Discussing What Can Be Done About Mass Extinction

Discussing What Can Be Done About Mass Extinction

Grade Level

9 -10


15 min - 1 hr


Media Guide


Recent estimates place the current global rate of extinction at “100 to 1,000 species lost per million per year, mostly due to human-caused habitat destruction and climate change.” How do we combat species extinction? In this excerpt from Science Friday, Dr. E.O. Wilson discusses his book Half-Earth, in which he lays out a controversial plan to protect 50 percent of the earth as nature reserves. According to the World Bank, approximately 14 percent of terrestrial and 12 percent of marine territory are currently protected from human intervention.

See the Educator’s Toolbox below for a student worksheet (DOC & PDF) and audio transcript.


Activate Prior Knowledge

  • What are the biggest threats to the survival of species worldwide?
  • What does it mean when a species goes extinct?
  • What are some ways to protect species from extinction?

Activity Resources

Related Article

Has Human Influence Already Defined a New Epoch?

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think it’s possible to set aside half the earth as protected nature reserves? Why or why not?
  • The areas that Wilson proposes we protect may be inhabited by humans. Some think that this proposal would displace Indigenous people who have lived in remote areas for eons. What do you think? Should that change the actions we choose to take? How?
  • Think about your community/region. How would creating larger nature reserves in your area benefit or harm the people living there?
  • GENERATE IDEAS: What are some alternative approaches to the “half-earth” idea that would still address the issue of species extinction?
  • GENERATE IDEAS: What areas of earth would you set aside for conservation that currently aren’t protected? Why?

Student Writing Prompt

According to some estimates, humans have increased the rate of species extinction to “100 to 1,000 species lost per million per year.” Such a drastic decrease in biodiversity threatens all life, including ours. Take a position of support or opposition towards E.O. Wilson’s “half-earth” proposal. If you support his proposal, be sure to address the issues of key stakeholders who might be negatively impacted. If you oppose his proposal, explain what you think should be done instead to protect biodiversity and why.

Ideally writing responses should:
— Contain a clear claim that states the position of the writer on the issue.
— Support claim with evidence from media.
— Address the counterclaim.
— Provide some ideas for ways to pursue your idea.

Related Resources


Conservation Maps & Data


Explore the decision-making process involved in environmental policy in this  Conservation Island Activity from California Academy of Sciences.



Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

Educator's Toolbox

Meet the Writer

About Xochitl Garcia

Xochitl Garcia was Science Friday’s K-12 education program manager. She is a former teacher who spends her time cooking, playing board games, and designing science investigations from odds and ends she’s stockpiled in the office (and in various drawers at home).

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