Tuesday, 6 March 2018
Half Earth by Edward O Wilson
I've enjoyed other books by Edward O Wilson (you can read my brief reviews here) so was looking forward to reading Half Earth. Sadly I was very disappointed, I felt it was often superficial and while dealing with a vital issue - how best to conserve the world's remaining biodiversity - doesn't offer enough concrete ideas for how to do that.
Wilson's basic idea is that we need to set aside half of the earth to be protected areas for nature and lists places around the world that he feels should be included in this plan. However he offers no road map for how to set up the surely necessary overview to make sure this happens and to evaluate how the project works and he offers no advice on how to ensure that individual areas can be protected into the future.
Plus although the broad brush stroke approach of much of this book probably makes it accessible to a much wider audience, there were too few specific examples to really grab the reader's attention. Some specific insights into the lives of certain species of ants were fascinating (Wilson is an ant ecologist) but more, much more in a similar vein would have made the book more enthralling and would have supported the overall argument much more vividly.
I also felt the whole book was badly edited, as though the publishers had thought - 'E O Wilson is such a distinguished scientist he doesn't need an editor!' But all writers need an editor.
So I found the whole reading experience disappointing but this is an important issue that needs to be addressed before it's too late.
Can we protect half the earth for nature and wildlife to thrive?
How do we choose which areas to protect?
What about indigenous people who may live in these areas and understand their ecology better than we realise?
Are there alternative approaches that may save nature?
The organisation Nature Needs Half is 'committed to improving the relationship between people and nature and ensuring that at least half of our planet remains protected throughout large, connected eco-regions, now and in the future.'
There's an interesting article in the Guardian newspaper asking 'Should we give up half of the earth to wildlife?' while Prakash Kashwan critiques the idea of protected areas for wildlife in poorer countries here.
Half Earth by Edward O Wilson published by Liveright Publishing