Nature Needs Half

A bold statement is reverberating across the International Union for Conserving Nature’s World Parks Congress: Nature needs half. Conservation must think big. It must plan at the scale nature requires. True conservation of nature necessitates that large spaces be protected. As many wilderness managers, research scientists and policy makers have been reiterating throughout the World Parks Congress, this means half of the world’s land and marine ecosystems must be conserved.

The arguments supporting the Nature Needs Half movement range from strict ecological rationales, to climate change mitigation strategies and to emotional pleas for better protection of the earth.

Migratory species threatened by climate change especially need protected spaces where habitat remains. Only spaces geographically large enough and ecologically rich enough can provide the quality and quantity to keep a rich plethora of biodiversity around the world.

As Syliva Earl, a delegate of the World Parks Congress and a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence stated in 2011, “Nature Needs Half applies to the waters of the world as well as the land, from the tops of the mountains to the greatest depths of the sea. More than half of the world is ocean, the blue heart of the planet. You decide: How much of your heart do you need to stay alive?”

The word spreading across the World Parks Congress is that we need at least half of the world conserved. Speakers confirm it needs to happen in cities and rural areas. Cities, often thought to be in opposition to wild nature, are being called to protect half of their lands. Sydney, the 2014 location of the World Parks Congress, has already achieved this goal. More than half of Sydney’s lands are in protected areas. Other cities across the globe, like Boulder, Colorado, have large percentages of their lands protected. More are joining the movement everyday.  And, I expect many delegates will return from the IUCN World Parks Congress and encourage their townships and cities to preserve more nature.

To celebrate this great idea, the WILD Foundation, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Zoological Society of London threw a large party on Friday. Entitled “Nature Needs Half: Embracing Big Solutions for Nature and People” the party brought together peoples from across the world and a range of ages. Food, drinks and live music set an energetic mood. Delegates from a wide range of countries and conservation backgrounds came together to celebrate the protection of wild spaces. We realize that conservation of large, intact landscapes can only happen through extensive partner networks. And what better space to solidify those partnerships than a party at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress?