Planet Earth benefits us every day. Food, medicine, security, wellbeing. These fundamentals are only possible because of the countless other species with whom we share our planet—and the places they call home. Biodiversity, or the complex web of life in our planet’s ecosystems, is critical to our survival. But development and climate change are wiping out species before we can even discover them. Scientists agree that securing enough of the biodiversity of the planet’s lands and waters will be essential as we face increasing environmental challenges.
This fall, the Smithsonian Institution and the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation will welcome speakers from diverse sectors and perspectives to discuss how we can restore and protect biodiversity worldwide. We invite you to join us for the discussion at “Our Shared Future – a conversation in celebration of Half-Earth Day 2022.” This public event will be held October 13 at the Baird Auditorium at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. And these vital conversations will go global as we share them online to mark Half-Earth Day 2022 on October 22.
“Our Shared Future, a conversation in celebration of Half-Earth Day, is a forum to exchange information and insight that can help us re-imagine the way we care for our planet,” explains Dr. Paula J. Ehrlich, President and CEO of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation and co-founder of the Half-Earth Project. “We want to spark conversations not only about why places are special and why they should be conserved, but also why they are an important part of our lives, and inspire participation in their protection.”
Speakers at Our Shared Future will include Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, who will share how her native community is using their traditional knowledge to protect the Sea Islands of the southeast. Dr. Dawn Wright, chief scientist at ESRI, will highlight the technologies that give a satellite’s eye-view to where species thrive and how they move. Community insights and science will combine with conservation success stories in landscapes from Maine to Mozambique. And wildlife biologist and TV host Jeff Corwin will guide the conversation, bringing his talents in sharing science with a global audience to inspire a greater understanding of the importance of species in global and national policy decision-making.
Just as a healthy ecosystem relies on contributions from a vast variety of species, inclusive collaboration is critical for achieving the goals of the conservation movement. “Ecological dynamics are changing across boundaries, and threats don’t stop at borders,” said Dr. Walter Jetz, scientific chair of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation. “Given that we want to—and need to—address the whole globe, we need to bring together people with different backgrounds and insights to deliver the science that can be used to make decisions that operationalize these aspirations.”
Speakers from the emerging generation of scientific, business, and community leadership will include Half-Earth Project Scholar Indigenous Mozambican, Norina Vicente, whose expertise in biodiversity began with an interest in ants that was inspired by the late Edward O. Wilson’s (1929 – 2021) early career passion. Vicente will share science on the diversity of life that she is documenting inside Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, one of the richest biodiversity havens on the planet.
A collaborative, expansive approach to saving biodiversity builds on the legacy of Edward O. Wilson, one of the foremost naturalists in both science and literature. In his acclaimed book Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, Wilson shared a vision of protecting half of the planet’s land and sea to ensure its long-term health. He championed a collective conservation effort to protect all species in order to protect ourselves, “reweaving the wondrous diversity of life that still surrounds us.”
“As we’re all now leaning forward with a renewed awareness that human fate is dependent in the long and short term on the care of our planet, E.O. Wilson offered us a hopeful solution,” Ehrlich said. “Half-Earth was meant to inspire curiosity, empower individual and community insight, and establish the mind and spirit of a movement culture that would ensure truly successful conservation outcomes. He inspired us with a powerful goal: Why we should protect sufficient lands and seas to safeguard biodiversity. It is now up to all of us to have the conversations about How.”
Half-Earth Day celebrations like Our Shared Future and the global network inspired by Wilson’s vision continue the conversation, welcoming diverse ideas for solving the planet’s extinction crisis, and in particular providing a forum for voices and insights that have been historically overlooked. The aim is that these conversations will transform decision makers understanding of the many things that should be considered globally and locally to best address the species extinction crisis and ensure conservation success.
“I am optimistic about the growing breadth of data and information that we can bring to the fore, Jetz said. “New technologies can synthesize data not just for particular regions, but increasingly globally and at finer spatial detail. This science empowers local decision-makers with information about the local and global relevance of the species they steward.”
Biodiversity begins with nature, but it is more than nature. By evolving our approach to our planet’s health across government, science, and society, we can protect health, economy, and culture alongside the natural world. When we safeguard biodiversity, we protect ourselves too.
“Our Shared Future – a conversation in celebration of Half-Earth Day 2022” is generously supported by The Smithsonian Institution, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, Half-Earth Project, HHMI Tangled Bank Studios, Audubon, Burt’s Bees, Garrison Institute, National Geographic Society, and James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Foundation. View the full list of speakers.