Tom Friedman Discusses Half-Earth in Prospect Magazine

Image of Tom Friedman.

Writing in Prospect Magazine, Tom Friedman imagines if he were King of the World his ecological plan would be to adopt E.O. Wilson’s vision for Half-Earth, and commit half of the planet’s surface to protected zones.

Read Tom Friedman’s article below, and also come hear him discuss his ideas about Half-Earth at Biodiversity Days, March 2–3 in Durham, North Carolina. Friedman will speak on “Green Is the New Red, White and Blue” on Friday, March 3, and will be joined afterwards for discussion with Thomas Lovejoy (George Mason University) and E.O. Wilson (Harvard University, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation). More details can be found here.

“If I Ruled the World.”
By Thomas Friedman
Originally published in Prospect Magazine, January 17, 2017

What would I do if I were King of the world? I would start by broadcasting a speech about my two broad goals. Firstly, I aspire to create a world in which more people can realise their full potential—to work, invent, parent, collaborate and create joy and wealth with one another. Secondly, I aspire to nurture a planet whose natural systems can continue to sustain human, plant and animal life in as great an abundance and in as healthy a balance as possible.

My eco-plan would be based on the great biologist EO Wilson’s book Half-Earth—a call-to-action to commit half of the planet’s surface—land and oceans—to protected zones. Right now about 15 per cent of the Earth’s land and 10 per cent of its territorial waters are covered by national parks and protected areas. If we protect half the global surface, Wilson argues, the fraction of species protected will be about 85 per cent, which would keep life on Earth in a safe zone. Vast areas will be off limits to logging, fishing and development, except by the indigenous people.

Once I had explained my objectives, I would issue the following royal edicts from the court of King Thomas Friedman:

1. Every child on the planet will be required to complete education from age three through to 12th grade of high school. There is no better way to enable everyone to realise their potential than by ensuring universal education, especially for girls.

2. Every family who wants access to family planning technology and education shall have it for free.

3. No citizen who is not a member of my armed forces or constabulary will be allowed to own a gun, except for hunting, which will require a licence.

4. Anyone seeking to start a new business shall be able to do so with the minimum red tape—ie online and in less than 48 hours. I want my kingdom to be radically entrepreneurial. There will be no corporate taxes. The main taxes will be on carbon, sugar, bullets and a small financial transactions tax. Smoking will be banned. There will be a five per cent income tax up to $100,000 and a 10 per cent income tax on everything above that—with no deductions, so all taxes can be done simply. A minimum income of $20,000 a year will be guaranteed, and healthcare will be provided by a single-payer system supported by a global VAT tax.

5. All post-secondary education will be tax deductible and no college undergraduate degree shall take more than three years. Every accredited university has to offer a low-cost online version of their three most popular majors. These initiatives will encourage life-long learning. Every student will have to take reading, writing and software coding—as well as how to write a business plan—through their primary and secondary education years. Private schools will be banned and public school teachers will pay no tax.

6. The press shall be free to criticise me or anyone else, but if they make a mistake all corrections must run at the top of the front page.

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