“What a thrilling honor it is to be here tonight to pay tribute to Ed Wilson, at the launch of his “Half-Earth” initiative. He has been a hero—a planet hero of mine—ever since I read Consilience.”
Our survival is inextricably entwined with the survival of all species that call our planet home. Yet our current destructive trajectory is resulting in mass extinction of species and irreparable damage to our world. Formally launched with a gala event on May 31, 2016 in New York City with special guest Glenn Close, the Half-Earth Project will provide knowledge that helps us better understand our world, leadership to guide us in best caring for our planet, and media to catalyze change and monitor progress towards the goal of Half-Earth. Dynamic & interactive maps will track conservation status, population, areas of biodiversity richness and risk, conservation target areas, and progress towards the goal of Half-Earth. The Half-Earth Project will have science at its core and our transcendent moral obligation to the rest of life at its heart.
REMARKS AND MATERIALS FROM THE LAUNCH OF THE HALF-EARTH PROJECT
“E.O. Wilson, Ed, has always written about the importance of transcendent moments of discovery; how important they are in compelling us to do something extraordinary with our lives and make a difference in the world. In Half-Earth, Ed writes about naturalists’, “Lord God” moments. You know, that moment when a pair of ivory-billed woodpeckers suddenly descend out of nowhere and you say, “Lord God” what was that?!! As Ed says, Lord God moments can come from anywhere and at any time. For naturalists, it’s when your world is suddenly rocked by a Lord God salamander, or a Lord God butterfly, or (for Ed) a Lord God ant. My Lord God moment was the day that I received the first draft of Half-Earth. I called Ed and said; “this is a Lord God book!” and he said, “What?” And I said, “this is a Lord God book!” and he said, “What?” Finally I said, with my best southern accent, “this is a Lord God good book!” And he said, “Oh!”
With Half-Earth, Ed has inspired a ‘moonshot’ and has created the groundwork for one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time. Throughout his life, Ed Wilson has spearheaded efforts to protect the world’s biodiversity. Informed by years of groundbreaking research and participation on the Boards of many conservation organizations, his Half-Earth call-to-action comes out of and has been supported by many of you. I think we each recognize something of ourselves—some core of our humanity—in everything that Ed writes, that inspires us in our lives and in all that we do, however we work to care for our planet. So, thank you all for coming here tonight to celebrate Ed’s life achievements and help us bring Half-Earth to life.”
—Paula Ehrlich (President & CEO, EOWBF)
“Today then we are gathered here not merely to honor Dr. Wilson wordsmith extraordinaire, entomologist, naturalist, visionary, and to my mind, most profoundly, humanitarian—but to draw attention, as Ed would want it, to the loss of habitat that threatens our extinction, and to the paucity of years that remain before scientific redress is no longer possible. This Half-Earth Project then elevates global conservation to an exceedingly urgent level, one that Ed believes, if successfully implemented, can stop the hemorrhaging of the species so that we wont ever feel the need to abscond in a spaceship to some unknown realm.”
“The grand inspiration of Professor E.O. Wilson drives many UNDP staff working on biodiversity conservation. Biodiversity is a familiar word now. But it was not a word until E.O. Wilson created it. He hasn’t just added a word to our dictionaries, but has added a concrete aspect to our philosophy and way of expressing and explaining our thoughts. And putting thoughts into actions.
As UNDP we are very much looking forward to joining the new adventure—”Half-Earth”— providing our tangible contributions through our biodiversity programme.
And I would like to sincerely thank you, Professor Wilson, for your strong global leadership and inspiration to humanity!”
—David Prend (Chairman, EOWBF Board of Directors) on behalf of UNDP
“In truth, can one offer a greater psychic gratification to someone than their knowing that a species, a race, didn’t die out because of something they did? Will their children not likely to be prouder of these actions than any others their parents have taken? If my own experience is any guide, the answer to both questions is clear. Strategic investments in imperiled species protection creates an inspiring message that promotes hope and action in an age of cynicism and obfuscation.
We thank you, Ed, for framing the science for us. Equally, on behalf of the Alliance members today and those that will surely follow, we thank you for teaching us the lesson which I know will resonate above all others when we tell our story: ‘one makes a living by what one gets; one makes a life by what one gives.’”
PHOTO GALLERY, HARVARD CLUB OF NEW YORK CITY, MAY 31, 2016
Photographs by Casey Hechler