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Interactive video lesson plan for: E.O. Wilson Reflects on His Career and Stresses the Importance of Biodiversity

Activity overview:

Legendary biologist Edward O. Wilson claims that the biosphere is incredibly delicate. Without a change in behavior, he says, we will irreversibly harm Earth's biodiversity.


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Transcript - In my long life, actually I'm 85 years old, I've been through a lot of different worlds, mostly biological worlds and parts of the natural world and the like. And what I'm coming increasingly to concentrate on in whatever time I have left is the natural world and the necessary means that we have to use to save it. There are about two million species of plants, animals and microorganisms that we know about, that scientists have found, diagnosed, given a description of and a scientific name, two million almost exactly at the present time. The actual number of species in the world is estimated at roughly eight million species, maybe eight to ten. We don't know. Most of the natural world, most of nature, much of the living part of the environment is unknown to us. And of those species that we know, the two million, we only know the lives, lifecycles and the biology of only a tiny fraction. And of that tiny fraction that we know something about we know just a tiny fraction again of how they interact with other species. We are living in and dependent upon a world, a biosphere in which we evolved and to which we are exquisitely well adapted in every part of our body and our mind, razor thin that biosphere within which we and our fellow organisms live without going into submersibles or space suits. And we are destroying a large part of it.

The rate at which species are going extinct, this is the consensus order of magnitude, I've estimated, others have estimated different ways and so on working in this field of extinction, the rate at which species are going extinct is on an order of magnitude a thousand times faster than what species were, how fast they were going before the coming of humanity. We're hemorrhaging the world's biodiversity. People know that but they just don't seem to grasp what this means. What this means is that the living shield, just from their point, the human point of view, the shield of living organisms that maintains the environment is close to or exactly what humans need, because we evolved as one of them, is being shorn away. We estimate that the number of species of existing unimpaired at the end of the century would be just somewhere around one half. One half will be gone or on the brink of extinction at this rate of extinction.

There are ways to stop this and I think we're going to have to start talking about big changes in how much of the earth's surface we put aside for nature just to keep it from going extinct in a very short period of time. And I'm in a group of scientists working very hard on that part right now, this is what I'm focused on and I hope we might even see what some of the solutions will be, but here's one last interesting point. Just as our salvation is aided by an unintended consequence of women who get any economic freedom stop having children, that is they drop having the children number below zero population growth, which is a very good thing for an overpopulated world right now. In other words we don't have to enforce or persuade much more people to have fewer children, what we need to do is to move as much of the world population into the middle class with women's freedom. We could reach, well this is the United Nations projection, we could reach eight to ten billion by the end of the century and then the population begins to subside [transcript truncated].

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler, Elizabeth Rodd, and Dillon Fitton

Tagged under: E. O. Wilson (Author),Biodiversity (Literature Subject),biology,science,ecology,conservation,environment,ecosphere,lifelonge learning,big ,bigthink.,bigthink

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