“You teach me, I forget. You show me, I remember. You involve me, I understand,” is a saying E.O. Wilson was fond of sharing.
As many of you already know, E.O. “Ed” Wilson passed away on Sunday at the age of 92. Our team and I have spent countless hours since then hearing from all of you about the impact Ed made in your lives. Repeatedly among the many fond memories, we heard that he was a humble, gentle human with a giant intellect and an equally giant heart. In a crowded room, Ed had a way of making people be seen, heard and encouraged.
E.O. Wilson was a master at getting people involved. Both formally and informally, E.O. Wilson inspired students of life. In the field, his passion for discovery was infectious. His unbridled curiosity about the world transformed the imaginations of countless young students, and his courageous research sharpened the perspective of everyone from Harvard grads and boards of directors, to world leaders. He constantly reminded and encouraged us that we could make a difference in the world. He wrote, “To strive against odds on behalf of all of life would be humanity at its most noble.”
E.O. Wilson’s quest has always been to tap into something within our common humanity that excites our common purpose. Ed felt that with the Half-Earth Project we – the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation community – are participating in one of the greatest adventures of our lives. Our work together carries E.O. Wilson’s scientific ambition and moral conviction to protect biodiversity in its soul.
In his last years, E.O. Wilson made a constant plea, underscoring the need for broader research to better understand the species of our planet, and what places best nurture them, to ensure we prioritize protection of the places that species uniquely depend upon. The science and mapping of the Half-Earth Project is transforming our understanding of the world and what we need to do to care for it. To succeed we must now inspire informed collective action to ensure that we leave no species behind.
E.O. Wilson has passed, but his life will forever encourage new generations of scholars, scientists, educators, conservationists and policy makers to act. The E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation was created to carry this light forward, and that is what we will do as a community; not alone in our task, but bound together by Ed’s grand vision of a better world.
Paul Simon often shares something Ed once said to him that transformed his thinking, “You know, this world could be a paradise.” In the New Year, and beyond, we go forward together, to make it so.
On behalf of the board of directors and staff of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, thank you for sharing your warm memories and for all your support. Ed had so many good friends.
Very best regards,
Paula J. Ehrlich, DVM, PhD
President & CEO, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
Co-Founder, Half-Earth Project
The funeral of E.O. Wilson was held on January 7, 2022. The full transcript of the memorial, officiated by Rev. Dr. Rand Peabody in Lexington Massachusetts, is available.