Scientists Want Up To Half Of Earth’s Land And Oceans To Become A Nature Reserve
Scientists across the world are calling for a radical new change in the approach to preserving Earth’s wildlife and biodiversity.
Some experts believe the only way of sustaining our planet is to commit to protecting 50% of the planet’s land as a nature reserve.
It could be the key to keeping the planet habitable for years to come and avoiding a sixth mass extinction event, which activists such as David Attenborough believe is on the cards if we don’t act fast.
The idea was first presented by legendary nature conservationist E.O. Wilson in his book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life.
He said in a 2016 interview with The New York Times:
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.
His claims regarding extinction were supported by a 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which found more than 1 million different species were at risk of extinction.
The extinction of the natural world is also a huge cause for concern. In addition to the life on Earth at risk of dying, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) said that nature preservation targets set a decade ago are still not being met.
The CBD called for 17% of the planet’s land and 10% of the planet’s oceans to be protected by 2010. Now in 2020, those targets still have not yet been hit, with around 16% of land preserved and only 8% of oceans.
Concerns surround the viability of the proposal, which would require a dramatic overhaul in efforts to preserve Earth’s biodiversity and fast-action that has yet to be seen.
Making such efforts is especially difficult when large countries like the US and Brazil – the commitment from which would be key in driving serious change –are going in the other direction.
The Trump Administration, for example, axed the Obama-implemented Landscape Conservation Cooperative Network; an initiative that entailed creating 22 research centres to tackle conservation problems. The same administration is also planning to open up protected land for oil drilling in the likes of Alaska and other locations.
Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has also attracted critics for approving the pervasive logging operations in the Amazon rainforest.
The lofty goal of preserving half of the natural world has been met with criticism from experts who think protecting relatively untouched locations wouldn’t be as impactful as some might hope.
Stuart Pimm, a conservation biologist, wrote in 2018 about how protecting the likes of Canada’s boreal forest would have some benefits, but other large landscapes are mostly in temperate regions and would not contribute to the preservation of Earth’s biodiversity.
It could even be impactful on humans, as a 2019 paper authored by Judith Schleicher illustrated. Schleicher, a University of Cambridge researcher who led the study, claimed protecting vast landscapes could impact up to 1 billion humans and even lead to an increase in poverty for some.
The global effort to preserve the world’s biodiversity has been spearheaded by expert researchers and more publicly, the personalities and media presence of Sir David Attenborough and Greta Thunberg. The results of these efforts are yet to be determined.
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CreditsBBC and 5 others
The New York Times
Centre for American Progress
Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services