countries and communities the most who, ironically, are the least responsible for our current environmental issues.
Many studies have shown that protected areas work best if they are supported by local communities. One recent study showed that protected areas that have integrated local people as shareholders are more effective in reaching biological conservation, economic, and social development. The Half-Earth Project completely ignores the relationship between biodiversity and local communities.
Lastly, the Half-Earth Project does not offer any guidelines or an agenda on how to manage biodiversity in the human half. What will biodiversity look like and what's the role of people in the plan? Will there be any restrictions in this plan?
All the above arguments and issues are predictable and expected but the Half-Earth Project does not mention the negative impacts or how these impacts will be addressed.
In a nutshell, the Half-Earth Project is not plausible and cannot be put in place as a sustainable strategy because of the issues it has failed to address. Also, if implemented, it would result in dangerous and counter-effective consequences such as greater injustice and the rise of conflicts.
There would have to be a logical solution in place that would focus on the roots of the biodiversity loss. So much more must be done if we ever expected to address how the global economy works and address how we extract natural resources.
It's a fact that economic growth is an issue all unto itself. Working toward achieving prosperity without growth could possibly be a part of the solution.
Implemented strategies must support measures to address inequality along with improved health and well being. This is a much more realistic approach and a better way for sustaining biodiversity vs what the Half-Earth Project is suggesting.
Are there steps that can be taken to improve our environment and protect nature? Yes, but it takes more than a pipe dream that would literally throw millions of people out of their homelands and overcrowd other countries leading to further conflicts.