15 min - 1 hr
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.
- mass extinction– “…abnormally large numbers of species die out all at once or within a limited time frame.”
- biodiversity– variety of living things in an area, or in this case, on earth as a whole.
- nature preserve– a protected area for wildlife, plants and animals, and in some cases areas of geologic importance.
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?
- Audio Excerpt: “Stave Off Extinction, Protect Half-Earth” Mar. 4, 2016. (original segment)
- Audio Transcript
- Reading: Hiss, Tony. “Can the World Really Set Aside Half of the Planet for Wildlife?” Smithsonian. Sept. 2014.
- Reading: Purdy, Jedediah. “A Wild Way to Save the Planet.” New Republic. N.p., 6 Feb. 2016.
- Student Worksheet (DOC or PDF)
Has Human Influence Already Defined a New Epoch?
- 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.
- Dell’Amore, Christine. “Species Extinction Happening 1,000 Times Faster Because of Humans?” National Geographic. 30 May 2014.
- Worrall, Simon. “Saving Half the Planet for Nature Isn’t As Crazy As It Seems.” National Geographic. 27 Mar. 2016.
Conservation Maps & Data
- UNEP Interactive Map of Protected Areas
- Official Map of Marine Protected Areas
- National Geographic Interactive Map of Marine Protected Areas
- World Bank Database (Terrestrial Protected Areas, Marine Protected Areas)
- Protected Planet Report 2014. UNEP-WCMC: Cambridge, UK. This 80-page guide contains conservation maps, current projects, progress reports, and future endeavors related to the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
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.
Meet the Writer
About Xochitl Garcia@msxgarcia
Xochitl Garcia is Science Friday’s education program assistant. She is a former teacher who loves hanging out with her fat-tailed gecko, which, despite the efforts of students, family, friends, and a fantasy football league to name it, is still only referred to as “the gecko.”