Paula Ehrlich Presents on Half-Earth Project at Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit on April 22

Dr. Paula Ehrlich, President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, presented on the ideas and vision behind the Half-Earth Project at the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit in Washington, DC.

On April 22, Ehrlich spoke on the panel, “Science, Conservation, Inspiration: Artists, Scientist, and Institutions Coming Together.” View an archive video recording of the session below (panel begins at approximately the 38:00 mark):

Transcript from the video:

For 3.5 billion years, Earth has been home to countless species. Sadly, human activity has led us to an existential crossroads. We’re losing the natural world at an unprecedented pace. The rate of species extinction is 1,000 times higher than at any time in Earth’s human history.

While we’ve dramatically slowed species loss, we haven’t done nearly enough.

One of the world’s greatest naturalists and thought-leaders, E.O. Wilson, has a solution. He calls it Half-Earth.

Half-Earth is a call to action to protect half of the planet’s lands and oceans, and end the extinction crisis. If we save half, we protect 85% or more of all species.

So how could we possibly do this, protect half the planet? Well, it requires a grand moonshot-like effort.

Here’s where E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation’s Half-Earth Project comes in.

The Half-Earth Project is at work to
1) drive the research needed to better understand and care for our world,
2) provide leadership to guide conservation efforts, and
3) engage people everywhere to participate broadly in the goal to conserve Half-Earth.

We champion research to deepen our understanding and support conservation efforts and stewardship. We’ve created a Knowledge Platform and Mapping Core that will help identify global opportunities to protect species and people. I invite you to learn more about Half-Earth Project by visiting

In closing, I’m pleased to announce that Paul Simon will launch a concert tour this summer to raise awareness about the extinction crisis and the importance of Half-Earth. Join us on the concert tour and take part in this incredible journey to conserve half the planet for the rest of life.

—Paula Ehrlich

Panelists included:

Moderator: Nancy Knowlton, Sant Chair of Marine Science, Smithsonian
Moderator: Thomas Lovejoy, University Professor George Mason University and Senior Fellow United Nations Foundation
Moderator: Steven Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars Director, Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute; Deputy Director, Smithsonian’s National Zoo
Leah Barclay, Australian Forum for Acoustic Ecology
Nora Bynum, Rowe Family Director, Keller Science Action Center at The Field Museum
Eric Dinerstein, Director, WildTech
Paula Ehrlich, President & CEO, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
Carolyn Finney, Professor and Author, Black Faces, White Spaces
Pamela Henson, Historian, Smithsonian Archives
JAYO JAYO, Rap Artist and Ambassador, Teens Dream
Gary E. Knell, President and CEO of the National Geographic Society
Gary Krupnick, Research Scientist, Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History
Maya Lin, Artist and Environmentalist, Founder, What is Missing? and GREENPRINT
David Lodge, Director, Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future
Ana Luz Porzecanski, Director, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History
James Prosek, Painter; Founder of World Trout
Erik Solheim, Executive Director; UN Environment Program
Eleanor Jane Sterling, Chief Conservation Scientist, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History
Joshua Tewksbury, Future Earth Global Hub Director, Colorado and Executive Editor of Anthropocene Innovation in the Human Age

Image of Paula Ehrlich.

Dr. Paula Ehrlich is the President & CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, where she champions biodiversity research to inform conservation efforts, and uses pioneering educational tools and creative media to engage people in the importance of our biological heritage and to encourage a robust response to the extinction crisis. Dr. Ehrlich has more than 25 years of strategic scientific management and research expertise, and diverse academic, non-profit, and corporate leadership experience.

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. With his Half-Earth call-to-action, E.O. Wilson has created the groundwork for one of the grandest conservation efforts of our time, the Half-Earth Project.

Earth Optimism celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution in the area of global conservation with an unprecedented gathering of thought leaders, scientists, environmentalists, artists, civic leaders and international media.

The global conservation movement has reached a turning point. We have documented the fast pace of habitat loss, the growing number of endangered and extinct species, and the increasing speed of global climate change. Yet while the seriousness of these threats cannot be denied, there are a growing number of examples of improvements in the health of species and ecosystems, along with benefits to human well-being, thanks to our conservation actions. Earth Optimism is a global initiative that celebrates a change in focus from problem to solution, from a sense of loss to one of hope, in the dialogue about conservation and sustainability.

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