Many people want to set aside half of Earth as nature

A new survey of 12,000 adults in 12 countries revealed overwhelming support for conservation, as well as knowledge gaps in subjects like extinction rates.

Image result for national geographic: Many people want to set aside half of Earth as nature
A male Bornean orangutan rests in Gunung Palung National Park. The species is critically endangered, in large part due to habitat loss. PHOTOGRAPH BY TIM LAMAN, NAT GEO IMAGE COLLECTION

Famed biologist E.O. Wilson has argued in recent years that humans should set aside half of Earth as nature, an ambitious proposition to stave off mass extinction and safeguard the bulk of our planet’s biodiversity, including its people.

Now, a new poll reveals Wilson isn’t alone in his thinking. On average, the majority of survey respondents across a dozen countries said more than half of the planet’s land and sea should be protected.

Jonathan Baillie, executive vice president and chief scientist of National Geographic Society, notes that this Half-Earth plan is necessary to meet the Paris climate target of limiting global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degree Celsius) and achieve the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. “People want what is scientifically needed for us to have a secure future,” he says.

Though people across the globe generally support conservation and saving wildlife, the survey results also revealed a poor understanding about topics such as extinction, in part due to lack of education. (Here’s what we lose when species go extinct.)

For instance, respondents in all countries were highly aware of the rapid pace of mass extinction underway, yet “they don’t know exact details or understand the extent of what we could lose,” says Baillie. MORE

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