Editor’s Letter: We Need Half Earth

The outdoor community needs to come together to act and save the species of this planet from mass extinction.

Sudan, the last male white rhino on Earth died last month at a reserve in Kenya surrounded by armed guards protecting him from poachers. While two females still live and there is some hope that scientists can keep the subspeices, which no longer survives in the wild, extant, the passing of this giant, noble, ancient creature speaks to an even more disturbing crisis we face as humans: We are eliminating life on our planet. For me, the loss of Sudan was yet another wake-up call. We need to do more than just bemoan what humanity is doing to this planet that we should be smart enough and compassionate enough to shepherd. We need to act. Now. And then an even more depressing thought hit me—how many times have concerned homo sapiens said those same words over the past decades? And still we are losing.

In an editorial in the New York Times, one of my personal heroes, the biologist and environmental thinker E.O. Wilson laid down exactly what we need to do to preserve the vast diversity of living creatures on this planet. We must set aside one half of the Earth for them. That seems only fair considering we share existence with an estimated 8.7 million other species. Indeed, there’s no need to look to the skies. We are not alone here on Earth.

“The extinction of species by human activity continues to accelerate, fast enough to eliminate more than half of all species by the end of this century,” Wilson wrote.

Continuing, he provided solutions: “The worldwide extinction of species and natural ecosystems, however, is not reversible. Once species are gone, they’re gone forever. Even if the climate is stabilized, the extinction of species will remove Earth’s foundational, billion-year-old environmental support system. A growing number of researchers, myself included, believe that the only way to reverse the extinction crisis is through a conservation moonshot: We have to enlarge the area of Earth devoted to the natural world enough to save the variety of life within it.” (You can read more about Wilson’s plan and the Half Earth campaign here: bit.ly/2c6KgXb.)

To do this, we in the national outdoor community need to put aside our differences and work together. Recently, I have heard a lot of conflict between outdoor enthusiasts who hunt and those who abhor it (a lot of it spurred on by much needed debates over guns). Beyond political arguments, I personally have no desire to hunt—I have been vegetarian for two decades and take spiders in my house outside. But I know ethical hunters who cultivate a deep, caring spiritual relationship with the wild. They own guns responsibly and they pay fees that contribute to conservatiion. If we do want to save the earth, we will need to find ways to see our similar purpose and find solutions for the world together. Maybe it’s time for non-hunters to pay fees that go towards conservation. Maybe it’s time for more hunters and more conservative outdoor enthusiasts to rethink political policies that speed the extermination of life on Earth. We need to act together.

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