Protecting half of the planet could directly affect over one billion people

Related GLP Member: Dr. Julie Zähringer, Erle Ellis, Zia Mehrabi, Navin Ramankutty

In light of continuing global biodiversity loss, one ambitious proposal has gained considerable traction amongst conservationists: the goal to protect half the Earth. A new analysis by GLP Working Group Coordinator Julie Zähringer and colleagues suggests that at least one billion people live in places that would be protected if the Half Earth proposal were implemented within all ecoregions. Taking into account the social and economic impacts of such proposals is central to addressing social and environmental justice concerns, and assessing their acceptability and feasibility.

Her paper in Nature Sustainability contributes to an important conversation in our community about the Half Earth proposal.

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First propoposed by E.O. Wilson in his 2016 book, Half-Earth, the idea entered land system science circles last year, when 49 scientists wrote a landmark paper exploring how feasible Half Earth might be across Earth's different terrestrial ecosystems.

Eric Dinerstein, the lead author on the paper, was a keynote speaker at the OSM this year, and a session on Half Earth was so popular that there was standing room only.

Interest has been equally keen in the literature, with GLP Member Zia Mehrabi and GLP Fellow Erle Ellis publishing an article, Half Earth: promises, pitfalls, and prospects of dedicating Half of Earth's land to conservation (open access) in June 2019 in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, which followed on an article by Mehrabi, Ellis and SSC Member Navin Ramankutty on the challenge of feeding the world while conserving half the planet in the GLP special issue of Nature Sustainability.

We look forward to continuing and growing this discussion in the coming months.

Read an interview with Julie Zähringer about the most recent paper at the CDE website.