ICFC signs on to “Nature Needs Half” movement
November 28, 2017 — “Be a part of the movement to save our planet’s diverse and beautiful wildlife and wild places, and give nature the space it needs to survive and thrive.”
With these words, ICFC was invited to sign on to the Nature Needs Half movement, and we did.
The science behind it is that if we reserve half of the world’s land mass and oceans for wild nature, about 85% of all species will be protected from extinction, thereby averting the prospect of losing half the world’s species by century-end. Nature Needs Half was first proposed by WILD Foundation in 2009. Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson independently arrived at the same thesis, which he calls “Half-Earth”. And, way back in 1972, a figure of 50% of the Earth’s land area was proposed as necessary for maintaining ecosystem function for the benefit of humans.
Does this seem pie-in-the-sky? We may be closer than you think. A study reported in the book Wilderness: Earth's Last Wild Places (2003) found that wilderness* areas then represented 46 percent of the Earth’s land surface. Some of that has since been lost and much is not yet officially protected. But we’re not talking about just wilderness or about pristine areas in which no human sets foot, but the cumulative area in which nature is allowed to function, from small interconnected patches of habitat to vast tracts of wilderness. Protection can be in the form of state-run protected areas, private reserves and indigenous territories.
Not every jurisdiction will be able to preserve or restore half its land mass in a natural state. But many can, in time, and some already are. The key focus is affording adequate protection to as many as possible of the world’s 846 ecoregions. Already, 16% of the Earth’s ecoregions are half protected; another 22% are well within reach of this target. In about a quarter of ecoregions, a very small percentage of habitat remains and the primary focus there will be on protecting what remains.
Can we feed and provision a growing human population if nature has half? It appears so. As societies urbanize and develop, there is a documented trend toward an increasingly efficient use of land and resources. We can produce much more food per unit area through improved agricultural practices and well managed fisheries. We can reduce the land needed for wood and pulp through various means, and shift to sustainability more broadly. As well, preventing deforestation and allowing degraded forests to regenerate will be essential in countering climate change.
Key to the Nature Needs Half vision is the idea that if nature is allowed to thrive, humans are better able to thrive. Nature underpins our biological support systems. Its intrinsic value is beyond measure. To our species it is wondrous, beautiful and endlessly fascinating. Let’s take the path to a world in which both nature and human civilization thrive.
- Nature Needs Half website;
- BioScience paper: An Ecoregion-based approach to protecting half the terrestrial realm
* Wilderness was defined as having 70 percent or more of original vegetation intact, covering at least 10,000 square kilometers and having fewer than five people per square kilometer.
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