Well, like the big banks. Their just too big. You can't let them fail. We thought that nothing we could do could harm the ocean. Well, I think it was the attitude about nature generally that no matter how many trees we cut, how many animals we killed, that we could still breathe, life would go on, pretty much the same as it always has. And that has particularly been true with the ocean, and we're still catching up with that idea. There was a time when we took wild birds commercially, and then we realized, somewhere along the way, that wasn't going to work. We could exterminate, and we did exterminate a number of wild birds by taking them commercially. Think passenger pigeons, for example, gone! I mean, gone-- gone.
We came close to doing it with the great whales, and then we realized if we keep doing what we're doing, there won't be any more, whether you like them alive or dead as pounds of meat and barrels of oil. If you take them all, that's it. So, I think the 20th century was a time of awakening as never before about what the limits are that our prosperity, our numbers going up as wildlife and wild systems declined.
But we still don't get it about the ocean. I've, in the last months attended, any, well a number of, significant conferences and instead of talking about well, how do we restore sharks, how do we get tuna to come back, and cod, oh my goodness, the cod, in this part of the world and on down the list. Herring, menhaden, in the 60s and 70s, their numbers were here-- today they're like, here.
And we're still trying to set quotas on how many of them can we kill-- quotes "sustainably". And so we point to illegal, unregulated, and unreported catches as-- and always say climate change is the real reason that things are changing. And of course, climate change, the warming of the planet, is having a profound impact on all creatures, ourselves along with other living things. But you can't go on killing things at the scale that we have imposed on the land and in the sea and expect there to be no consequences. And I love your comment, Professor Wilson about--
I don't have it exactly right, but that over 10,000 years in North America, humans consumed the large, the slow and the tasty, or words to that effect. And we were just left with some remnants here in the 21st century. But in the ocean until the 20th century, except for some of the big things like whales, and the big sea cow that was exterminated in the 1700s in Alaska. But most of the ocean was beyond our reach. It was protected by its inaccessibility. Polar seas, the deep sea, coastal areas had been accessed, and a lot of wildlife extracted, but nothing on the scale that began in the middle of the 20th century, when the weapons of war were really applied to the ocean. Whether it was finding, or catching, or marketing, sending to distant places wildlife taken from one part of the planet to feed a largely, luxury taste on another part of the planet. With the same idea that the ocean is so big there's nothing we can do to harm it. We've used it as the ultimate dumpsite.
We've also used it increasingly as a place to extract the last wild populations for commercial exploitation, for food and the idea that it's food security. But except for island nations and some coastal communities, it's not food security. It's commerce. It's food choice. It's a luxury choice or it's for goods that are used to feed farm animals or the desire to use the oil from fish. You squeeze the oil out of the fish you use for the source of omega oils that the fish get from plants, oh by the way, so why not just go to the plants instead of going through a fish. Anyway, so--
Can I ask one--
So, let me stop the rant and--
One question, I'm just curious, as a practicing field based marine biologist, when did you realize the ocean was not too big to fail and is there some personal moment, some experience, something you saw that tipped you off that said wait a minute.
You know, I feel like a time traveler, because, as a witness, having my roots deep in the 20th century and emerging into the 21st, I've just seen two things, a greater time of exploration, of learning, of knowing who we are, big questions you ask where we come from, where are we going, but at the same time, there's been no greater period of loss. In such a short time, we've just-- whether it's trees or continuing impact on birds, what we've done to the skies above, the water, freshwater and marine.
And I guess as a kid in Florida, on the Gulf Coast of Florida, I went to high school, Clear Water High School. And I saw it change, so you couldn't call it that anymore. It was the dredging along the shore, turning seagrass meadows and mangrove bordered shores into parking lots and housing developments. And again our prosperity went like this-- or apparently so. But we were not accounting for the cost, or the loss. So I think, I didn't have to read it in books, I lived it.
Let me turn to Professor Wilson, welcome.
Can you elaborate a bit about your half earth concept? I know you've written-- you've elaborated on it in a new book, but tell us in a nutshell what is it and is it realistic?
Yeah it is, and I'll tell you why. Actually, I should mention that I've just returned from Honolulu a couple of weeks ago. Two of the major global environmental conferences, including the IUN Quadrennial meeting, and I found the half earth idea immensely popular. Unanimous, almost.
You're halfway there.
Monday, I addressed the environmental sustainability section of the network of the United Nations. Again-- complete enthusiastic agreement. So we're not-- if this is a nut scheme, we have a lot of nuts and I'm really appreciating the quickness with which it's moving. Let me grab this opportunity, if I might, to just mention a few facts about biodiversity to illustrate more clearly what the situation is.
So I'll just ask a series of quick questions and give you the answers. How many species are there on earth? Answer, we just passed the scribing and diagnosing-- two million. This is a very slow process and we're describing new species, and I'm now talking outside of the 63,000 species of vertebrate animals-- fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals. I'm talking on down for the rest of living organisms, two million estimated actual number by statistical inference techniques that actually exist among the eukaryotic organisms, about eight to ten million. We know, then, somewhere in the vicinity of only 20% of the species on Earth, Of the prokaryotes, the microscopic organisms that form the real foundation biodiversity, we know almost nothing about the extent.
So we will, at the present rate of a study of biodiversity, and we get down into the-- what I like to call the little things that run the Earth, the invertebrates. And then, on the microfauna and flora, when will we complete at the present rate of work in mapping Earth biodiversity, finish the job? Sometime in the 23rd century. Let me repeat that. Sometimes in the 23rd century, we will have a pretty good map of biodiversity. Therefore, we rely on the vertebrates particularly, although we do have some good data from the invertebrates for most of our information on the extinction process. We are pretty sure that it's the same in the rest of the invertebrates. And in that 80% of species remaining unknown. For those who think that taxonomy, I might add, was a 19th and 20th century activity that now has pretty well finished, I beg you to think again. That we need, what I like to call a Renaissance of taxonomy, or a Linnaean Renaissance of returning to the job of mapping the Earth's biodiversity. And then we'll have a complete picture.
e fast are these species going extinct? About 1,000 times fast-- faster than baseline, that is before humans spread around the world. How well are we doing, all of the global conservation organizations in the world, in slowing the rate of extinction? We have the data for the vertebrates, as just noted, and the IUCN red list of vulnerable to critically endangered species. Along-- that's a scale. Notes has found that about 20% of the vertebrate species just named, 20% are vulnerable to critically endangered.
How well have all of these organizations done in all of their effort up 'til now? This is a rather shocking figure. 20 percent of that one fifth of species that are endangered to some degree, 20% of those, have been stopped in the slide toward extinction. The remainder continuing on down to extinction, so we're not doing it well enough. And that is the reason for the half Earth proposal. If we can set aside half of the Earth and half of the sea, and we can do it and I'll be very glad to go into some detail as required, then we can be pretty sure that if we do it right, we can save, that it is put as sustainable, somewhere or a figure that's close to what it may turn out to be. It's about 85% of the species on Earth, half the Earth saved, somewhere in the 80% range of species saved for the sea, and for the land.
So this is not a lunatic idea. Habitat reduction is the major cause. I mean there are lots of other causes, including the brutal over-harvesting, but that is the saving of habitat, the setting aside of large reserves, is the way to save the rest of life. And it should be part of a universe-- a global effort. I think the enthusiasm engendered by the half Earth initiative comes from the fact that it's just a goal. I hope I'm not going to go on too long. I suggest a goal, whereas the entire global conservation movement consists of a process moving toward goal here and there, with the hope of putting them all together and eventually saying well, we've done the job. We know what the job-- how to do the job. Half the Earth, and that has a satisfying feel of it, that we now can make it to a goal. That's what inspirits people, that's what they can understand, and that's what they're likely to accept.
You know John Kennedy in 1963, when you talk about our expedition to the moon, he did not say in this century we will make considerable progress in landing a man on the moon. He said, in this-- it was in this decade, by the end of this decade, we will put a man on the moon and then return him to Earth. And that's what really brought full support to our space program. And we can do the same thing with conservation. So thank you for the opportunity to make that pitch. But I do feel that there is a solution, and there is also the solution as I know you understand completely, Sylvia. If we could, as for the sea, and we could go through the details, but I don't want to take half the evening, if we can put the open ocean off limits for fishing, then the--
That's half the world, right there.
Half the world.
We know that we are pretty sure of this. Off limits. Then the territorial waters, the economic exclusion zones of the 150 nations that have territorial ocean front, their fisheries and their general marine life will go up.
Can I make a comment? I don't want to deprive you of--
Oh yeah. I've just finished.
OK, hold off and you can have a short comment.
Yeah, OK. It's just that presently, the amount of ocean that is protected is because of the extraordinary efforts of the last two presidents using the Antiquities Act. George W. Bush, first, amazingly, was the largest marine protected area at the time. The Papahanaumokuakea Marine Reserve in Hawaii that was just expanded, like four times that amount by President Obama and I did have an opportunity to have a little walk with him on the beach and thank him for doing that. At the same time, a Monk seal, one of those endangered mammals came lumbering up on the beach, and I had a chance to point out that most of what was protected in that new and largest, protected area so far on the planet, consisted of species that have yet to be named, because they are in the deep sea. And the average depth of the ocean is 2 and 1/2 miles, and the maximum of seven miles and most of the Papahanaumokuakea is in that average to a deeper extent, because Hawaiian Islands come up like this and most of it drops off into deep water very rapidly.
And as a census of marine life determined, a 10 year program of looking at how many of what kind of creatures live now, or used to live, or might live in the future. They found that the deeper you go, the less we know. The more new species were discovered as the inquiries into the greater depths continued. No surprise. Only three people have been to the deepest part of the ocean in all of human history and come back.
Might be interesting to just mention the-- I'm kind of turning into the numbers man. I've never enjoyed doing that. But for your information and in the case you were wondering, 15% of the land in the world is now under protection and 3% of the sea.
It's about three.
Well, we can go from three percent to 50% and more if Sylvia is successful in persuading the coastal nations to--
Stop the killing.
Set aside-- to take all fishing off of the open sea.
There are only a dozen nations right now, and especially four with subsidies. This is not even a profitable endeavor. Taxpayer money, mostly not ours, except that we're the marketplace for it, much of what is taken, keeps these fleets going far beyond where local fishermen would ever go, out beyond the 200 mile limit into the high seas. High cost of fuel, and it's also woven in with this dark side of what humans do with human trafficking, drug trafficking, and arms trafficking using these commercial fishing fleets as a cover-- of conduits for other forms of bad behavior.
I'm going to cut in and I kind of know how Matt Lauer feels after sitting up here. I'm going to turn to Justine now, and come back. Follow on something that Ed said about the species for which conservation efforts have been successful and halting this. First off, Justine if you could tell us what exactly were you doing with all those test tubes and something-- in the film?
I probably looks a bit like the evil scientist tinkering, but what we were doing was with really studying the basic biology of the species. And so that's really our first point of call when we're working with a threatened species. We need to understand as much as we can about their biology and certainly their reproductive biology, so that we can apply any sister breeding technique. So we were working with sperm sexing, which is a technology where you assess the data content in each sperm. And because sperm carrying the X chromosome, also called female sperm, have more DNA than sperm with the Y chromosome, on male sperm.
Then the machine that we use, the flow cytometer, will show us basically which population of sperm have more DNA. They release more fluorescence when they pass by laser. And so that technology, which was originally developed by the USDA, we've adapted it for use in wildlife species. So we can get the female sperm. We can freeze it, and then we can inseminate that into a female at any time into the future and produce female offspring. So for threatened species, this method has potential to repopulate them but at a faster rate. In terms of the species that we've worked with so far, we have developed it in the bottlenose dolphin. It's an example of a species that we can-- we know a lot about its basic biology. We can collect samples very easily-- urine samples from the females to determine when they're going to ovulate. For a lot of other species, those techniques and those aspects of their biology is still being determined.
But for the rhino though, the topic in the film-- we have artificial insemination. That's just starting to be successful in rhino species. And so we would like to integrate the sperm sexing into that artificial insemination approach. Now we're not saying that this is the solution to conserving a species. Our habitat protection is the ultimate goal and has to be the most important aspect, but the tools where we're developing, we do see as one important tool in the conservation toolbox. And techniques like sperm cord preservation, so we can freeze sperm from a male while he is alive or after, at death. And those sperm can be stored indefinitely. So that's a form of biodiversity that we see as incredibly valuable, because we can reintroduce those genetics back into the population long after that male has died.
So the techniques we're using, we do see as, I guess you could call them insurance techniques, just like the populations of animals in zoos are insurance populations.
Can you do it with non-mammals? How taxonomically diverse is the appropriate targets and is it realistic?
Yeah, mammals are the only ones. So birds-- the question has been asked if we could do that, but their sex determination system is different, so sperm are all of the same sex so to speak. But you have to have a decent difference in size of the X and Y chromosome for the technology to work.
I think I'm going to turn now and ask the audience for questions. And then, just so you-- as a warning, if you ask a question, assuming I hear it, I'm going to repeat it. So that it's picked up in the microphone and then the appropriate person will speak. Yes, ma'am.
I think that in all of these discussions there is a something that we don't address. And my question is, what chance of success have all of these conservation strategies if we don't limit human population and do it draconianly.
Question-- is what chance of success do these or any conservation measure have if we don't somehow limit human population growth?
I'll answer that if I might, because I just had a conversation with the head of the United Nations Population Research Unit.
You came to the right place.
Rejections are with fertility. [INAUDIBLE] the wrong, bad expression, but it's the one we use. Women fertility, how many children they expect and can rear to maturity, are plummeting around the world. Every time the middle class is developed and women are given some degree of economic freedom, as you probably know, something sudden and dramatic happens. And that is the number of children produced drops. And it's dropping continuously, so that a few countries are already at negative population growth. The estimates are that this trend-- we expect it to increase and hopefully accelerate, we will end up around the turn of the century, in the next century, at somewhere between 8 and 11 billion people. That's roughly 50% more than we have now. But then, if-- unless we have perturbations that start the family sizes going up again, we can expect to see a slow decline. We've got to figure out how to feed the present population. Incidentally, I'm just crazy with numbers tonight. The average production of food worldwide per person is 28,000 calories a day. And we can keep pace with new technologies, which I'd love to go into if we had the time, but we can do that. We can manage population. Particularly since most of it in the areas where most of the biodiversity is found are imploding into the cities.
So let me follow up with that question, so given those population projections, are you confident that the population-- I'm sorry, the conservation measures you are advocating through half Earth and that Justine is involved with, and Sylvia as well, will be successful?
Can I weigh in on this? You know, even with half a billion people on the planet, which might be something like the optimum number we could ultimately get to, if you have the wrong attitude armed with today's technology, you can still eliminate that which keeps us alive and have a huge impact on the natural world. The real key is knowing. The real key is knowing why our lives are totally dependent on taking care of the natural world. Period. And to treat all of it with respect, and to find a place within the systems that keep us alive. However many of us there are. And I think 11 million is really pushing the envelope. I think we're already pushing the envelope for a quality of life for people around the world. But the real key is kids of today, have access, their beneficiaries of all preceding learning. And it's a matter of getting that knowledge distributed and embedded in the minds and hearts of people who were decades along as well as kids who are just coming along. We have a chance, if we are knowledgeable, if we know there's a chance we can care. But if we don't know, then the optimistic view that we'll pull out of this looks pretty shaky, but I'm the optimist. I think never before is there a better time to be around, because we are armed with knowing what to do in saving nature. All our lives depend on it.
Forgive me for circumventing you for just a moment, boss. OK
Boss in name only.
The circumventing just to say that I realize that I'm probably coming across as an optimist, but I-- what I see is what they've been calling in the current presidential election, and that's the only mention that will be made there of that tonight, is a talk about a pathway towards something. And the pathway widens just a little bit when we consider the ecological footprint. Now it's too big for the population. It's too big, because we need to bring the ecological footprint down as well. Meaning the amount of space required to sustain, on average, one person. And I won't give you-- bore you with the figures, but the fact is that high technology is producing, along with all these other destructive things, high technology is producing an armamentarium of methodologies and following the law-- really what's a law of economic evolution toward smaller size, less material use, less energy use, fewer breakdowns, and less repair. That is a law of economics that's being followed. So that this will have a big impact on the ecological footprint.
Further, with the right kind of hydroponics and vertical farming, where with, particularly with LED light, we can raise crops on the Arctic Circle in the middle of winter, we can solve the food problem, I think, with less and less space. So these are things that, in fact, we should be directing or help direct our best efforts in high technology. Not going to space and looking for that planet where we're going to send all these people when the Earth gives out, but saving this earth with the help of high technology.
Yes, sir. Question.
Hi, I was wondering if you could speak to the notion of-- I mean we were all kind of jarred from the images and the clips of the hunters standing by the leopards and the lions and what not. But, I was wondering if you could speak to the notion of, the somewhat counterintuitive argument of trophy hunting when well managed, not obviously corrupt, but producing funds upwards of half a million dollars from individual quote, unquote [INAUDIBLE], and what role that might have on conservation in the future.
The question is-- I'll just shorten it. Is that what is-- is there a role for trophy hunting in conservation of those species, those particular species.
When well managed.
Well-- well-managed trophy hunting. Anybody want to?
Yeah, there's an advantage. I'm sorry to maybe counter your expectation. A country that's a very poor country, especially that needs to attract more tourism could have hunting ranges that are carefully managed that could become, in themselves, wildlife refuges and bring money to the country. It's not the way you'd want to do it, but it shouldn't be out of the question.
Ugh. Excuse me, but it certainly sends the wrong message to kids coming along. Ah, the joy of killing. So you don't stop with animals, you start with one another. There seems to be a lot of fun in that. We certainly have an appetite for war. I'd like to think that it's not necessarily a part of human nature, but there's a long history of us killing our animal neighbors and plant neighbors and our human neighbors But, you know, if we're going to really get it right, I think the ethics of how we live, the morality of it, we need to think about is that the right thing to capitalize and make an industry, a commercial industry, for whatever justification you linked to it, of killing innocent animals-- sport killing. I mean, I know. I hear the arguments.
I'm going to disagree with you and I think it will make it more interesting. First-- a man--
We can also ask Justine if she wants to stake out a third--
You-- we'll get young people involved here in just a moment. I'm from Alabama originally, and I know the depth of the hunting and fishing instinct, which is so powerful that in this country, the national park system has a practice now of adding on what they call preserves to new parks that they create. And those preserves are explicitly to allow and even encourage hunting and fishing. If you don't do that, then you get-- and it's not just the South or the Wild West, it's everywhere. If you don't do it, then you're going to get very serious kickback from surrounding large, often huge populations of hunters and fishermen. So we have to take, and it does not diminish biodiversity if carefully managed, so it's just an expedient. But I couldn't agree with you more than, about the need for a major moral shift and we're capable of doing that, I think.
And it does come with knowing. I mean, there's a nice little book out, I'm sorry I can't remember the author's name, but it's on what a fish knows that really describes in intriguing detail the latest and greatest insights into the social behavior and structure and individuality and characteristics of our fellow vertebrates. 33,000 of our fellow vertebrates are fish. And it's not surprising that they have these amazing behaviors and intricate relationships. That they've been around longer than other vertebrates, longer to develop these habits that are intriguing, but because they're in a place we don't generally live-- underwater. That's not speaking for myself.
But it's-- you don't know them, and so it's easy to just think of them as things as commodities. And really knowing what I've come to see and appreciate about fish and what they sense, what they feel-- that lateral line down the side and their ability to sense things that we can only dream about. It's such an abuse of our intellect to just not respect other forms of life for who and what they are. And to treat them as objects, whether it's sport killing of fish or sport killing of bears or sport killing and whatever, the joy of killing. It seems to me that we have the capacity to emerge into a different way of respecting life, and why it matters. It should not be considered fun to take somebody's life. And yet we're--
We're conditioned from the time we were little kids to-- oh, let's go shoot something or oh, let's go out and, you know, the fishing magazines that show smiling parents with a little kid and a dead fish that's not smiling. We teach that it's OK to kill on that basis. We are beyond feeding ourselves with wildlife. While bushmeat is the source of sustenance for some people, used to be the source of sustenance for all of us, but not anymore. So you can't justify it on the basis-- for most of the sport hunting is not about feeding people, it's a learned behavior. Let's go have fun killing something.
Time for one more question, I think we'll take from that group. Some person in the back there, yes. Yes, you.
I'm just going to stand up so you can hear.
My question is for all of you.
Please speak loud so we can hear.
My question is for all of you. Where does your strength come in this fight. This is a hard fight. I'm a mom of four. I grew up in Wyoming. I studied in East Africa. I've seen crazy. evil things in this world and I know you have times a hundred. But where do you find your personal strength to keep up this fight for those of us that want to instill this in our children. For the next generation, where can we get that energy that you have.
Question is where does, for the people up here, where does the personal strength to continue this fight for conservation? For obvious reasons, I'm going to ask Justine to answer first.
Well, I mean, really for me, my strength would come from my peers and the people that I see are in the battle every day to save these species. And then going back to the rhino, there's so many different formats of protecting rhinos. To the people that are trying to educate our populations in Asia against-- why do you need this horn, it has no medicinal value. I mean, there's so many different groups trying to save these species, and so you see yourself as one little cog, but one little cog that needs to keep moving. When you see the numbers about 1 rhino is poached-- is killed every eight hours or less. I mean, they're staggering numbers, and we all have a role in trying to combat that.
Let Ed go first.
I'd like to answer the question by conducting a quick poll. I [INAUDIBLE]. Would all, in the audience who are Harvard students raise their hand please. Oh. Are we on vacation right now or what? Would all of the people, Harvard or not, who are 30 years old or younger raise your hand please. Oh and now we're talking. OK. What I want to say to you is we put all of our talk and almost all of it, in public discourse up to this point, in the non living environment. If you think about it, we have almost ignored the living environment and that's been a dangerous omission. I am telling you with a certain degree of certainty, that the study of biodiversity and the conservation of it and the use of it, as a branch of science, of conservation practice, of ecology, and of economics, is going to be one of the next big things. Prepare to come in and be a leader. There's going to be plenty of opportunities opening up. Practical opportunities in your professional lives. Opportunities to make marvelous scientific and technical discoveries, and this is going to be the high road that Sylvia was talking about. With the awareness of a growing part of an expanding part of our culture, the base of our moral reasoning prepared-- being prepared for us, I think we're going to develop that new general rule that I suggest, do no further harm to the biosphere.
Do unto fish as you would have them do unto you.
It is about knowing. It really is. I appreciate that there are some intelligent creatures on the planet other than humans, some humans, not all humans. But, you know, there are really intelligent birds. Birds that can do things that we can't. Of course, elephants and rhinos and dolphins and whales. I know some really smart fish, but they cannot know what kids of today, what any of us know. They can't know what stars are. They can wonder what they are. But we can know what stars are. We can know that in the end of it all, we're all made of stardust. We're the only creatures who have the capacity to-- so far at least, to figure out, where did we come from. To be able to trace something to understand.
Maybe our fellow primates realize that we're related to them. Maybe it's such an obvious thing that they don't have to spend great labors understanding that yes, we're related. But we know these things. But with all of that insight, it has to come that we know that we are dependent on the natural world. Maybe we could not see that 100 years ago with the clarity that we can. And to know that there are limits. And we can look at the options out there of the moon, Mars, Jupiter, the universe beyond. We found another planet, looks like it's remarkably Earth-like. Of course it's 20 Earth-- I mean, light years away. 100. But it's coming to grips with the reality, that we could not know these things even 50 years ago with the clarity that we now have. I think that's great cause for hope, understanding. The crossroads that we now are at.
Appreciating that this is it and that we don't have a lot of time. And so be glad that you're alive and be glad for the miracle of being alive and being aware, and that you have choices. Not everybody on the planet does have choices, but present company largely, you've got choices about how to live, what to do, and to make a difference. Really make a difference. So, how do you keep inspired? You just look around and realize what opportunities now exist, the ability to communicate with people on the other side of the world and hear what they have to say. Cause for hope. This movement toward growing appreciation for nature. 100 years ago, first national park system, if not the first national park, but the idea that now is, I think, having a Renaissance with the anniversary and with the ocean. That we're scaling up from where we were five years ago with the ocean was a fraction of 1%. So relatively speaking we're on a right trajectory. Getting to half, you haven't set a time about when we need half. I think it's yesterday.
Half Earth? Should be yesterday, right?
Oh, when to achieve it? I think--
Sylvia would like it yesterday.
Well I think 10 years is a reasonable figure.
That's a good goal. I like it. I'm going to-- we have to end this session. This has been a wonderful session. I want to say a few things. First thanks to the wonderful audience for coming. Thanks to our panel some of them traveled great distances.