Excerpt from Rescuing the Planet by Tony Hiss, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Rescuing the Planet

Protecting Half the Land to Heal the Earth

by Tony Hiss

Rescuing the Planet by Tony Hiss X
Rescuing the Planet by Tony Hiss
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  • Published:
    Mar 2021, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Print Excerpt

Wilson has seen his share of battles. The author of more than thirty books, he is known as the father of sociobiology and hailed as the champion of biodiversity. His now widely accepted theory of island biogeography explains why even large national parks lose species if they're cut off from surrounding landscapes that could let new animals wander in. (Biogeography is the study of what lives where.)

Wilson grew up in and around Mobile, Alabama, and though he's been at Harvard for more than sixty years, he still refers to himself as a southern boy who came north to earn a living. He is courtly, twinkly, soft-spoken, has a shock of unruly white hair, and is slightly stooped from bending over to look at small things all his life—he's the world's leading authority on ants. By the time I met with him, Wilson had earned more than 150 awards and honors, including two Pulitzer Prizes. Now his most urgent task has become a quest to refute skeptics who think there isn't enough left of the natural world to save. "It's been in my mind for years," Wilson said, "that people haven't been thinking big enough—even conservationists."

On the porch, looking out on a lush longleaf pine forest, we took an eons-long view, going back through the 544 million years since hard-shelled animals first appeared. During this time there's been a gradual increase in the number of plants and animals on the planet, despite five mass extinction events. The high point of biodiversity probably coincided with the moment modern humans left Africa and spread out across the globe sixty thousand years ago. As people arrived, other species faltered and vanished. Wilson himself says a "biological holocaust," a sixth extinction, is still possible, and also still preventable, depending on the choices we make now and in the next few decades. "Half Earth is the goal," he told me, "but it's how we get there, whether we can come up with a system of wild landscapes we can hang on to."

Excerpted from Rescuing the Planet by Tony Hiss. Copyright © 2021 by Tony Hiss. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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